Jessica Risker - I See You Among the Stars

by Bill Golembeski Rating:8 Release Date:2018-05-04
Jessica Risker - I See You Among the Stars
Jessica Risker - I See You Among the Stars

To the point: this is a pretty great recreation of a psych-folk album from the late 60’s. Jessica Risker is from Chicago, but this really takes its cue from British singers like Bridget St John, Vashti Bunyan, and Claire Hammill. Her bio specifically mentions iconic Nick Drake and Sibylle Baier, of sadly unknown Colour Green fame. Well, that’s spot on. There are countless others. Even Paul McCartney-protegee Mary Hopkin dabbled in the pastoral vibe with her Earth Song/Ocean Song album. I mean, the whole idea can be surmised with one glance at Peter Cross’s cover art for Anthony Phillips’ The Geese and the Ghost: It’s autumn; geese fly where ever they fly; leaves fall from trees; a river babbles; and the sun seems to stretch the hour of a late summer day.

It’s only missing the March Hare, who as always, will be quite mad.

My friend, Kilda Defnut, believes there are two types of folk singers. There are those who want to take us all back to the Garden of Eden because we “we are stardust” and, apparently should stay there in some sort of eternal bliss while growing vegetables. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But, my friend Kilda also claims there are folk singers who simply want to get back to the garden with the sole and singular purpose of both plucking and taking a bite of that forbidden fruit just one more time.

Well, I See You Among the Stars blurs that line of demarcation. It’s a bit of both. Jessica Risker sings with an idyllically lovely voice, not unlike the wonderful Kacey Chambers (although musically they are very different). So, yeah, this is quite innocent stuff. The title track is wonderfully twee, but then synth-induced vibes play a few odd notes. And then that darn sun stretches time in a slightly weird way.

The world really needs to hum “Cut My Hair.” We’d all be in a better place. It’s a lovely tune with a James Taylor “Country Road” acoustic guitar sound, a voice that slides its way through a puppy dog face melody, and, best of all, synth notes and a vocal echo that give an odd counter balance, a weight, something slightly sinister, something in a minor key, and like any forbidden fruit, something worth the price of paradise.

By the way, Jessica’s guitar picks its way through a beautiful universe.

An album like this, with only vocals, guitar, and a few synth-induced sounds can only be judged on the quality of its songs. “Anyway When I Look in Your Eyes” is eerie with an almost coronet sound, and then its innocent vocal balances the yin-yang of the tune. “Zero Summer Mind” is music that warps its grooves, like those clocks in Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Time. The acoustic guitar melts in this one. “Shallow Seas” echoes with calm beauty, like cautious steps in the wet fall leaves, and the same is true for “Reassign,” which swells, with a nice pop chorus and then reasserts its Nick Drake’s deep brevity. And, like Pink Moon, this is a short album that barely exceeds the thirty-minute mark. I suppose beauty should always supersede age. 

This is an intimate recording. “A Cooling Sun” stops and starts. It stutters a bit. That was all part and parcel with those acid folk recordings. There was a great band called Heron who recorded an album out in nature. During the songs, birds sing and flutter; bugs make bug sounds, and even the very grass on which they played, can be heard growing in the latest 5.1 remastered version of the record.

Such were those wonderful times.

And this record does a good job at recreating those wonderful times.

“Help Me Help Me” ends the brief album with the simple beauty of a Nick Drake inspired tune, and this song pays an absolutely lovely homage to the idea that “and now we rise and we are everywhere.”

I was in my local coffee shop the other day, and I mentioned that I liked Bon Iver, whose music played on some sort of fancy music program piped into the restaurant. The young counter woman with New Girl glasses and a Celtic tattoo or two was surprised because, you know, a boring old guy like me could never really love, well, folk music. I laughed. What’s the old saying…the more things change, the more they stay the same. I suppose I could have mentioned this record, an album of all of that psych folk stuff that is now back in the current vogue. But I didn’t say a word. What was the point? I just knew that we were wide years a part, but I also knew we loved the same music. And for all that, I dropped a few bucks in the tip jar.

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