When We Wander
When We Wander marks a series of first for New England-raised, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Jesse Terry. It’s the first album of his seven, that he wrote since becoming a parent, the first he ever recorded live in the studio, and likely the first that was delayed for a year. Apparently, the album was intended to be released last Spring, but Terry felt it wasn’t the right time due to the pandemic. Arguably, this project may also represent the best group of musicians Terry has worked with. Produced by Neilson Hubbard who also plays drums, the cast includes some of Music City’s very best, including guitarist/mandolinist Will Kimbrough, violinist Eamon McLoughlin, and lap steel player Juan Solorzano. Dean Marold handles both acoustic and electric bass with Josh Kaler (pedal steel), Danny Mitchell (piano & harmonica) and Mia Rose Lynne and Liz Longley on harmonies.
The family theme and two-year old daughter Lily Grace is at the heart of these songs. The pandemic caused a major change for Terry, his wife, and now daughter who have been on the road for the better part of ten years. His strong fan base, which has funded most of his prior albums, remained with him for his online performances, providing both financial and emotional support. Those fans have heard many of these songs. For those that haven’t, follow along in the booklet that lays out the lyrics, with the clever subhead “Trail Guide.”
The title track begins with its chorus stating, “When we wander, when we wander/Don’t it feel like we’re finally found” and verses such as “We’ve seen things that can’t be bought/Chose not to be afraid/But everything has its cost/But here I will remain/Where the wildest horses/ Run, run, run.” He carries the theme into the shuffle “Strangers In Our Town” with lines such as “Nobody knows us, this is where we find ourselves again.”
While some songs are bathed in several instruments, there’s a requisite sparseness and intimacy to “Ghost Stories.” “Hymn of a Summer Night” and “Hanging the Stars” are simply lovely, both lyrically and with the blend of the violin and pedal steel, both punctuated with just the right piano notes from Mitchell. Continuing the nighttime theme, “If I Were the Moon,” is an acoustic tune with some atmospheric backdrop, with Terry taking on almost a soothing James Taylor persona. “Little Fires” also has ethereal underpinning for Terry’s contemplative verses – “Little fires beneath the surface/I can’t put out, I can’t put out these little fires.”
The standout track “Pretty Good Hand” brings a needed rise in the tempo. As the most country drive song here, propelled by McLoughlin’s fiddle, with some nice imagery per usual – “But I got you and nameless faces/off the exits of the highway/I got you and porch lights blazing/when I pull into the driveway.’’ The strummed “Is There An Answer” questions an unsafe world for his daughter’s future, something most parents are likely wrestling with in these dark times. “In Spite of You” is perhaps the quietest song here as Terry seems to be taking pride in not taking advice from a long- lost friend who aimed to steer him wrong. “Innocent Ones” find him alone in the parking lot with whiskey that he thinks twice about drinking, choosing instead to focus on the importance of the family he left at home. “Just Out of Your Sight” closes as a comforting love song in keeping with the album tone and theme.
This is a remarkable cohesive effort, with terrific instrumental contributions. If there’s a quibble, it’s that it suffers from too many slow tempo songs, and in some cases sappy lyrics. Nonetheless, there’s much to admire in the thought patterns and sentiments that Terry shares.
- Jim Hynes
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