Jesse Ronan, an acoustic folk artist out of Guelph, Ontario, released his full length album The Life & Times of Chicory Gibbs on November 19, 2013. DIY style artists are popping up all over the world now that technology allows us to literally record albums in our own bedrooms, so they are often hit or miss. Ronan proves that you can still bring big sound and talent to the DIY game in this great piece of art.
The album starts off with Old Reggae Album, there is nothing reggae about this track, but that is just a-ok, it’s a beautiful acoustic song with a pulsating organ synth in the background. This song, like many other songs on this album, tells a story. Many artists try to pump messages through their music, or showcase high levels of musicality, and while this song isn’t one that focuses on the music, despite the flawless feel to it, it really does focus on the story and lyrical content that utilizes vocal layering in a professional manner as well.
Once the rest of the album continues you find out where Ronan’s safe place is, usually somewhere between a harmonica intro and a raw acoustic guitar middle. Gemini creates this indie Western feel to the song as it powers through its harmonica opening. It puts the guitar in the backseat, despite the fact that it may actually be the most sophisticated musical aspect to the track. It allows the vocals and the acoustic to be front and take the lead in what comes across as a track that is reminiscent of the band Steel Train.
Flies (Out of My Ears) is a much slower, melodic track with almost an eerie feel to it. The harmonica doesn’t create the happy place we get used to on this album, it penetrates with a haunting presence. Ronan’s vocals are raw. The lyrics are deeper than most. It feels like it would have been a perfect accompaniment track to Matthew Good’s Hospital Music album.
By the time we hit Song in Mind (Part i: new move) I’m a little bored of the harmonica – it starts to sound the same. This piece is all music and nothing more. It’s a lot more experimental as the folksy feel evolves. It would definitely be a piece that probably plays well live, but doesn’t sit well as a recording.
The more this album continues the more you realize it’s an anthology of short stories. It’s very eclectic and each song is connected through the passion behind making the music. The more you listen to the album the more you want to hear. The more captivating the songs are the more intrigued you are by the content. Cave of Bears has, by far, the most beautiful start to any song on this album, and it holds you captive from start to finish.
Ronan seems to approach the music romantically. It doesn’t matter what the content of the music is, you can hear a love for it in the lyrics, in the vocals and in the instrumentation. Ronan doesn’t treat the music as if he were simply going through the motions for a payday, you can hear the purity in his musical style and appreciate some of the stronger songs that are placed near the end of the album including Bless My Friends and Vision of a Mountain.
It wasn’t until Maiden of the High Hills that I realized how much nature played a role in Ronan’s music. This track has very strong to follow as it’s obvious that their career is only going to blossom and grow from here on out.