Paradise of Bachelors
Jake Xerxes Fussell | Good And Green Again
Jake Xerxes Fussell’s fourth album finds the acclaimed folksong interpreter, guitarist, and singer navigating fresh sonic and compositional landscapes on the most conceptually focused, breathtakingly rendered, and enigmatically poignant record of his wondrous catalog. Produced by James Elkington and featuring formidable players both familiar (Casey Toll, Libby Rodenbough) and new (Joe Westerlund, Bonnie “Prince” Billy), it includes Jake’s first original compositions; atmospheric arrangements with pedal steel, horns, and strings.
In all his work Jake humanizes his material with his own profound curatorial and interpretive gifts, unmooring stories and melodies from their specific eras and origins and setting them adrift in our own waterways. The robust burr of his voice, which periodically melts and catches at a particularly tender turn of phrase, and the swung rhythmic undertow of exquisite, seemingly effortless guitar-playing here he plays more acoustic than ever before pull new valences of meaning from ostensibly antique songs and subjects.
Album opener “Love Farewell” (featuring some beautiful singing by Bonnie “Prince” Billy), an elliptical tale of the folly of war, set to the world’s most heartbreaking goodbye march for a lover left behind. “Carriebelle” and “Breast of Glass” each similarly concerns, in its own way, romantic love and leavings. All three songs highlight Jacobson’s diaphanous, understated brass parts, tying them together in a true lover’s knot. “Rolling Mills Are Burning Down,” with its distant keening strings and capacious sense of space, observes and mourns the loss of work and community in the wake of elemental disaster. Nine-minute tour de force “The Golden Willow Tree,” the sole explicitly narrative song herein, is a hypnotic, minimalist rendering of a tragic maritime ballad about scuttling an enemy ship in exchange for wealth and glory and a captain’s inevitable betrayal.
“So elegant … It’s relaxing in the way that pondering a Zen koan is relaxing, and sweet in the way that the wounded, honey-voiced blues of Mississippi John Hurt are sweet.”– Pitchfork
“Music that resides at the seams of Appalachia and the cosmos.” – NPR