Jesse Daniel Arrives with New Album “Rollin’ On”
Classic country music fans, train your attention squarely upon the skinny shanks and fresh face of California songwriter and singer Jesse Daniel, for he’s about to become your next favorite artist, and Rollin’ On your next favorite album. It’s only a few precious times each year we get to enjoy a landmark release that really defines the best in country music, and goes on to cement an artist as an important part of country moving forward. The release of Rollin’ On is one of those moments.
It’s country. It’s cool. It’s well-written, and exquisitely produced and performed by the top notch musicians involved. Most everything is spot-on down to the mixing and mastering. Taking pointers from the rough and tumble cowboys of the classic Bakersfield Sound and the King of country cool himself in the incomparable Mr. Yoakam, Jesse Daniel brings the West Coast “dim lights, thick smoke” dimension to country back to life in the modern context, and does so while maintaining a robust adherence to the tenets of traditional country.
The story of Jesse Daniel is like a country song itself. A scabby kid from small town California misspends his youth banging on drums in punk bands, and blowing his cash on tattoos and skag, trying poorly to stay on the right side of the law. Then the sounds of country music remind him of a more simple time and place, saving his life. Country music became Jesse Daniel’s compass, inspired him to get sober, and drew him in so deeply, it not only saved his soul, it called him to service. Now Jesse is out to save a few souls of his own, and be an inspiration both to those looking to get clean and turn their lives around, and to those who worship at the altar of American twang.
Jesse Daniel’s self-titled album from 2018 was a fine affair itself, a good starting point and an auspicious debut. But it was much more of the underground-inspired style of country music, with illicit drug use and other rough-and-tumble themes, and scratchy recordings with pickup players. But Rollin’ On is the full package. Produced by Tommy Detamore, all stops were taken out and no expense was spared, and you can hear it in the finished product. Without talking about the songs themselves or anything else, Rollin’ On just sounds so damn good.
All these filmy, dingy records coming out of East Nashville these days, they’re immediately put to shame by the effort found in Rollin’ On. It’s not rocket science. Just find the best players you can, work hard to get the best takes, and don’t compromise due to the constraints of time or anything else. Show allegiance to the songs and the process and get it right, even if it’s painful to do so. The studio should hurt a little. That’s how you know you’re doing it right.
Jesse Daniel is not some excellent singer with a legacy voice. It’s the heart and conviction he brings to every song that makes him special. His style of writing is more inspired from the classic forms of country reworked into his own expressions as opposed to the Guy Clark or Townes Van Zandt take on poeticism first. Jesse Daniel is here to entertain you, and get you twirling your partner on the dance floor. Nonetheless, there’s little lessons to learn and smart perspectives to share, and moments that are deceptively deep, hidden behind the folksy writing, taken from the hard lessons Jesse Daniel has earned.
Whether it’s the keep it simple, and stay grateful themes in “If You Ain’t Happy Now” or “Mayo and the Mustard,” or more reminiscent songs like “Sam” and “Son of the San Lorenzo,” Jesse renders every song on Rollin’ On enjoyable. He also has an ace in the hole in his writing and singing partner Jodi Lyford, whose harmonies and help with writing put the sound of Jesse Daniel over the top.
And as fawning with approval as you will find yourself for this record, it still feels like Jesse has some room left to grow from Rollin’ On. I’m not sure how the sound and picking could get any better. There’s even a cool instrumental track on the album called “Chickadee.” But he could continue to mature in his writing by untethering himself a little bit more from traditional country modes and themes, and explore some of the storyteller aspect of his approach, and share some more of the wisdom that he’s earned in his young, but hard-lived life.
As Jesse Daniel explains in the song “Old At Heart,” this is no act. He’s found the skin he was born to live in through traditional country, and he couldn’t fit in it more smartly. Rollin’ On is a testament to that, and his commitment to music and himself and his own well-being through music, and you can’t help but feel that passion and purpose in each track.
Two Guns Up (9/10)
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Billy Wayne Ruddick
March 27, 2020 @ 8:22 am
Good stuff! Hearing a record that sounds this good always makes me scratch my head about why others can’t get things more right from a production standpoint. Jinks, Morgan, Boland (who I all really like….well, at least Jinks’ work before Lifers) and many others could stand take a hard listen at this one and learn a thing or two. Nobody benefits from overly harsh / digital sounding records, especially in the country genre.
March 27, 2020 @ 8:26 am
thanks for the review, will have to check his albums out
March 27, 2020 @ 8:54 am
Great write up Trig.
The song is called “Old At Heart.” And it’s the best cut on an excellent album.
March 27, 2020 @ 9:44 am
See Trigger. This is where you excel. Finding new unknown artists for the rest of us. Jesse May have been about but you have elevated him. Great album. Thanks to both you and Jesse.
March 27, 2020 @ 9:47 am
Good review. I’m listening to it now and like it a lot.
Also, a great album released today by The Tender Things from Austin, “How You Make A fool.”
March 27, 2020 @ 11:11 am
Very much so enjoyed the Tender Things album as well
March 27, 2020 @ 9:55 am
A lot of solid stuff I would never turn off if it came on the radio or if somebody played it for me. However, nothing aside from “Old at Heart” really breaches a level high enough to add to playlist…yet. It was cool to hear the classic strumming method I’ve heard Waylon use a lot (Ex. “My Heroes will Always be Cowboys”); in “Son of Lorenzo” but theres something about his voice that is so off putting that it keeps the song from reaching the potential it should. Might need to come back and relisten later though, I’ve had plenty of bad first listens on albums I now love.
April 2, 2020 @ 9:39 pm
UPDATE : I have done a second listen, I found 6 new songs to add to the playlist from it, bringing the total to 7/12 songs. Second listens can make all the difference and I’ve had to do at least second listens with all of my favorite modern artists. Hell I listened to Hank3 about 5 different times before I fell in love with his music. The best are always almost too much to take in the first time through, their voices are so unique and great that they throw you off. But once you realize the greatness of the voice, and then subsequently the greatness of the backing instrumentation it has you wondering how you went through the album previously and came up with little to nothing out of it. After second review, I’ll give the album a outstanding 9/10. It’s now part of a select list of albums that I have at least 50% of the songs from it on my playlist. Joining the likes of the albums Songs of the Plains, Colter Wall(self titled), Less Wise, Adobe Sessions, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, Purgatory, Country Squire, Seneca, From a Room vol.2, Traveller, Home(Billy Strings, Straight to Hell, Dreaming my Dreams, Are you Ready for the Country, and Ol Waylon. That’s a top tier list and not a easy one to join. Props to Mr. Daniels, bright future.
March 27, 2020 @ 11:03 am
More (neo-)traditional music: Anderson Elswick – Relic – EP (6 Tracks) – Released (03/26)
Don’t know much about the guy. He released a 3 track (homemade?) EP a couple of years ago & the first single of Relic is “Broken Man”.
I like the Jesse Daniel album but i prefer the Anderson Elswick EP.
March 27, 2020 @ 11:10 am
Enjoyed the listen! Another good album that came out today: Saints Eleven “This Town” . Thoughts?
March 27, 2020 @ 11:28 am
There are many good albums that came out today. I will be reviewing them over the next week. I ran them all down at the bottom of this article.
March 27, 2020 @ 11:18 am
Well written review, cool and inspirational story, and great music. Much needed bright spot, thanks!
March 27, 2020 @ 11:28 am
I was eagerly anticipating this all week and it didn’t disappoint. I knew I’d like it from the first 2 songs we heard, many other good ones, and Chickadee’s a toe tapper too! Right into the rotation it goes. I needed this! It’s a nice break from having Whitey’s “What Am I Supposed To Do” and “Waiting Round To Die” on constant loop during isolation here at the JB mansion….. I’m kidding of course. 😉
March 27, 2020 @ 11:56 am
Yeah, this is good, country music. Listening on repeat. Love the play between tele and steel guitar and the forwardness of the vocals. No fluff, no nonsense, just straight ahead country music.
March 27, 2020 @ 12:46 pm
Anyone else getting some late 80’s Dwight Yoakam vibes from the production, especially those guitars? Love that sound.
(Me and) Paul
March 27, 2020 @ 12:46 pm
I love this album cover to cover. The production is fantastic and makes you scratch your head as to why some bigger names on the independent scene don’t opt for this good of a sound. Every song is a groove or boot-scooter plus the waltz thrown in as well. “Bringin’ Home the Roses” is going to have me Quarantonkin’ until the dance halls are back open
March 27, 2020 @ 1:00 pm
I’ve been saying it for years. Previous generations are going to look back on this one stupefied why we made some of the greatest records of the era purposely sound like garbage due to some misguided idea of aesthetic. It’s like a fashion statement. Meanwhile you listen to a record like this and it sounds so vibrant and alive, each solo is so great, it reminds you why you love music. The last time we heard an album sound this great was Zephaniah OHora’s debut.
March 27, 2020 @ 1:10 pm
Trigger, do you know anything about the long awaited Zephaniah album.
March 27, 2020 @ 4:29 pm
I know it’s done. I know it’s been done for a while. I would have expected it to be announced by now. But perhaps with the Coronavirus, it’s been delayed. As soon as I hear something I’ll be letting everyone know.
(Me and) Paul
March 27, 2020 @ 2:26 pm
I know you’re a big proponent of improving production quality, I just always feel it can use some reinforcement. I think several people conflate the use of clean production with the over-production that’s employed by mainstream music. There’s a major distinction between using excessive auto-tune and digital manipulation and then just using modern technology to make fiddles and guitars sound like they’re being played right next to you. It blows my mind that it’s trendy to release a traditional country album that sounds worse than anything Mark Chestnut put out 25 years ago. I’ve seen folks in the comment section here to that say they prefer production to sound like a scratchy 60s record, as if those artists did that intentionally rather than because of the limitations of recording technology in their time
March 27, 2020 @ 4:48 pm
To complicate it further, many refer to production not as the engineering / sound quality, but as the choice of instruments and arrangements, and I’ve seen some even suggest the choice of songs is a form of production. It would help if people were more specific than just saying “the production.”
Billy Wayne Ruddick
March 28, 2020 @ 8:05 am
That comment was totally overproduced. So much so, it reminds me of Country Squire! 🤪
March 28, 2020 @ 9:04 am
I consider the engineering, mixing, and mastering all part of the greater “production” element of a record. But yes, it’s often more helpful to delineate these things from the production as a whole, mastering being the major one that makes so many newer records sound dingy. Many of them sound better before the mastering process. That’s when the decision is made to “distress” them to sound like a record recorded in 1964, played 2,000 times, and then left out in the sun. Because apparently that gives it “soul.”
March 27, 2020 @ 12:56 pm
Just got it ordered, great album indeed!!! The title track is a personal favorite.
Thin, Broke, and Dirty
March 27, 2020 @ 1:54 pm
Thanks Trigger, this album is spectacular!! Can’t wait to hear it again.
March 27, 2020 @ 3:30 pm
Nice writeup Trigger, great album. I know Kevin Smith plays bass on this but who are the other players?
March 27, 2020 @ 4:31 pm
Tom Lewis on Drums, John Carroll on Lead Telecaster, Tommy Detamore on Steel, T Jarod Bonta on keys, Michael Guerra on Accordion, Hank Singer on Fiddle and Bobby Flores on Fiddle and Nylon Guitar.
March 27, 2020 @ 6:23 pm
Sounds good, but the writing sounds tame, and the arrangement doesn’t accentuate the story.
Reminding me of Sam Outlaw but without the standout lyrics.
Now I think of it I think I’ll turn this off to listen to “Dry in the sun” and “Trouble”
March 27, 2020 @ 7:32 pm
Finally, the first truly great album of 2020!
March 28, 2020 @ 6:04 am
I don’t find his voice interesting on Rollin On. It’s not a dynamic voice to begin with, but I thought on the last album it had more range and personality (especially on SR-22 Blues and Soft Spot) I’m not saying his voice isn’t good or bad (most of my favorite singers aren’t considered good singers … Willie, Jagger, Hank 3, Virgil), but it feels generic, paint-by-numbers on this album.
With that said, have you heard that kid on American Idol, Arthur Gunn? I love his voice and his versions of CCR’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain.” I have never watched American Idol, but this kid has me tuning in.
March 28, 2020 @ 10:38 am
Went to a tiny little venue in Portland to see an old friend about a year ago – was obviously fake-ass hipster-cowboy night or something…had to dodge handlebar mustaches the whole time i was there…but this dude was playing when I walked in. Caught a few songs and had to go, but definitely caught my attention. Got his name and always meant to look him up.
Glad to hear he’s not from Portland. Explains the lack of mustache grease dribbling down his chin. Looking forward to playing the album later.
March 28, 2020 @ 2:41 pm
Great review! I’m completely in love with this album. It’s among my top favorite albums since the beginning of this year and I’m sure it will probably in my Top 10 albums of 2020. Absolutely amazing and excellently produced! A gem for all traditional country lovers.
March 28, 2020 @ 7:50 pm
Spiffy riffs on that tele. Sounds like a BAND.
March 29, 2020 @ 5:42 am
Thanks Trig, Love this record, Everything Tommy Detamore touches these days is Gold, what a great steel player and producer!!
March 29, 2020 @ 7:20 am
Love this guy’s music and I’m really digging this new record.
strait country 81
March 29, 2020 @ 9:10 am
He’s alright but a little too happy for me.
April 19, 2020 @ 3:02 pm
Am I the only one that hears a little Gram Parsons in this?
December 3, 2020 @ 3:04 pm
He is real and honest. 🍀🤗☘
December 3, 2020 @ 3:45 pm
I’ve known Jesse for quite sometime & his story is amazing.His music is no different,the talent is unmatched..Much love brother good luck u deserve it!
December 3, 2020 @ 5:09 pm
Rollin on by Jesse Daniel is my # 1 pick for sure!!!! Love the entire cd. Fantastic