The music Jess Wayne has written and created for the album Ride The River is of such a beautifully reflective and thoughtful nature, that it’s almost impossible not to get caught up on every line and every note. For the sake of the article, I’ll try to keep the descriptions minimal – you’ll really have to take home the music for yourself to truly appreciate what it’s all about.
The project opens with Taken You Home Last Night, introducing you to the artist with a huge moment of ballad-like musical power; the emotion shines brightly in the chorus melody, the gentle build up to the climactic hook section is hugely addictive, and there’s much more of this to come.
Better Get Used To It takes things into that jazz-like, almost funky sort of ambiance. The keyboards and that touch of occasional distortion build up a brand new scene, yet once again, the explicitly reflective presentation of lyrics keeps the Jess Wayne thread present, and this time there’s a huge hook to get wrapped up in. The music builds and builds, but not intensely, just in a very stylish and almost acoustic rock-like manner. It’s a great track, so much subtle swagger in the vocal performance, the solo guitar riffs, the overall soulful, jazz vibe. The beautiful inflections of the vocal are highlighted in this one, and it truly is a fantastic voice to listen and unwind to.
The variety within the release is consistently impressive; you now get a creative bit of bass-heavy musicality for Make It Up To You, and this track is seductive – it teases at the idea of romance, backed up by the smooth yet gravelly performance. The honesty is a huge part of the lyrics again, but regardless of what is said; something about the laid back nature of the artist’s presentation of these ideas makes him a really likable character to listen to.
Following Make it Up To You, we get Hold On, reintroducing that jazz sound, the guitar, the keys, the lightness of the live-sounding beat. The story telling is huge again, and the effect is quite unusual – the music sets a scene within which you can relax, and the vocal provides a sort of host for the evening. You’re relaxed, but in a way; you’re on the edge of your seat – hoping not to miss anything. It’s not the kind of thing you tend to hear these days in music, which is a shame; it’s a real pleasure to be a part of.
Next up is Say Goodbye To Hollywood, and the scene that is set from the very first second is just drenched in crystal clear imagery. The lyricism is incredible, and the hook here is again one that you can latch on to and eagerly await as you listen. This is the kind of track you can hear as being the anthem, the moment during the live show that everyone get’s involved in.
Further variation keeps on coming as you delve deeper into the album, particularly in the form of Next Time Around – the accordion, the upbeat sound of the music, the reflective yet hopeful nature of the story. Yet another one you don’t want to miss a moment of.
This idea of hope is prevalent throughout the songs on this project. There’s an overwhelming sense of it being OK to have messed things up once or twice, to have made mistakes – it’ll be alright next time around, things will get better. Everybody get’s a second chance. It’s an important idea to portray.
That addictive sound from the album’s opening track returns in full force for Why Don’t You Lie To Me. The music and the style here is fairly simple, fairly minimalist, but Jess Wayne somehow manages to fuse several moods and moments successfully within a single song. The music has a lighthearted urgency to it, perhaps it’s the piano rhythm, and the general nature of that title is so unusual that you can’t help but be intrigued by it, the same goes for some of the lyrics within…
Paper cups, plastic spoons, grey-beige conference chairs, a white coat says he’s sorry..
As you move on to Garden Song, there’s a genuine honesty and beauty that shines so brightly – there’s an apparent sadness in the words, the music matches this mood perfectly, yet it doesn’t last too long. The storytelling is strong here, it draws you in, makes you listen, makes you wonder, makes you want to know more.
There’s a slight hint of a Johnny Cash sound in the voice at times, but there’s far more smoothness in the melodies here, and occasionally, the artist’s voice could even pass for the leading character in a musical theatre piece. As the voice builds up to sing it could be worse, the music increases in intensity, the instruments suddenly become quite hectic sounding; there’s an urgency, which mixes well with the now quite summery and peaceful ambiance. It feels like summertime when you listen, which works brilliantly with the lyrics; and there are some utterly fantastic lyrics in this track.
Then you get a track like How Do You Know, and the eclectic nature of Jess Wayne’s creativity is undoubtedly evident. This one really reaches out with that rock and roll vibe. The music is big, every element works together to fill the room with sound – you can almost hear it as a live jam at times. The chorus of vocals echoing Jess Wayne’s lyrics is beautiful, a really vintage effect that adds a whole new dynamic to the music.
All I Can Do For Now presents listeners with a gorgeously delicate fusion of piano, guitar, and a lightly energetic drum beat – all topped off with a heartfelt and poetic vocal performance. There’s a huge element of poetry throughout the lyrics, there are so many statements, ideas, and moments of character – Jess Wayne’s voice is wonderful, an effortless sounding presentation of melodies and thoughts, soaked in personality, with a genuinely believable and trustworthy tone. It’s a truly calming experience to listen to this collection of songs.
There’s just about everything you could hope to experience with a songwriter’s album in this project; the mellow, the folk, the jazz, the character, the stories, the flawless musicality. There are as many moments of blissful beauty as there are of thought provoking, real-life reflection. The artist’s voice provides a familiar thread throughout the project, there’s a very distinct style to the song writing, and yet musically, there is a vast ocean of sounds and riffs and artistic moments. It’s the kind of album you can switch on at the end of a hard day, to let this whole new world of music and thoughts just wash away your troubles for a while.
You really need to take home the music for yourself, to see how it makes you feel, to see what you make of the ideas, or perhaps just to admire the unique perspective and creativity of a wonderful artist. A definite recommendation.