After playing drums for a slew of rock bands in New York City, Jessie Torrisi has set out to try her hand at being a front woman. To kick things off she has recorded a delightful batch of country-tinged indie songs for her debut record, Brûler Brûler (“burn burn” in French).
Although it may seem like a strange album title, it’s a fitting one; these songs reveal Torrisi to be a woman who is both passionate and curious about the world and she also seems to burn with a creativity and excitement for life that makes her record really enjoyable to play.
Bearing similarities to classic country singers like Patsy Cline and current indie queens like Cat Power, Torrisi is able to exist in a space between country music and the indie scene. Thus, it makes perfect sense that she currently resides in Austin, Texas, a city which blends these two worlds more than any other Texan city.
One of Torrisi’s most obvious gifts is her knack for crafting melodies. There are moments, like on “Cannonball” and “The Brighter Side,” where her melodies are reminiscent of brilliant songwriters like Randy Newman. Yet her lyrics are also notable as they alternate between poignancy and humor, sometimes in the same song. “X in Texas” is an example of this. “You put the X in Texas… you are a wrecking ball,” she sings to a former flame and she sells the humor and sadness of each line without undercutting the other. “You can have Texas and every woman in it,” she sings to him later and she really means it.
It’s moments like these which capture Torrisi’s personality well. Torrisi brings a certain swagger and sexiness to these songs. Through her words and voice she presents a persona which is easy-going, energetic, and fun. At one point in “Cannonball” she sums it all up with this great line: “I want to sing as loud as I can/Be a one-woman rock and roll band.” And it’s easy to believe that she could do it. Most importantly, she sounds like she is having a blast while making this record and that is clearly communicated while listening to Brûler Brûler.
Torrisi hasn’t gotten here alone, however. Some of her influences clearly crop up in these songs. For example, “Breeze in Carolina,” which finds Torrisi highlighting her country side over a gently plucked acoustic guitar, is a lovely song, one which was probably inspired by Ryan Adams both in its style and subject matter. However, even when it’s possible to pinpoint Jessie Torrisi’s influences it doesn’t detract from her songs. One of her greatest strengths is taking disparate influences from pop, rock, and country and combining them into something that sounds very fresh and original.
Yet, it’s the closer, “The Brighter Side,” which really convinced me of Torrisi’s talent and potential as she sings matter-of-factly in a Texas drawl over a steady piano and shimmering slide guitar. The song lacks some of the energy of earlier songs but makes up for it with a compelling emotional tenor. It’s a terrific vocal performance by Torrisi and makes the song endlessly repeatable.
This song combined with the R&B-country of “So Many Miles” and the rest of this record serve as a reminder that Jessie Torrisi is an artist who can’t be tied down with expectations.