The Songs

Photo of Jesse Hammock on stage at the Gillioz Theater.

The title track recounts a telephone call from the road back to his woman at home. It starts optimistic: “Good Daddies always call,” and Jesse promises he will send money home soon, but he knows the shit will hit the fan…even though nobody involved wants it to happen, it’s inevitable.

“Strong” lives up to its title, as Jesse tells a story about love, adultery, and murder. Straight from the teachings of Doc Watson. It’s downright scary how much feeling pours out of this track—Just JCH and his guitar, accompanied by an eery pedal steel. The words might make you fear for the safety of those who were ever unfaithful to Jesse in the past. Hearing these concerns, Jesse fights off a grin that grows from ear to ear. “I wrote that three years ago. Within the past year, every aspect of that song came to pass,”—except for the dreadful conclusion.” Prophetic? “Not by a damn sight,” Hammock says. “But my daddy told me I should start writing songs bout making a million dollars and see what happens.”

“Trouble” is a contradiction of its title, with great lyrics penned by Jesse and his cohort Jeff Chapman. The song has a John Prine feel, accepting the things we can’t control, an honest admission that there’s no getting around all the stones that life will throw at you from all directions.

“Along For the Ride” shares the “if it will it will” sentiment, an oasis within the 11 tracks, just to let us know that we shouldn’t cry in our beers forever.

The protagonist in “Good Time” brags that he’s a complete joy to be around, as easy in fit as getting telephone numbers from a truck stop bathroom stall. He’s never too far away. But he’s tortured by the woman who escaped him. He wails that she can do way better than him: “She belongs in a magazine….not with me.” His growling delivery convinces listeners that this is Jesse. But don’t try to pin him down; he’ll dance around the subject quicker than a politician.

Jesse can paint the town on a Saturday night, but the standout track, “Always Let You Down” reveals that the songwriter knows his shortcomings. His lyrics juggle freedom with faithfulness, and the lure of Saturday night. The urge to roam will always “keep me running like a devil was calling me, I don’t mind lonesome, but I got to be free.”

“Burn It Down” is just JCH and a guitar and a harmonica, featuring some of the best songwriting you’ll hear this year.

The tear jerker “Hickory Creek” was written by Hammock and a friend who lost the love of her life. Written from her lost love’s perspective, the song centers around a place they shared. Sad situation. But Jesse works musical magic, and he throws a positive outlook, turning the song from bummer to beauty, with a sing-along refrain featuring fine twin fiddles, stand up bass and dobro. “Instrumentally alone,” Jesse says, “that arrangement and production could bring a tear to a glass eye.”

Next: Right Between the Eyes