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Jesse Winchester

Gentleman of Leisure

Sugar Hill

From the outset of his new CD, one can find in evidence the singing, songwriting, and keyboard talents that have made Jesse Winchester a favorite of the folk-rock genre since his debut millennia ago. Now that he's working out of Nashville, and features backing vocals by country superstar Vince Gill, Jesse hasn't changed his focus one whit.

   He's still funky, fun, adventuresome, and unafraid to rock to his white-boy soul roots. This is deep woods music influenced by the big city. Visualize a melding of Van Dyke Parks, Bryan Ferry, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. A good example is the opening track, "Club Manhattan." It's a funky invitation to a night spot where Winchester invites his girl, assuring her he's not cheating, but loves the Club Manhattan. He sings soulfully, "Have a big Jack Black on ice...they got this guitar player, And boy, he sure plays nice, Just close your eyes, he's a young Steve Cropper, and it's nineteen-sixty-two." A nice irony here proves to be that Steve Cropper actually plays electric guitar on this track, as well as on "Just Like New." The song Vince Gill adds his smooth vocals to, more of a duet than backing vocals, comes out a country music crooner called "Just 'Cause I'm in Love With You." Very nice. Those who have not heard Vince Gill's duets with the lady who seems to hold the title as one of the great female country artists of all time, Roseanne Cash, should do a little research and find some of them. "You Tickle Me" comes along later, a light-hearted tribute to the woman who may not be the primary relationship in the writer's life, but makes him laugh. So he thinks about letting Lucy go, and making a life with the woman who amuses him more.

Sugar Hill Records, P.O. Box 55300, Durham, NC 27717-5300; www.sugarhillrecords.com

--Jim Presnell