Jesse Winchester's career was sometimes shadowed by grave themes that didn't often express themselves in his music -- most notably, he fled the United States rather than fight in the Vietnam War, and was an exile in Canada when he did most of his best-known work -- and it seems curiously fitting that his final album, A Reasonable Amount of Trouble, would arrive five months after Winchester's death in April 2014. But mortality and tragedy don't figure into these songs much at all; they were mostly written and recorded after Winchester survived an earlier bout with cancer of the esophagus in 2011, and this music sounds like the work of a man who is grateful for his new opportunities, without having too many false illusions in his late sixties. There's a pleasing warmth and grace to this music, and while Winchester's medical issues added a rougher texture to his voice, the velvet sounds just right for songs like the rootsy "A Little Louisiana," the contemplative "Just So Much," and the romantic "All That We Have Is Now." Winchester also seemed to be in a nostalgic mood when he was recording these songs; "Ghosts" includes a verse about playing guitar to the radio in 1963, while three of the 12 songs are covers that date back to the '50s and early '60s, and his version of the Del Vikings' "Whispering Bells" is kitted out with doo wop harmonies and period-appropriate honking sax. Not every song on this set is a winner -- "Never Forget to Boogie" hardly sounds like the work of a first-class songwriter -- but the tone of A Reasonable Amount of Trouble is one of a man enjoying himself as he makes an album he never expected he'd be able to record. It's mindful of the past but stands happily in the present, and this release doesn't mourn the loss of a gifted songwriter and vocalist so much as it celebrates the joy he found in his music, and this album will bring a smile to anyone who loved Jesse Winchester's music.
A Reasonable Amount of Trouble Review
by Mark Deming