I may not be a country music fan, but I do think I keep an open mind. However, based on my own experience, Jesse Winchester’s latest album, Gentleman of Leisure, is not likely to convince many listeners to give country another shot. Instead, Winchester has combined a few of the most typical tropes of the genre and has added little to distinguish the songs from the rest of the sounds coming out of Nashville these days.
This album is striking only in its seemingly interminable sameness—none of the songs is terrible, but the same beat and tune run through the majority of the album, so that many of the selections are distinguishable only by their lyrics. To give credit where credit is due, Winchester’s lyrics do break out of the mode of standard country. The album’s title song is an amusing portrait of casual defiance of the forty-hour work week, and is perhaps the instance in which the pervasive country beat is best displayed in all its toe-tapping potential. But Winchester’s songs about whiskey and women are more plentiful than the few shining moments of letting his personality shine through the music.
While I cannot rise to the challenge of finding originality amidst the redundancy of the music as it is showcased on this album, I think that I might enjoy many of Winchester’s songs if they could just be mixed up with material demonstrating more variety. My favorite song on the album, Sweet Loving Daddy, is positioned second to last several songs after I’ve lost patience with the redundancy, so that even a swinging, bluegrass-influenced song is not enough to redeem the album for me.