Jesse Denatale

Shangri-La West

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It doesn't take long to spot the influences on Shangri-La West, the first album from California singer/songwriter Jesse DeNatale; about a minute into the first track, "Twilight King," one hears echoes of the crafty drawl of Bob Dylan, the hipster word-stretching of Tom Waits, the dark but friendly growl of Greg Brown, and the idiosyncratic soul shouting of Van Morrison. Which is to say that DeNatale obviously has excellent taste in other singer/songwriters, but is his own work up to the same level as his obvious role models? Well, DeNatale certainly knows how to spin a tale with his lyrics, and his wordplay is engaging and inviting. However, on songs like "Bohemian Ghosts" and the title cut, DeNatale's tales begin to sound a bit like shaggy dog stories which go on far too long for their own good, and while DeNatale's performances are compelling, they're also a bit samey, and by the time "Greenfield Lane" comes to a close, you're more than ready for this album to wrap up. Jesse DeNatale is a genuine talent, and Shangri-La West has more than its share of pearly moments, but it also has just as many flaws, and DeNatale appears to need some more woodshedding before he makes the sort of album he appears to be capable of.

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