Jesse Terry

The Runner

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Connecticut-born and Nashville-based, singer/songwriter Jesse Terry sounds, on his debut album The Runner, like he wishes he had been in Los Angeles in the early 1970s. The folk-rock arrangements on The Runner, with their slightly country flavor (courtesy of pedal steel player Dan Dugmore, who also provided his sound to some of the '70s So-Cal artists), along with Terry's earnest, throaty vocals, are very much evocative of the early Jackson Browne. (True, his fingerpicking ballads reveal that he also has James Taylor and Paul Simon albums in his collection, but Browne is the main inspiration here.) Terry has a degree in songwriting/performance from Berklee College of Music and is signed to a Nashville publisher as a staff songwriter, but his efforts on The Runner suggest that he has absorbed more an appreciation for the form of songwriting than a sense of the substance. It's the substance that fans of Browne and Taylor and Simon are attracted to, and that requires an individual lyrical voice and a rigorous approach to writing. You can't just, as Terry does too often, string together a batch of clichés into a bunch of lines that almost rhyme and then set them to a track that sounds like it belongs on The Pretender; there's more to it than that. Of course, near-rhyming clichés, especially ones about the road with references to Western states, may get you a cut on an Alan Jackson or Kenny Chesney album, which may explain Terry's songwriting contract. But if he wants to be a singer/songwriter of merit, he's going to have to try harder than this. (Unfortunately, the producers and engineers seem to have assumed that the album will only be heard as a digital download and have mixed and mastered it accordingly. As usual, this "everything louder than everything else" approach results in a sound that is tinny, crunchy -- in a bad way -- and flattened.)

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