Singer-songwriter Jesse Sterling Harrison has been one of New England's best-kept secrets for years. An incendiary live performer as a solo singer/guitarist, Harrison's recordings have often strayed into experimental territory, sometimes dipping below the threshold of listenability in the name of capturing great moments and wild ideas, even in lo-fi. His listening public has never exploded, due mostly to the fact that Harrison rarely plays live and does little to promote his work, being busy as a father, businessman and general jack-of-all-trades. 2006 saw him release What it Sounds Like, a breakthrough collection of acoustic solo tracks recorded in two breathless hours in a living room in Winchester, New Hampshire. Now, with Jackhammer Soul, Harrison finally fuses his singer-songwriter chops with his fairly prodigious talent as a multi-instrumentalist and composer. The sound is bracingly clear but incredibly raw and immediate as Harrison dips into nearly every style of American music. By turns sarcastic, swaggering, and soulful, Jackhammer Soul veers from the insanely catchy blues-rock opener "Batten Down the Hatches" to the epic "Keep it Red", which recalls Jeremy Enigk in full-band mode. He even lays down a flawless country ballad in "Play Not to Lose" and has time for the oddball "Sweet Spot", a bitterly funny poem over a Beastie Boys-style funk jam. This is Harrison's grooviest record, his best singing performance, and his most understated lyrical set. The songs crackle, the production is transparent and powerful, and the genre-bending somehow hangs together, tied in by Harrison's versatile and soulful baritone. Only a few people in America can do what this guy does. Let's hope everybody gets to hear it.
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