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Friday, April 1, 2016

Jesse Winchester - Learn To Love It / Let The Rough Side Drag (1974-76 us / canada, elegant folk world blues silk rock, 2012 remaster)

As the title suggests, making a virtue of necessity had always been one of Jesse Winchester's goals, and by the time of the release of his third album, the American expatriate had gone ahead and assumed Canadian citizenship. This seemed to free him to comment explicitly on his antiwar exile in "Pharaoh's Army" and especially a version of the old campaign song "Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt" updated with new lyrics: "In the year of 1967, as a somewhat younger man, the call to bloody glory came, and I would not raise my hand." Elsewhere, Winchester continued to write love songs to his lost South ("L'Air de la Louisiane," "Mississippi You're on My Mind") and, to a lesser extent, to pursue the wistful philosophizing found on Third Down, 110 to Go ("Defying Gravity"). 

The sense that he was repeating himself was inescapable, however, and with one-third of the album written by others and two of the originals in French Canadian, it was also obvious that Winchester was straining to come up with material. Interestingly, the two Russell Smith songs included, "Third Rate Romance" (which Smith sang uncredited) and "The End Is Not in Sight," went on to become Top 40 country hits for Smith's group, the Amazing Rhythm Aces, in the next two years. Stoney Edwards took "Mississippi You're on My Mind" into the country Top 40 in 1975. 

At his best, Jesse Winchester is an inspired songwriter with a unique worldview. But even at less than his best, he is a craftsman, capable of turning out an album's worth of well-written songs like those here that, now and then, suggest his personal viewpoint. The title track, another of Winchester's reflections on the importance of persevering under difficult circumstances, and "Damned If You Do," which suggests that you might as well follow your heart because you're in trouble either way, are up to his usual standard. But even slight songs like "Everybody Knows But Me" are clever and enjoyable, and overall, Let the Rough Side Drag, with its accomplished mixture of country and R&B, was Winchester's most accessible album so far, even if it was his least ambitious. 
by William Ruhlmann

Learn To Love It 1974
1. Wake Me - 2:26
2. Every Word You Say - 1:58
3. How Far To The Horizon - 2:18
4. L'air De La Louisiana - 2:20
5. Mississippi You're On My Mind - 3:29
6. Third Rate Romance (Russell Smith) - 3:39
7. Defying Garvity - 2:43
8. Tell Me Why You Look Like Roosevelt (Traditional) - 2:54
9. Pharaoh's Army - 1:18
10.Laisse Les Bons Temps Rouler - 2:36
11.The End Is Not In Sight (Russell Smith) - 2:40
12.You Can't Stand Up Alone (Martha Carson) - 2:04
Let The Rough Side Drag 1976
13.Let The Rough Side Drag - 2:40
14.Damned If You Do - 3:27
15.Step By Step - 3:02
16.Lay Down Your Burden - 4:13
17.Everybody Knows But Me - 2:58
18.Blow On Chilly Wind - 2:32
19.Working In The Vineyard - 2:48
20.How About You - 4:09
21.It Takes More Than A Hammer And Nails To Make A House A Home (Aaron Schroeder, David Hill) - 4:36
22.As Soon As I Get On My Feet - 3:16
23.The Only Show In Town - 2:31
24.The Brand New Tennessee Waltz (Reprise) - 3:31
All songs by Jesse Winchester except where stated

1974  Learn To Love It
*Jesse Winchester - Vocals, Guitar, Piano
*Amos Garrett - Guitar
*John Rigby - Strings

1976  Let The Rough Side Drag
*Jesse Winchester - Vocals, Guitar
*Keyboards, Flute
*Marty Harris - Bass, Background Vocals
*Chris Castle - Drums
*Bob Cohen - Guitar
*Christian St. Roch - Drums
*Maurice Beauchamp - Keyboards
*Ron Dann - Pedal Steel
*Carlisle Miller - Sax
*Bruce Murchison - Violin
*Ken Pearson - Piano
*Don Habib - Bass
*Bob Lucier - Pedal Steel
*Lorri Zimmerman - Background Vocals
*Sharon Ryan - Background Vocals

1970/72  Jesse Winchester - Jesse Winchester / Third Down 110 To Go (2012 remaster issue)

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