Jim Lesses Concert Review
"(Feel The Poetry - and Make It Shine!)
"On the liner notes of his LP, Bringing It All Back Home, Bob Dylan writes: a song is anything that can walk by itself/I am called a songwriter. a poem is a naked person... some people say that I am a poet.
"Well here's someone who says, happy and celebrating, that Jim Lesses is among that rare echelon of 'singer-songwriter-naked poets'. What better testimony (and appropriate title!) than his concert on March 17, 2002, at the South Australian Folk Centre.
"For over an hour and a half, Jim and his fellow musicians of the Family Band gave their all, in the cause of good music and intelligent lyrics. it was all part of raising funds towards Jim's first CD, now in production at Cran Wilton's SoundWorks Studio, with John Munro at the helm.
"The faithful gathered at the venue on a hot March afternoon, with various sound persons, musicians, friends and rellies mingling harmoniously in the auditorium. Bill Cook, featuring as 'Head Chef' on the 'Menu' sheet, emceed and introduced the Family Band members: Mary Cook, Nick Lesses, Doug Freer, and, bearing his trusty Takamine, Jim himself, on audience left.
"Kicking off with Tom Paxton's beautiful anthem, 'Life', the band paid due homage to living on the West Coast ('I'm Going Back to Koppio', written by Nick); to love lost and love found ('Standing in The Shadows', 'Love Like a Waterfall', and 'I Just Want to be With You'), together with Bill and Mary Cook's lyrical 'Black Swan Voice'.
"For a moment or two, we lost Doug's electric bass in the mix, but it was soon back in action, complementing Mary's violin, Nick's mandolin, and Jim's acoustic six-string. The 'Entree' set finished with Jim's superb 'Dance Like No-one is Watching', one of the most infectiously positive songs you're likely to hear.
"A twenty minute break later, we were favoured with the complete list of songs to be contained on the Sometimes I Wake Up Naked CD. These were presented solo by Jim, with all the passion and honesty that we have come to expect of this man.
"And what a vast array of subject matter! He opened with that joyous and nostalgic paean to childhood, 'I Want to be Eight Again', and we were returned to our own childhood days, back to that moment when/every day was a pleasure reborn, and we would live without any regrets.
"Then to contrastingly darker themes indeed, with Jim's idiosyncratic 'Tuesday Night in The Jungle', where the dogs are looking for some action... the night is full of shadows (and) music covers up the pain. The rhythm and pointed delivery of this song made it really 'bite', if you'll excuse the choice of image!
"Jim briefly and tellingly dedicated 'Madeleine and The Devil' to the Australian Governor General. Such a sad portrait and indictment of child abuse, with little Madeleine off to play with the fairies/That wait in the back of her mind as the Devil tip-toes down the hall. Terrible as it is to acknowledge, there may always be 'devils' on the loose with children, but so long as good men and women are prepared to stand up and fight them, the devils' depredation's will be lessened.
"Appropriately, 'Some Mother's Son' was next, offering compassion and balm for the sons and daughters and parents on the fringes of our safe, smug society - people so down that There doesn't seem to be a reason to live. But, as always with Jim's songs, there is chance for succour: I hope they find another way...
" 'What are your songs about?' asked a (fairly green!) journalist of Bob Dylan, once. The singer replied: 'Some of my songs are about three minutes long; some are about six minutes long; and some would you believe, are about ten minutes long!'
" 'The Ballad of Billy Winter' is in the ten minute category, but worth every second Jim put into a gutsy and up-front presentation. Again shining through the story of lust, killing and pursuit is Jim's sense of justice, and the knowledge that when the Fates at play strike a balance, a debt can be paid. 'It's true, even if it didn't happen,' says Chief Bromden in 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'. So too with 'The Ballad of Billy Winter'.
"In Jim's next song, love lost featured again, in the wrenching 'The Crying Ground'. I don't know where I'm coming from, and I don't know where I'm bound/I'm just heading down the highway, leading to The Crying Ground, sang Jim, and we felt every bruise on his narrator's battered, lonely heart.
"A strong sense of betrayal by a lover emanated from 'Is This The Promise?' and Jim's delivery of it only affirmed the man's feeling of dying on my cross... afraid to voice a scream.
"There have been many outpourings of grief, anger, bewilderment and cries for revenge since September 11, and songwriters have contributed their share. But perhaps few have seen, as Jim does in 'Night Falls Over Manhattan', that Hope is alive on the wing. Yes, even if Skylines are falling, as Jim sang, Faith is the essence that binds us... A simple affecting song, which will go far beyond mere topical comment.
"What better song to follow than 'Feel The Fear (and make it run)'? Jim proudly made this an anthem for our futures, a claim for roaring out a final challenge to greet the day. If we can build a new resolve, affirmed Jim, we WILL feel the fear and make it run. Well put!
"Concluding our 'Main Course', there was nothing more apt than 'Sometimes I Wake Up Naked'. To return to the beginning of this article, Jim is nothing if not 'surgically honest' in his writing and singing. It's difficult to select segments of this song to quote, as every line is shining and searing revelation of the poet's nakedness on the path of his creative journey. But have a taste of the chorus...Sometimes I wake up naked, sometimes itís only a dream.
Sometimes I have to hold my breath, or else I have to scream.
Sometimes I think you donít know me, sometimes I know you do.
Sometimes I donít want to know myself, but that would never be true.
"Jim Lesses has been writing songs for nigh on 30 years, but admits that 'Baby, I' is his only attempt at a 'three minute pop song'. When Bill Cook took the mike to thank Jim for his set, the emcee asked us if we wanted an encore; loud applause and cheers eloquently spoke in the affirmative, and that's when Jim sang 'Baby, I'. The use of terms like 'baby' to describe the beloved rarely allowed the song to become cliched or simplistic - everyone was on side I'm sure, when Jim asked his lover Why don't we sing it together?/There's a harmony right at the start.
"Final number was a reprise of 'Life', with Jim momentarily forgetting that he needed his capo for this. 'I should quit while I'm ahead', he grinned - but I venture that for all people present, Jim was always very much ahead of his craft and art. He'd offered a real feast of 'words and music', and we were truly replete.
"Thanks, Jim - I'll be at the next concert, with bells on, and I'm looking forward to that CD. If any reader would like to be on the queue at that time later this year, why not e-mail an order into Jim on: email@example.com. His website is: http://www.jimlesses.com if you'd like to do more research on this very creative and talented singer-songwriter."
~ Geoff Hastwell: SCALA
NEWS, Issue #86, March/April 2002
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