Review | JBM – Stray Ashes
by Ryan Doyon, a music loving, world traveling, beer drinking, hockey fanatic. If you're in a band then he wants to know about it.
Montreal born singer-songwriter Jesse Marchant, more commonly known to fans as JBM, just released his haunting new album “Stray Ashes,” a masterful follow up to 2008’s “Not Even In July,” and the years in between releases have seen the Canadian’s fanbase swell. A touring schedule with the likes of Elvis Perkins and St. Vincent, just to to name a few, has also opened new hearts to his captivating sound. He has been compared to one of the greatest singer-songwriters to pick up a guitar, Nick Drake, and that is praise not thrown around lightly. It appears the years have been kind to Mr. Marchant.
The album cover depicts a snow-covered rooftop with snow-covered mountains in the distance, giving the soon-to-be listener a sense that they are in for a stark, melancholy sound, reminiscent of a winter’s day in the woods contemplating loves lost and times gone by. This idea isn’t too far off with the opening track, “Ferry,” which immediately draws the listener in with the line “Given all I can/For the last time/Find an easier branch/To hang your heart around.” When an album opens with lyrics like these you should expect to be moved, perhaps even to tears. The second song on the album, “Only Now,” goes for the knockout blow as Marchant sings “Friend of mine/Where’s your heart reside?/You were here one day/The next day gone.” I know what you are thinking…. “how can an album have that much emotional weight in just the first few tracks?…clearly it will lighten up on the heartstrings as the album continues, right?” Not so. Marchant is just getting started tearing down your emotional barriers, and as the tracks go on and you find yourself at the exquisite song “You Always Keep Around,” you note that this is sometimes how music is supposed to make you feel. JBM is a master at pulling you in close, exposing those areas of your mind that you keep closed to everyone, creeping into the places in your heart afforded to only those deemed worthy.
“Stray Ashes” begs you to give in and accept, and by the time the closing track “Keeping Up” hits you, and the singer closes with the line “I’m afraid I can’t afford to wait,” you realize you have already given in. And you are a better person for it.
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