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Live from Mountain Stage: Jesse Winchester

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Album Review

Jesse Winchester first gained notice as a protégé of the Band's Robbie Robertson, who produced and played guitar on his debut album and brought along bandmate Levon Helm to play drums and mandolin. The album had much of the rustic Southern charm and rollicking country-rock of the Band. Winchester's other immediate appeal was a certain sense of mystery. A Southern American expatriate living in Canada, he was unable to appear in the U.S. to promote the album, which was released in a fold-out LP jacket that featured the same sepia-toned portrait (which looked like one of those austere Matthew Brady photos from the Civil War era) on each of its four sides. Winchester emphasized the dichotomy between his southern origins and his northern exile in songs like "Snow" (which Robertson co-wrote), "The Brand New Tennessee Waltz" ("I've a sadness too sad to be true"), and "Yankee Lady." Jesse Winchester was timely: it spoke to a disaffected American generation that sympathized with Winchester's pacifism. But it was also timeless: the songs revealed a powerful writing talent (recognized by the numerous artists who covered them), and Winchester's gentle vocals made a wonderful vehicle for delivering them. [Originally released by Ampex in 1970, Jesse Winchester was reissued by Bearsville Records in 1976, in 1988 by Rhino/Bearsville, in 1994 by Stony Plain, and in 2006 by Wounded Bird.]

Biography

Born: 17 May 1944 in Bossier City, LA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Jesse Winchester was the music world's most prominent Vietnam War draft evader, though his renown came from a body of wry, closely observed songs. After growing up in Memphis, Winchester received his draft notice in 1967 and moved to Montreal, Canada, rather than serve in the military. In 1969, he met Robbie Robertson of the Band, who helped launch his recording career. In the same way that James Taylor's history of mental instability and drug abuse served as a subtext for his early music, Winchester's...
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Live from Mountain Stage: Jesse Winchester, Jesse Winchester
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