Jesse Thomas - War Dancer
Record Label: Red Parade Music Group
Release Date: February 14, 2012
In an era of reality show singing contests, where singers with fantastic voices get molded into cookie cutter pop stars and then fade into oblivion after one mediocre pop album, it's refreshing to hear a voice like that of Jesse Thomas. She's the type of singer you might stumble into a dive bar and start noticing her out of the corner of your eye as she starts to sing and by the end of her set, you'll be tapping your foot along right along with everyone else. With two previous EPs released in 2010, Hazel EP and The Heartbreaker Sessions, Thomas releases her first full length album War Dancer, a collection of some of the most heartfelt songs I've heard in a very long time. Without any doubt, this album is definitely in my top 10 for 2012.
Perhaps on the first listen, "Sidewalk Ends" has the beginning sound of an upbeat song but the lyrics clearly present polar opposite perspectives. The struggles of friendships and relationships torn apart by medications ("I want to be the pill that calms you down") and separations ("She constantly pulls back from me") are the topic of this song, which could be taken as a depressing outlook, but Thomas finishes the song with "When the sidewalk ends, I will catch you, friend."
On the track "Brave", Thomas puts most singer/songwriters to shame. Armed with her acoustic guitar and simple background accompaniment, her voices soars in and out of each and every verse. "In your arms, I feel the safety / a thousand armies couldn't bring me." The song is so simple and on the surface, musically doesn't push any boundaries, but it does just enough to pull at your heart strings. When Thomas says "I'm ready, I'm ready / These obstacles seem petty", you believe her.
I seem to be drawn to the slower songs on War Dancer, especially "Song for You." Again, I think it has to do with her unique voice, which wavers slightly and has a richness that makes each lyric seem genuine. Even with background instrumentation, her voice always is first and foremost what catches your attention. Another slow song, "Fire" has Thomas singing along with male accompaniment. It's another soothing track that reminds me of a night spent in a cabin in the woods (an actual cabin in the woods, not the recent horror movie).
I think what makes Jesse Thomas stand out from all of the other singer/songwriters is her ability to find her voice and execute it to near perfection on her first album. She embraces the raspy, rugged edge of her voice in a genre that seems flooded with those Taylor Swift-clones. When it's just her and a guitar, it just works. I would highly recommend this album to anyone who enjoys the singer/songwriter genre and also reach out to those who might want to hear a non-auto-tuned voice for a change. The Voice? Jesse's got it. The X Factor? She's got that, too. American Idol? It's only a matter of time.