JESSE DAYTON – Mixtape Volume 1 (blu-elan Records BER1175)

Mixtape Volume 1Jesse Dayton wanted “to do cool versions of the songs that I thought the original writers would dig”. His new album Mixtape Volume 1 is released on August 30th.

After vinyl, and alongside it, came the cassette tape. For the first time you could take control of your music by selecting a dozen or so favourite tracks to play one after the other. As time passed, you could even play them in the car or walk around with them attached to your belt. Fifty years on and playlists make it all an awful lot easier to be your own DJ. However, along with that easiness is the loss of careful thought and selection, knowing you’ve spent hours picking favourite tracks from albums or singles and putting them in the (immoveable) order you want so they enhance each other.

Look at the album cover – this album isn’t a playlist, these songs are as carefully chosen as you would do if you were making a tape. Hence, presumably, the title Mixtape Volume 1. The songs? – I’m biased because mostly they’re straight out of music I bought in the seventies. That makes me potentially a harsher judge, but I have to say that this is a cracking selection, with songs by Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, The Clash, ZZ Top, Elton John, Dr Feelgood, AC/DC, The Cars and Bruce Springsteen. And Jesse Dayton hasn’t just picked these songs – he’s felt them and then he’s played them.

Dayton has a career of more than thirty years as guitarist for the likes of Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash – and also for the punk bands. He has ten albums of his own. That’s a hell of a fusion of styles and experience in his locker and you can hear all elements in the choice of tracks, from ‘Bankrobber’ or ‘She Does It Right’ to ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ or ‘Redneck Friend’.

Even more staggering, while the songs are recognizable he makes them his own. The video link below takes you to ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ – it’s not a heavy metal arrangement, but emotionally it’s as metal as the original and you just want to hear it live with mates and a pint or two, in a darkened cavern venue, the sound reverberating off low slung curved ceilings.

Like all good mix tapes, it’s hard to pick favourite tracks (a mixtape is a work of contemplated curation, nothing would be on there that you didn’t think was good) but I’d give a particular mention, not only to the uptempo Clash, Feelgood, AC/DC covers, but also to Dayton’s version of Elton John’s ‘Country Comfort’ and a great version of ‘Just What I Needed’, originally by The Cars.

The album I got for review was on CD but it’s available in a number of formats – including cassette. Dayton produced it himself and he is on tour in America currently.

Mike Wistow

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