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Jesse DeNatale, Shangri-La West (Jackpine Social Club)
Tom Waits calls him "a unique, original American voice". Ramblin' Jack Elliott calls him "the Bard of Tomales Bay". He calls himself a "soul troubadour". Whatever you call him, Jesse DeNatale needs a castle built for him, pronto. A poet and storyteller of the highest order, with his debut release Shangri-La West, DeNatale proves himself capable of producing some of the sweetest harsh melodies this side of Van Morrison's Avalon Sunset. Brought to life by the singer's crackling, worn voice and gentle guitar, the album is a journey through the remotest parts of the heart. It's a delicate, searing picture of passion, experience, and regret that fuses traditional blues with a more modern alt.country vibe. The best thing about DeNatale's sound, though, is how naturally it comes together -- there's no spit and polish on this record because it's the dankness and the dust that gives it its shine. This is rich, honest blues at its best. DeNatale should be showered with jewels in return for the awesome gift this album is.