Jim's Note: SCALA is the South Australian based Songwriters Composers And Lyricists Association. It was formed in 1987 to foster and develop original music in all its forms, and to provide a venue for original music artists to present their works to the public.


SCALA CD Review -
Sometimes I Wake Up Naked

"In 1965, the great Bob Dylan wrote Itís Alright Ma (Iím Only Bleeding), which contained the immortal image:

But even the President of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked.

When Dylan toured with The Band across the USA in 1974, with the effects of Watergate reverberating throughout the nation, those lines caused eruptions of applause. In these even more troubled times those lines still have great resonance.

Along with the President, Jim Lesses is also sometimes naked! Sometimes I Wake Up Naked is both the title and the powerful opening track of Jimís debut CD. Jim is a true SCALA veteran. In earlier times SCALA used to issue an annual compilation tape. On A Decent Meal (1990), Jim recorded The Future is Yours, and the 1991 tape, Set The Record Straight featured Jimís Trivial Pursuit.

The current recording is indeed a document for these cataclysmic times as Jim casts an insightful, experienced and dispassionate eye over a world beset by disaffection and confusion. September 11, 2001, was a major signpost for these times, an epoch-making event for the world of the twenty first century. Jimís Night Falls Over Manhattan (sung by Trish Smylie), a gentle, poignant and reflective song, looks at that event. Blessed with a lovely melody, there is both beauty and wisdom at work here.

The title track opener is a classic 'list' song (every line starts with "sometimes"), dealing with the doubts, insecurities, contradictions and dilemmas facing individuals. Punctuated by the atmospheric violin of Hugh Gordon, this is a brooding, intense and powerful song. A close relation of the title song, at least lyrically, is Feel The Fear (and make it run). More of a rallying call with its optimistic stance, itís one of the most rhythmic and catchy songs in the set.

Tuesday Night in The Jungle, Madeleine & The Devil, and Some Mother's Son, are all vivid and relentless in their depiction of individual families and a society in the grim throes of alienation, loss and disaffection.

Although portraying the seething and violent underbelly of our society, Tuesday Night in The Jungle has a gentle swinging tune. Madeleine & The Devil is brooding and sombre, a harrowing account of a troubled and disturbed victim/woman, whilst Some Mother's Son shows a compelling picture of drug abuse, family disintegration and tragedy. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the seriousness of some of Jimís material you can always play I Want to be Eight Again, a charming and jaunty plea for fun and innocence.

There are a trio of songs with love as their focus, but all with interesting takes on that timeless subject. I Just Want to be With You has the intriguing story of a person marrying into wealth, and contains one of the most famous quartet of words/images in song Ė "mansion on the hill" (used as a title for songs by both Hank Williams and Bruce Springsteen).

Jane Barr sings the lead on Is This The Promise? a song about doubts, second thoughts and shattered illusions. The best of the three is The Crying Ground, a fine road/man-on-the-run-from-a-femme-fatale song. Itís the theme of countless songs and film noir movies and Jim comes up with some classic genre images like:

Thereís nothing left between us but this highway out of town,
And a thousand other back roads leading to the crying ground.

The most intriguing and left of field song is the seven minute The Ballad of Billy Winter, a narrative song set in the American West, and full of the appropriate images and iconography. I always enjoy this style of songwriting (if you do too, check out the late Townes Van Zandt, Tom Russell and Steve Earle who are masters of the genre). I wonít give away the details of the narrative except to say that although Billy Winter was an outlaw, he still believed in the Boy Scouts!

Thereís much strength and diversity in this CD. This is mature, reflective and intelligent contemporary folk music. Youíll find passion, compassion, depth and insights into the human condition in these disturbed times. Jim Lesses may indeed sometimes wake up naked. We should all be glad that he wakes up and writes such fine songs."

~ Rob Woodard: SCALA NEWS, (Issue #91, January/February 2003)


JIM LESSES: Sometimes I Wake Up Naked

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JIM LESSES: American Dream

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