Jesse Winchester

Love Filling Station

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The albums are coming more slowly for Jesse Winchester as he enters into the home stretch of his impressive and influential songwriting career. This arrives nearly a decade after his previous studio collection, and that one was 11 years in the making. In fact, this is only Winchester's fourth album since 1981. Additionally, a few of these tunes have been hanging around for a while, with the exquisite "I'm Gonna Miss You Girl" already a hit for Michael Martin Murphey and "O What a Thrill" covered by the Mavericks back in 1994. Add three more covers to the dozen-song set and it seems like Winchester has all but retired from the profession. Regardless, this is a low-key gem as the singer calls on Jerry Douglas for assistance, once again, to construct songs that blur the lines between classic American pop, folk, bluegrass, R&B, country, and the singer/songwriter fare Winchester is best known for. These arrangements and tunes recall the work of Arthur Alexander in their easy-flowing melancholy and moving simplicity. The connection to smooth '60s soul is cemented by Winchester's shimmering version of Ben E. King's "Stand by Me," but any of his newly penned songs could have sprung from another era. The predominantly unplugged and stripped-down accompaniment lets Winchester's sympathetic tenor voice lead the way as he winds through the Cajun-styled balladry of "Eulalie" and the classic pop of "Lonely for a While," the latter sounding as if it could have come from the Rudy Vallée songbook but is a new Winchester composition. He brings hometown Memphis grease to the sexually charged yet charming "Wear Me Out," helped immensely by Douglas' slinky lap steel work. The music is beautifully crafted yet never seems overly calculated, as Winchester and his band blend together as if they have been playing this material for years. His output may be far more sporadic than in the '70s, but the sublime quality of his material and his obvious love of recording hasn't suffered for it.

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