Album Review of Jesse Terry: When We Wander
His voice. His delivery. His lyrics. But oh, my god, that voice. With When We Wander, Jesse Terry has delivered a timeless, relatable, emotionally connecting album, varied in style, that’s an instant classic. At least, it’ll be an instant classic if you hear it, so give it a listen.
An appealing mix of folk, country, and rich, warm soft rock, When We Wander sits on the radio-friendly edge of singer-songwriter fare. And there’s something everyman about Jesse’s voice, at times recalling John Mellencamp, Tom Petty, perhaps a hint of Bob Dylan, and just about any other singer with a bit of hoarse gravel in his voice, though Jesse’s songwriting about the experiences of everyday life more often bring forth comparisons to Mellencamp.
The title track, “When We Wander,” kicks things off with a folky strum, but you’ll soon discover that’s just one of many influences, as this, like most of the album, are a meaty folk-rock-country mix, falling my onto the soft rock side of Americana. There’s a rich tone, a hint of scratch – not exactly gravel – and a time-worn knowing lilt to Jesse’s voice. There’s also an attention to detail – on this song and on the album throughout – that distinguish this as a major-league recording. Little guitar flourishes, weepy slides, the extra drum beat. Jesse Terry is big-time, with a voice and delivery expansive enough to fill a concert hall with intimate, reflective, storytelling songs.
“Strangers in Our Town” is one of those mid-tempo numbers that brings on a strong Mellencamp comparison. Stylistically, Jesse has his own unique spin, leaning a little more country but still a solid hometown pride number that’ll reach you deep inside, right where you live, and make you feel good.
“Ghost Stories” follows, bringing the melancholy, with a sad tone of remembrance, fittingly haunting to this slow number.
The mood doesn’t stay low long, though, as “Hymn of a Summer Night” has a playfully energetic bounce. Like “Ghost Stories” before it, it’s a look back, but this is a tale wrapped around fondness, affection, and complicatedly warm memories of a hometown. One of the neater verses recalls “All of us met on the banks when we got older, figured it was time to get out. But one by one, we came crawling back. There’s something about this simple river town.” It’s a song that’ll make you remember where you’re from, whether you stayed, left and returned, or exited for good.
Jesse weaves in and out of uptempo happiness, slow sadness, and melancholy in-between though tales of recollection and stories of times gone by and yet to come remain a familiar theme.
One of the other standouts on this album is “Little Fires,” a mid-tempo tune full of real-life strength and struggles: “There’s little fires outside my window, little fires out of the corner of my eyes, little fires beneath the surface. I can’t put out these little fires.” Of course that’s mid-song. There’s set-up before, and more noodling and a bit of resolution afterwards. Of course. That’s Jesse’s strength… and, maybe, burden. He’s a storyteller.
It’s followed by an uplifting number, one that’ll help the listener – and it seems to help Jess – appreciate life, with lyrics that culminate in the chorus’ key phrase: “I’ve got somebody who understands, and that’s a pretty good hand.” The song has a nice country rhythm, what I sometimes refer to as a “git-along beat,” just bouncing along throughout, keeping the mood up, signaling that the guitar-slide is more reminiscent than melancholy, one of my favorite little tricks in this sort of mid-tempo, country-flavored song.
Jesse gives the album a soft, sweet, warm landing with the thoughtful “Just Out of Your Sight,” a both the album and the listener sway the disc to a close.
The rest of the songs are also worthy of mention, but they’re all within the themes and styles I’ve discussed already, so I’d just be repeating myself. Throughout, though, When We Wander is stylistically cohesive yet varied enough and sequenced well, making for an enjoyable beginning-to-end listen.
You can catch Jesse live in the Northeast in December – in Plymouth, MA, Stroudsburg, PA, Cortlandt Manor, NY, and Stonington and Middletown, CT. He’ll be in Mobile, AL on January 6th before spending the next few weeks in Florida. He has dates spanning from coast to coast in 2022, and some European dates in October and November 2022. So be sure to check the “Tour Dates” page of Jesse’s website for dates, times, locations, and ticket links for performances near you.