Jesse Winchester died in April 2014 at the age of 69. Like Warren Zevon's "The Wind" this posthumously released new album "A Reasonable Amount of Trouble" will be forever entwined with his fate. Yet when Winchester started the record in May 2013 he actually had a clean bill of health having overcome his diagnosis of esophageal cancer. More than most singers emerging from the tumult of the 1960s it was the Vietnam War that defined Winchester's live and career. In 1967 he took the agonising decision to move to Canada to escape the draft. Despite being pardoned by President Carter ia decade later he would not return to live in the US for twenty five years. His best songs like "Yankee Lady" and "Brand New Tennessee Waltz" are all reflections on his exile. Sadly it also appears that his move North meant that he was outside of the Laurel Canyon singer songwriter boom of the early seventies and while the quality of his music matched other singers like Jackson Browne and James Taylor, his success was more low key. Happily this may have suited Winchester for as he confessed to Rolling Stone in 1970 "I'd rather just hang in there all the time with good music, slow and steady, and share it, rather than set the world on fire all at once." By any standards Jesse Winchester achieved his aim and more.
"A Reasonable Amount of Trouble" is lovely, humorous, poignant and often heartbreaking sign off from the late Jesse Winchester. If you are not moved by the aching observations of the concluding track "Just so Much" then that heart of stone must be granite hard. However there are plenty of songs here to lift the mood not least the Cajun flavoured "Little Louisiana" and gentle covers of songs like the The Casades "Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain". Unsurprisingly with Winchester it is the songs of tenderness and sensitivity that pull you closer to his music. Tracks like "Ghosts" and "Neither Here Nor There" are vintage Winchester and are expertly constructed to soundtrack an autumnal mood.
Granted this album is tinged with great sadness but Winchester lived a principled life and the world is a better place for his music. If you wish to see Jesse Winchester in his absolute prime check out his mesmerising performance of "Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding," a tender ode to teenage love, on longtime fan Elvis Costello's Sundance TV cable series "Spectacle," and watch the reaction from fellow guests Neko Case and Costello himself as the great Jesse Winchester slays them with song.
Review by Red on Black