Review: Jesse Dee – On My Mind / In My Heart

Posted on: Sunday, Mar 24, 2013


Jesse Dee – On My Mind / In My Heart

(Alligator Records: ALCD 4952)

Over the last few years the Chicago-based Alligator Records has brought us some fine releases, away from its usual pure blues output . . . here’s another to add to the list, from the young Boston soul singer Jesse Dee, with his debut for the label, the 11-track “On My Mind / In My Heart” . . . a joyous, mainly up-tempo collection with tales of romance, hope and emotion, but with a fun element.

Jesse Dee’s music is heavily influenced by some of the giants of the soul genre . . . and his vocals bring to mind legends such as Sam Cooke, Joe Tex, Jackie Wilson, Smokey Robinson and more. He produced his first album back in 2008, “Bittersweet Batch”, with his live performances and songs eventually resulting in it being picked up by Munich Records. Dee came to the attention of Alligator boss Bruce Iglauer through word of mouth, with him flying to Boston to catch him live and being so impressed that he signed him.

The album features his core band, who are Johnny Trama (guitar), Jim Larkin (bass), Matt “Pie” Bealieu (drums), and brothers John Aruda (tenor saxophone) and Scott Aruda (trumpet and flugelhorn), together with a host of guests. The album was co-produced by Dee himself, who apart from his dynamite vocals also contributes guitar, and Jack Younger.

Proceedings get off with the title cut, “On My Mind / In My Heart”, and in a way it’s a template for all that follows . . . lovely and bouncy, with the punchy horns, driving rhythm section and on top Dee’s lovely voice. The following “No Matter Where I Am” recalls the great Tyrone Davis, with its urgent rhythm guitar, and more sterling work from the horns, and Eli Winderman on Hammond B-3 organ. Dee digs deep into his soul on the excellent “Fussin’ And Fightin'” . . . the lengthiest track here at just 5:00 – it’s a powerful, emotive performance from the young man.

The grooving “I Won’t Forget About You” fairly rattles along; with the pace taken down on the lovely “Tell Me (Before It’s Too Late)”, another tune with a 60s feel but brought up to date by Dee and band. “From The Start” features a shared vocal with Rachael Price, the tune having a bit of a Phil Spector production to these ears – it’s another standout here.

The smokey, jazzy ballad has some vocal ‘gymnastics’ from Jesse Dee;  it’s followed by the organ-led stomper “Sweet Tooth”, which must be great live. Best of all is possibly the penultimate track “Boundary Line”, a soul classic in the making, with a supreme vocal performance recalling the legendary Otis Redding,  some tasteful guitar work and a rousing ending . . . great stuff!

As previously stated, not the sort of release Alligator Records are known for, but with the likes of JJ Grey & Mofro and Anders Osborne with the label now, it shows how they are diversifying for these times . . . . to those names add Jesse Dee – a talent for sure and well worth checking out!



Pete Evans

March 25th, 2013 at 13:03
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That Sam Cooker was an electric performer…



March 25th, 2013 at 17:19
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Thanks Pete . . . . P45s all round for our quality control department . . .



March 25th, 2013 at 18:15
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