I am a relative latecomer to the work of Connecticut-based singer-songwriter Jesse Terry. Though he now has eight solo albums under his belt, he wasn’t on my radar until the fine 2018 Sunset Avenue Sessions collaboration with Lizanne Knott and Michael Logen. I subsequently checked out his earlier albums and came away impressed by the warmth of his vocals, the easy, natural flow of his writing, and his excellent taste in arrangement and production. His 2021 release, When We Wander, was uniformly strong, my favorite of his albums of his own songs. He has drawn comparisons to everyone from James Taylor to Glenn Frey to Dan Fogelberg to Jackson Browne; all are apt (particularly the last), yet he definitely has his own distinct singing and writing style.
His latest, Forget-Me-Nots, is a departure: a 22-song (2-CD if that’s your medium of choice) collection of cover tunes from a wide spectrum of writers, styles, and eras, beautifully presented in (mostly) acoustic settings and featuring a slew of top-flight Nashville musicians and singers unified by Terry’s pleasing voice and faultless fingerpicking and strumming. “The main acoustic guitar was my 1972 Alvarez Yairi DY57,” he tells us. “I also used a Furch Millennium series G23-CR grand auditorium; a circa 2000 Taylor 810 dreadnought; a Furch Millennium series D23-CR dreadnought-sized 12-string; a nylon-string Furch GNc 4-CR; and, lastly, an Epiphone DeLuxe Masterbilt archtop.” Terry also played a Deering Boston six-string banjo.
Chances are you’ll know some or most of the songs he’s selected, but kudos to him for going off the beaten path with so many unpredictable choices: Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” (from Blue, 1970); Tom Petty’s “Walls” (from the soundtrack of She’s the One, 1996); Townes Van Zandt’s “No Place to Fall” (from Flyin’ Shoes, 1978); Tom Waits’ “Hold On” (from Mule Variations, 1999); Eric Clapton’s “Let It Grow” (from 461 Ocean Boulevard, 1974); Dylan’s “My Back Pages” (from Another Side of Bob Dylan, 1964); Jimmy Webb’s late-’80s “Adios”; and the Shirelles’ 1960 hit “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” to name just some.
A few of the songs are bona fide pop hits I’ve heard a million times, like “Gentle on My Mind” (Glenn Campbell), “Don’t Dream It’s Over” (Crowded House), and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John), but I have to say that in these new arrangements sung by Terry I heard the lyrics in a completely new light that made me appreciate them more. Another category of songs is neatly reinvented American standards, including “Skylark,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Twilight Time,” “Harbor Lights,” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.”
Other acoustic guitar players on the album are the always-imaginative Will Kimbrough (also a standout on subtle electric, along with Juan Solorzano), and, on one song, Alan Fish. Eamon McLoughlin contributes violin, viola, and mandolin; Sam Howard is the sturdy electric and upright bassist; Danny Mitchell, piano and organ; singers Mary Bragg and Mia Rose Lynne perfectly complement Terry’s singing; and a special tip of the hat to Fats Kaplin for his colorful pedal steel, lap steel, and dobro work. There isn’t a note too many nor out of place in these supremely tasteful small-band arrangements—credit there to Terry and his producer (and drummer) Neil Hubbard, who helmed the pandemic-era tracking sessions in South Carolina and, virtually, in Nashville.
With absolutely no negative connotations implied, I’d call this album “easy listening” of the best kind. It’s friendly, inviting, familiar-but-original, and will take you to many places worth visiting—again, or for the first time.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.