Texan Jesse Dayton has a CV that looks as if he made it up in a hurry on his way to a job interview, snatching random names from a hat in order to say, “I did that!” Well, sure enough, it’s not made up. He has played guitar with, written with, produced, filmed (and starred in the movie) with Willie Nelson, The Supersuckers, X, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Waylon Jennings and Rob Zombie, to name a few. He’s also a successful solo artist, his first album, Raisin’ Cain, was released in 1995 and he’s continued to record in between his other duties on a regular basis with The Revealer being album number eight.
He’s had five years to write this album which he states has, “my best batch of tunes yet.” Recorded in the legendary Sugarhill Sessions in Houston, Texas, in the main live in the studio, Dayton recalls, “You could feel the ghosts of George Jones, Freddy Fender, Doug Sahm and Jerry Lee Lewis in the room while we were working.” Given that Jerry Lee is still walking this world it was probably his presence or aura that was felt but, aside from this quibble, Dayton just about sums the album up there. It’s packed with tremendous songs which, despite a fair degree of variety, are rooted in that hard rocking, outlaw country vein that grew out of Austin way back then with other mavericks such as George Jones given their due.
You know you’re in good hands from the start when the opening bars of Daddy Was A Badass chug into view, the song a true slice of outlaw country bluster with Dayton saluting an army veteran who “was a honky tonk dancer and even beat cancer.” He married the belle of the ball, raised his kids, and flew off a cliff on his Harley Davidson at the end of his days. It’s a badass song to be sure, up there with The Blasters and Dayton’s firm baritone voice rides the rhythm as surely as the song’s hero rode his hog. The Blasters come to mind again on the rollicking Holy Ghost Rock’n’Roller with Riley Osbourne’s blistering piano recalling Gene Taylor’s although the topic, the battle between God’s and the Devil’s music surely reflects the careers of the two foremost rock’n’roll ivory ticklers, Jerry Lee and Little Richard while the song is preceded by a brief sound clip of the Rev. Jimmy Snow railing against “the beat.” Some of those ghosts mentioned earlier loom large on several of the songs. The Way We Are is a dead ringer for Waylon Jennings with Dayton saluting the rock’n’roll lifestyle, Possum Ran Over My Grave is George Jones lit large, a fine tribute to the man who, aside from being called Possum was also called “No Show,” with Dayton sending chills up the spine just as Jones could do. The countrier than country titled I’m At Home Gettin’ Hammered (While She’s Out Gettin’ Nailed) might not get much airplay in these PC days but it’s a hoot of a song and delivered with the irreverent humour and relish that characterised much of Doug Sahm’s latter music. One can just imagine Sir Doug, wherever he is these days, hearing it with some delight.
Dayton reveals his talent throughout the album. There’s a brief diversion into Springsteen territory on the organ fuelled swagger of Take Out The Trash with the guitars adding a magnificent jangled rush. Pecker Goat, co-written with Hayes Carll, is a real country rock thrash with fiddle flailing away and a fine guitar solo while Eatin’ Crow and Drinkin’ Sand is in a similar vein with the rock solid band sound leavened by fiddle interludes while Dayton gets to show off his flashiest guitar playing of the album while also sounding as if he’s singing from the depths of Hell. Away from the thunder, there are some lighter moments such as the delightful country duet with Brennen Leigh on A Match Made In Heaven, another nod to Jones and his various duets over the years while Never Started Livin’ is a good old redemption song, the bad boy saved by a good woman. Mrs. Victoria (Beautiful Thing) is a moving country blues number with Dayton’s resonator guitar to the fore as he sings an affectionate song about a much loved Negro maid and Dayton closes the album with another acoustic number, Big State Motel. A stark portrait of the morning after the night before it resonates with the life of a musician doomed to replay this scene over and over. It also allows Dayton to again show off his undoubted guitar skills.
A rock solid country album sure to please anyone dismayed with the current glossy Nashville output, The Revealer is, at the end of the day, Badass.
Good news is that Jesse Dayton rolls into town this week playing at Stereo on Wednesday 25th October. Meanwhile, if you want to see the Rev Jimmy Snow denounce Rock’n’Roll here it is.