Before I pressed the Play button on my CD player to listen to Jimmy Yessian’s new CD, The Future, I thought about Jimmy’s sometimes rough sometimes smooth, yet always soulful deep voice. And even though there’s a country feeling to the man, I thought about his almost delicate guitar-picking style that could easily fit in a few different genres. It’s true he’s spent time in the Nashville music scene. But not all of his songs are country tunes—at least these days. And the majority of his local performances are with The Tall Men, the songwriting/performing group that offers a variety of sounds and genres generated from the six talented members. So, not knowing exactly what to expect, I pressed Play and stepped into The Future with Jimmy. (CD Photo: Alex Ruffini)
As the title might suggest, this CD is about time. And not tick-tock time, but the value of time–past, present and future. The songs are from an artist who has looked at his past, hoped for a brighter future, but is finding peace and contentment in the present moment. The chorus lyric of the title track, “The Future,” says:
“In these songs I have written and sung
Poured my soul into every last one
Where the past is already written
And the future may never come.“
Jimmy does pour his soul into every song. “I write stories of my life,” Jimmy says. “I expand on some. But there are elements of truth in most every song.” Jimmy values storytelling from the heart. “It’s what makes people believe my songs—because they’re real. You’ve got to put realism in it. But there has to be some part of that song that is you. From your heart.” And all of the tracks on this CD are completely from the heart.
Some stories look back in time to a younger heart. For example, “Me and My Best Friend Bill,” “Stanley The Bum,” “Me and Donovan,” “Better Than Elvis,” and even “Song for My Dad”– are all stories that spotlight a person and influence from Jimmy’s younger years. Each song and story offers a gentle reflection on the importance of those people and moments in Jimmy’s life today.
The production of The FutureCD was simple yet artful. Instrumental layers grew organically and never felt imposed. Background vocals were almost whispers at times to compliment the demand of the delicate lyrics. Cudos from the CD notes include a well-deserved thanks to Jimmy’s good friend and a Tall Men partner, Jeff Kossack, who co-produced the CD. In addition to producing, Jeff also provided some background vocals and, along with Jimmy, created the song arrangements.
In the first track, “Any Less,” my first smile was hearing Jimmy’s effective turn of phrase on the chorus lyric. “She don’t love me any more….She don’t love me any more…But I don’t love her any less.” Then I tried to place the style of the song, which sounded old and familiar. I smiled again when I heard the Hammond B3 organ. “I love the B3 sound,” Jimmy says. “I’d use it in every song if I could.” In fact, most of the up tempo songs on the CD did use the organ. It definitely added a feeling of retracing time.
Other instruments that took center stage in the mix were the strings and especially the cello. Often, those instruments sound like they’ve been dropped in, as though they’re floating above the song and not part of it. But the arrangements were so well done, and the mixing had an almost delicate touch, that the simple lines, especially in the duet and co-write, “If It Were Me,” were soulful and organic. Kent Gray, the singer and co-writer on the duet, has a quintessential country voice, which provided a perfect blend to Jimmy’s voice. It sounded like two good friends talking about a bad relationship, which is in fact exactly how the song evolved. The other duet, and co-write, with Keesha Scott Hogan was another example of tender and evocative vocals and arranging. Marty Axelrod’s piano was magical and the cello and strings were again the perfect complement.
Throughout the CD, Jimmy’s unique guitar-picking style was on display. I asked Jimmy about that. “A lot of my guitar playing is done with my hands on the strings,” he said. “So when I play, I’m muting some of the strings.” I asked him where he learned that technique and he said he picked up a lot listening to James Taylor.
By the end of the CD, I felt I had been on a very personal journey of someone who was searching through scenes and moments in life, picking out the ones that had the most meaning and writing about it to understand why. In hearing Jimmy talk about the stories in his songs, he shared a true story of a moment he had with one of the greatest storytellers and songwriters of all time—Harlan Howard, the man who said country music is “three chords and the truth.” Here’s Jimmy’s encounter with Harlan:
“It was around 2000-2001. I went into Sammy B’s, a bar in Nashville. I saw an empty chair so I sat in it. I noticed the name tag above the seat said Harlan Howard. Then I heard a voice, ‘Hey son, you’re in my chair.’ It was Harlan Howard. Everyone stopped and stared. I stepped aside, bought Harlan a drink and we talked.” Turns out Jimmy had a pitch meeting with Harlan’s wife that afternoon. Small world indeed.
From “Me and My Best Friend Bill” – Jimmy leaves us with these memorable lines:
“Treasure the time you kill
Cherish the time you kill
Treasure the time you kill”
Such a good reminder that we should be mindful and appreciate every moment as we embrace life’s adventure into The Future. Thanks for the reminder, Jimmy.
“The Future” will be available June 1 at the following links:
Jimmy Yessian website: https://www.jimmyyessian.com
FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/354416131898573/
CD Baby: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/jimmyyessian