Music

Doug Jerebine: Is Jesse Harper

Lost rock 'n' soul classic from spiritual seeker.


Doug Jerebine

Is Jesse Harper

Label: Drag City
US Release Date: 2012-01-31
UK Release Date: 2012-01-31
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Born in rural New Zealand, Doug Jerebine had already showed great musical promise by his teens, making a name for himself in bands such as the Embers and the Brew. Lured into the deeper soul-inflected sounds emanating from England via the sounds of Steve Winwood and Jimi Hendrix, Jerebine left behind his role as a Hank Marvin acolyte and dove even deeper into the experimental sounds of Ravi Shankar and Vilayat Khan. Before long he’d decided that instead of being a rock ‘n’ roll seeker he’d be one for Hare Krishna. On his way to India Jerebine stopped in England and made this long-lost album.

In 1969, it looked as if Jerebine might land on the Atlantic roster beside Cream and Led Zeppelin before those hopes were dashed by some business-end shadiness that spooked Atlantic head Ahmet Ertegun. Transferred to tape from one of three existing acetates Is Jesse Harper sees its release more than 40 years after Jerebine recorded these 10 psychedelic soul sides.

A few critics have already noted the similarity between Jerebine and Hendrix and although Jerebine occasionally draws upon some Jimi things, it’s not an exact comparison. "Ashes and Matches", "Thawed Ice" and several others are informed by Hendrix style guitar and vocal phrasing but the Spector-esque production and pop and blues blend of the material more often calls to mind Peter Green’s expert soul with early Fleetwood Mac. No matter whom we’re reminded of the fact is Jerebine had some decent material in his hands and, given a few albums to develop his voice, he might have become a considerable force and recognizable name among guitarists -- surely this album won’t hurt that cause.

A few full-on freak outs, including the opening "Midnight Sun" and "Ain’t So Hard To Do" would have made great live jams and would have sounded great had he ever made a Live At The Fillmore album and the aforementioned "Ashes and Matches" could have easily become an AM (and later FM) radio staple while "Good News Blues" spotlights an amazing groove that would have made John Paul Jones and John Bonham proud, while Jerebine’s lead lines should make guitarists sit up, take notice, and incorporate said lines into their repertoires.

The songwriting never marks Jerebine as one of the great voices of his generation but it’s damned strong, especially from an artist who was still finding his voice as "Circles", "Fall Down"' and "Reddened Eyes" all demonstrate. If the closing "Idea" doesn’t emerge as the most ace of all the tracks, it’s still above par. It’s probably in his casual compositional style and phrasing that most of the Hendrix comparisons gain their greatest amount of traction.

Predictably -- considering the transfer source -- the album sounds murky at times, but there’s also a deep warmth that will doubtless sound amazing on the vinyl release. Of the numerous "lost" releases that find their way into the world each year this is simply one of the best in recent memory.

Jerebine is still alive and well and still playing. Maybe interest in this recording will convince him to grace us with more music.

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