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Music Review: Jesse Harris – Watching the Sky

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My first time I heard of Jessie Harris was when he was involved with Norah Jones’ mega hit album Come Away with Me. Although he’s continued playing music, he doesn’t get a lot of praise or airtime on either the radio or television. After listening to Watching the Sky, I’m shocked that Jesse Harris isn’t as well known as he should be. The whole album is creative, using several instruments that I don’t consider to be jazz/folk and is well put together.

I was intrigued by the usage of different instruments in each of the tracks. The flirtation between the brass section and string is original. It gives a country sound more of a jazz feel. The inclusion of Norah Jones in “It Will Stay with Us” is beautiful. She lightly harmonizes in the background; she may be overlooked if you aren’t a Norah Jones fan. Even tracks with minimal arrangements, like “Don’t Wait for Me” and “Looking Back” are handled well. In all of the tracks you know that the star is Harris and he doesn’t get overpowered by the background music.

There is an interesting Latin influence in several tracks of the album. I loved the Tango feeling to “What You Wanted,” the marimba is a great asset to the track. The instrument gives a feeling of time progressing in the track; feeling helpless as you sit and patiently wait for something to happen. The marimba again is used in the tracks “Fool’s Paradise” and “I Think You’re Hiding Something,” the latter continuing to channel the Tango mentality where the male and female have a passionate struggle on the dance floor.

Lyrically the whole album is calm, Harris’ voice lulls throughout. Harris’ lyrical style seems straightforward: anyone could connect with the lyrics. Harris doesn’t alienate anyone and plays on the idea of everyday feelings in life. I think my favorite track of the whole album is “Light as a Feather,” because I love the use of the bells in the background combined with the lyrics. It nostalgically brings me back to childhood summers and brings images of just sitting around with friends talking about what the future would bring to each of us. The usage of the bell represents to me the time passing us by.

I find it almost a weird coincidence, but after reviewing several of the Hushabye Baby soundtracks, I can see this album make a wonderful lullaby album for children. It has the similar multiple instrument arrangements and although some of the tempos are faster, the whole album soothes. You can definitely see similarities to other albums. There is something about the song “The Fool” that channels the Fleetwood Mac classic riff from “Never Going Back Again.” The arrangement is almost like a faster, country take on the song. If I had to suggest another album that sounds similar, I’d mention Norah Jones’ second album, Sunrise. Both albums flirt with the jazz/country/folk idea, but Harris’ playing of the banjo actually fits better than the use of piano.

Watching the Sky doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but Harris’ use of banjo and marimba are a welcome change to current music of today. The album takes elements of jazz, country, folk, and Latin and helps create a picturesque mix which worked wonderful, to my delight. The whole album is lighthearted and sweet. I find this album to be a great summer car album; having the car windows down and driving down to the beach for a lazy day. I don’t understand why more people don’t know who Harris is; all of the tracks are radio friendly and I could even see a track or two used as part of an episode of shows like Grey’s Anatomy that likes to showcase artists. Jesse Harris did a great job with his album, it’s fun, solid, and has a clear-cut message. Each song on the album has something for any folk, jazz, indie, or country fan.

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About Michael Pascua