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Jesse Dee is undoubtedly one of Boston’s masters of the throwback sound. What might come as a surprise, however, is that this master musician did not pick up his first guitar until he was eighteen.
Earlier this week, Dee released his sophomore album On My Mind/In My Heart, an effort that he co-produced just outside his Boston stomping grounds at Watch City Studios. Growing up in the Boston area, Dee’s Mass Art studies in illustration, performance, production, mixed-media and composition are certainly paying off.
The title track, “On My Mind, In My Heart”, is a lovely mesh between R&B and jazz featuring a delightful trumpet section, saxophone solo, 60s organ, and piano all tied together with Dee’s crooning vocals.
Living in the Boston area also had Dee listening to former Oldies station WODS and nurtured his taste in a soulful, throwback sound. Having grown up with a flavor for the likes of Smokey Robinson, The Drifters and Sam Cooke, Dee’s tribute to a vintage sound is no surprise. What continues to shrine through is Dee’s unique penchant for a soulful sound with a cheerful edge that is all smiles. Dee has even opened for the likes of some of his predecessors, among them Etta James, Al Green and Solomon Burke.
A notable track, “Tell Me”, features a warm sixties guitar sound with a rhythm that is all bluesy sway. The song features trumpet playing that is understated in the best possible way, adding the compliment of a little brass without any unnecessary bravado.
Another standout on the record, “From The Start”, features a duet with jazz vocalist Rachael Price, that starts off with a vintage bubblegum sound. Paying homage to an almost doo-wop style, this song is very playful and capitalizes on the perfect pairing of Dee’s croon and Price’s sultry voice. A sound that finds this song between the happy realm of pop and some serious talk about love.
“Sweet Tooth” is a sixties rocker that draws influences from the sounds of The Doors. All brash throwback organ playing, raucous percussion, fierce guitar licks this song only gets better with a full one saxophone break down towards the end of the track. With some fierce horn playing and some edgy vocals on the part of Dee, this might very well be the highlight of the record. The passion exerted from Dee in this song alone brings you back to the days of the smokey jazz club in three and a half minutes of excellence.
On My Mind/In My Heart is a record that brings back the good old days in a way that contemporary audiences will love. His sound is one that is real, but relatable and one that only seems to look on the bright side even in lyrics that are truly heartfelt. His honest lyrics and inviting sound will leave you a fan of some smooth Motown soul. A messages written from Dee himself could not describe it any better: “Soul music is capable of touching the greatest and most diverse group of people,” Dee says. “All the best soul music is based on shared experience. Songs have the ability to affect people, shine a light, lift them up, and push them forward. There’s hope in these songs,” he continues, “and people need that now more than ever.”