Have nearly 40 years really passed since Jesse Winchester arrived on the scene with an album that included the classic “Yankee Lady” and at least two other career-making tracks? And have nine years really gone by since Winchester last gave us a new studio album? Yes and yes, but the good news is that he’s back, and with another fine CD. (If he’s ever made a bad album, I must have missed it.)
For the most part, Love Filling Station represents business as usual for Winchester, who always injects lots of soul and sweetness into his tenor. (It occurred to me while listening to this album that if Smokey Robinson were a Memphis-bred folksinger, he might sound a lot like Jesse.) As on past releases, a few tracks show off Winchester’s funky “Rhumba Man” side, and he employs lots of weather imagery, humor, and self-deprecation.
Highlights include “O What a Thrill” (which the Mavericks covered back in 1994) as well as “Bless Your Foolish Heart” and “Sham-a-Ling-Dang-Dong,” a pair of romantic ballads that are as sentimental and tuneful as anything Winchester has produced since 1978’s classic “Wintery Feeling.” Also here are two surprises: the lilting, countrified “Loose Talk,” a rare duet (with country/bluegrass singer Claire Lynch); and a reading of “Stand by Me” that makes the song seem even better suited to Winchester than to Ben E. King, if you can believe it.
For Jesse’s fans, this is five-star stuff. For everyone else, it’s a great place to get acquainted.