Review: Jim Lesses
At The Hills Folk Club - November 7, 1999
"Once a month the Hills
Folk Club, at its blackboard session, provides room for a special guest to
have an extended spot. This month it was Jim Lesses, who has been a
regular at the Hills for a couple of years. It's been interesting to watch
Jim's rocket-like growth as a performer, from a self-effacing apologist,
shaking his head and scowling at his guitar and himself whenever he made a
mistake, to an energetic, open, engaging artist, putting into practice
everything -well, almost everything - he preached in his inspiring article
(SCALA News July/August 1999).
One of the first things that struck me was the quality of Jim's lyrics.
Having since had time to have a good look at them, that impression is
confirmed. The themes are imaginative (Don't Sell Us Pipe Dreams, Ned
Kelly's Tea House, Barbarous Rituals), introspective (Sometimes
(I wake Up Naked), I Woke Up Dreaming Of The Devil, Is This
The Promise?) and challenging (Feel The Fear (and Make It Run)).
There is often a humorous undertone (Tuesday Night In The Jungle)
which is welcome, as the songs demand serious and concentrated listening.
Which brings me to say that I think, at this stage in his development at
any rate, Jim is a better lyricist than a tunesmith. There's a sameness
about many of the melodies and the style he uses. He seems to be drifting
away from a folk orientation to more of a soft pop approach, with most
songs receiving similar arrangement. It's difficult to sustain interest
like that when you're a solo performer and don't have other instruments or
performers to add variety. At the gig, Jim sang ten of his songs, in two
sets, with various other acts in between. It's not easy to warm up your
audience for a second time in such circumstances.
Jim chose to do this by
saving all his fast-paced numbers for the second set and I'm not sure that
this came off all that well. All the pieces were medium-fast to fast -
sort of Glenn McRath-ish - and were accompanied by the guitar strummed
with a flatpick, which can become monotonous after a while. I'd like to
see Jim develop his fingerpicking and vary his sets more in both
accompaniment and pace. His splendid lyrics carry powerful messages and I
believe some would carry that message more clearly and with more impact if
they were given more space, a slower tempo and lighter arrangement.
Jim has developed his patter well, allowing his cheerful personality to
engage the audience and pull them into the songs with him. He knew his
songs well, and performed with conviction and energy, charging his voice
with the emotion of each lyric. Like all of us at one time or another, Jim
can lean towards the sledgehammer approach to a song, belting the message
home with volume (too close to the mike - audience members were
flinching), unrelenting pace and too many verses. I know how it is - you
have a theme and you develop tremendous enthusiasm for it, the Muse is
standing behind you and the words flow from the pen page after page and
you want the world to hear all of it! Been there, oh yes. But sometimes
understatement and restraint can be even more powerful, if only by
contrast with other songs in a set.
When I saw Jim on Sunday I couldn't believe how far he's come as a
performer in such a short time. Having re-read his article Courting
The Act I can only feel admiration for the man's discipline and
focus and the depth of thought he puts into not only writing songs - hell,
that's difficult enough - but also the all-important aspect of helping an
audience understand and relate to the content. I'm looking forward to
seeing the next phase of development.
May the Force be with you, Jim."
~ Les Montanjees: SCALA
NEWS, Nov/Dec 1999
Go straight to CD Baby and order the CD...
Go straight to CD Baby and order the CD...
You can stay in touch with Jim's
career and the progress of any new recordings by joining Jim's mailing list.
Click the EMAIL JIM link on the menu to launch your email
We will never share your email
address with any other person, company, or web site. If at any time you wish to be removed
from Jim's Mailing List, simply send us an email and we will delete
your name from our address book immediately.
of the information on this site been of use to you? If so, please
consider a small donation as a token of your appreciation.