Jesse Harris appeared on many listeners’ radar when he wrote four songs for Norah Jones’ megasmash debut Come Away with Me (most notably, he penned “Don’t Know Why”). He’s been fairly busy since, and while covers of his songs by folks like Jones and Madeleine Peyroux have no doubt been good to his bank account, the eight records he’s released on his own (and with the Ferdinandos) show that he hasn’t been resting on his laurels. Watching the Sky is a natural follow-up to 2007’s Feel, which found Harris exploring bright arrangements and even a slight world-music vibe. Lyrically, though, Watching the Sky contains lyrics full of uncertainty and uneasiness, seemingly at odds with the precise songwriting. Harris’s pop craftsmanship, however, never translates into an emotional outburst, with much of the coloring coming from flashes of reggae (“On a Day”), Brazil (“What You Wanted”), and other styles. He’s calm, thoughtful, and restrained. It’s the kind of pop/rock that you can see other people transforming into hits, but also the kind of thing that Harris himself could do no other way.
// Notes from the Road
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