CD reviews: Jess Yoakum, Dietrich Strause, Vickers Vimy
Jess Yoakum, “This Quiet Mile”
We first met Jess when she was gigging around Boston a few years ago. Her passionate, confessional lyrics drew us in, much like her musical influences Patty Griffin and Joni Mitchell.
Since then Jess has moved to Chicago, a move we’re sure was exciting – and probably terrifying at the same time. Her new self-released album, “This Quiet Mile,” is certainly influenced by this physical and emotional change. Her previous hometown is mentioned in two different songs, as she speaks of trying to figure out who she is and where she is going. She sings on “Hold Me In”: “Beautiful day/I don’t feel like I remember the sun, the green/And, it’s not this awake in Boston. Not this dirty. Not this real/So, what am I going back to, anyway? And, where will I find my love? My history?”
“Triangles” is a surprisingly rugged opener, with Jess singing through a voice filter: “Playing power games, we’re each as powerless as the rest/It will never be either/or with you it’s always more or less.”
Jess has a beautiful, expressive voice, which stands out against the album’s darker sound – cello, violin, piano and acoustic and pedal steel guitars intertwining in minor chord arrangements. “Texas’’ is one of our favorites, melding lyrics of longing against the realities of Christmas in a state with no winter. www.jessyoakum.com
Dietrich Strause, “Laborsongs and Barkingdogs”
Dietrich Strause may be known more around Boston as a trumpet player, but that hasn’t stopped him from trying his hand as a guitar-playing singer-songwriter. In fact the talented Oberlin College graduate (yep, another Oberlin musician! See Josh Ritter) plays a variety of instruments, including mandolin, piano and organ.
Many of these show up on his self-produced new album, “Laborsongs and Barking dogs.” Strause’s voice is mellifluous; his sound has traces of a young Paul Simon mixed with that Ritter Midwestern wanderlust.
Standout tunes include “Fire” and “Jean Louise,” a tune that bobs along on acoustic guitar and is based on a “To Kill a Mockingbird’’ character: “Jean Louise I’ll tell you that your bare feet are still too loud, for sneaking through the garden you’ve got bells on your ankles and the belfry’s in the ground, lilacs and violets and a shotgun blast, the mockingbirds in whispers like the sky before the flash.’’
This is a solid outing and we look forward hearing more. www.dietrichstrause.com
Vickers Vimy, “Vol 1. That Vinyl Scratch”
One of my favorite albums on these pages was just released this month and is available through Bandcamp.
Ed Drea and Finton Hanley from Galway, Ireland, have put together an album that reminds us of tunes from Glen Hansard and early Josh Ritter. That may not be hard to figure since they have the backing here by Colm Mac Nomaire of the Frames and the Swell Season. Wondering what Vickers Vimy is? According to the band, they take their name from one of the most celebrated cross Atlantic adventures, from 1919. You’ll have to look that one up to get more detail.
As for the band’s sound, banjos and glockenspiel, in addition to acoustic and electric guitars and light drumming, create a warm atmosphere, as if you’re sitting in an Irish pub listening to them play live. Our favorite track: “Devil on Your Back.” “Old Fashioned Lover” features some fun barrelhouse piano over lyrics about a guy trying to prove his devotion.