This past summer, Jessie Baylin released her second full-length recording, Firesight, on the Verve label. The sun-washed album cover is a fair representation of the warm and tasteful mash-up of jazz, pop, and country songs found inside. Taking a cue from some of the great female vocalists of the past 50 years, Baylin pours her soul out in verse, and with the help of producer Roger Mountenot, she has been able to create an album that is certain to have some staying power over the years to come.
A little bit Joni Mitchell, a little bit Edie Brickell, and just a touch of Norah Jones, Baylin's vocals conjure an older era of female vocalists with strong voices that do not fit in the standard young pop-vocalist mold. Her pitch is pure, but the tone is marked with a slightly rougher edge, adding a bit of a plaintive sound to the tunes as needed.
The arrangements and production work on Firesight are both so well done that one hardly notices them. It's simply a collection of good tunes that flow together well with an appropriate balance between the lead vocals and everything else. This is essential to making the album work, as anything that stands out as too rough or too glossy would immediately break the mellow mood.
Firesight opens with a country-tinged, sure-fire single, "See How I Run." It's a song of hope, self-assuredness, and moving towards an unknown future, but one she has chosen for herself. "I'll take my chances under the pressure. A risk ain't nothing — there's nothing I can lose." In a way, it's the manifesto for the album — watch me, 'cause I'm someone to pay attention to.
The rest of the songs read like a diary. Baylin's heart and soul spill out through the words. She uses simple phrases in repetition for emphasis, as well as more poetic expressions such as the lines from "Not a Day More": "I can't go on like this, not a day more / Pouring all I have come to know / Into open hands that are still somehow closed"
Walking the fine lines between country/folk and pop/rock, Baylin's Firesight is an album that should appeal to a wide variety of music fans who appreciate that mish-mash of genres combined with thoughtful lyrics.