Jesse Dayton

Raisin' Cain – 1995 (Justice)

Reviewed by Robert Loy

CDs by Jesse Dayton

If you're one of those people who insist on having their music neatly categorized, you may have a hard time with Beaumont-born Jesse Dayton's freshman release. Check out the slick pompadour and the retro sideburns on his cover photo, and you think "Aha, Rockabilly." Scan the lyric sheet and notice how deftly Dayton, who wrote all 12 songs on this CD, turns a phrase like "If fools really tread where angels fear/ then what's an angel like you doin' here?" and you might peg Dayton as a songwriter-singer. But turn on the music and watch your preconceptions drift away like cigarette smoke at a honky-tonk. With the legendary Johnny Gimble on fiddle, Dayton excels at straight ahead, steel-guitar driven toe-tappers ("Next Time I'm in Town" and "Kissing Abilene Goodbye") and when he sings the blues ("Big City Blues" and "Blood Bucket Blues"), you know he's had them. "Carmelita (Show Me How to Dance)" shows a strong zydeco Cajun influence. The lone ballad on the album, "Time to Go," is a poignant tale of an older man losing his job due to corporate downsizing. Call this bluesy, jazzy, modern-traditional alternative Texas country rock if you must have labels, but don't miss it.