There are moments when Jesse Aycock describes his love affair with music that one might think that they are listening to a coming-of-age script or a great novel.
At times, it seems too good to be true. Like how, in third grade, Aycock snuck into the bedroom of his best friend's older sister to look at her posters and rummage through her cassettes. There, he discovered The Black Crowes' Shake Your Money Maker and everything changed.
"I felt like I connected to (the album) in a certain way," Aycock said. "They were the first band to hit home." In that bedroom of his secret crush, his musical conscience was born.
There is also his high school job at the barbecue joint Steam Roller Blues Barbecue. He did not get the job because he wanted to wash dishes; it was the stage that interested him. Or more importantly the performers who played on it, blues and rock artists he normally would not be able to see because he was under age.
So he washed, he watched, he waited and he learned. The same stage that held his fascination as a teenager was where he made his professional debut with the Jesse Aycock Band five years later when he was "approximately" 21. Aycock is not much help when it comes to dates.
That's understandable because the past six (or seven) years for Aycock have been a blur of songs and faces, broken strings and bars, stories, clouds of cigarette smoke and friends.
During those years, Aycock was performing six days a week with various groups.
Although his music was largely on hold at this time, somehow he was able to record a debut solo disc called Life's Ladder, which was released in 2006.
The album is stocked with youthful, rootsy rhythms and folk musings often led by acoustic guitar. But do not be mislead into thinking Life's Ladder is a re-hash of genres from decades' past. The songs sound fresh, the artistic vision is clear, and the production is quite modern.
Although he currently performs with various bands and side projects, this spring Aycock is set to release a new six-song follow-up titled, Barbed Wire Heart. Gone are the bongos and youthful optimism of Life's Ladder. In its place is something concrete, darker and more mature.
Perhaps this has to do with how the new material was recorded. When he made Life's Ladder he didn't have a band, Aycock said, so the album was built piece-by-piece, one instrument at a time. The core of the new material for Barbed Wire Heart was recorded together live as a band in studio, and it maintains a more sonic cohesiveness.
"It's closer to how we sound live," Aycock said. "It sounds bigger, but there's more space."
The shift in tone might also be attributed to the lyrics and storytelling in the songs themselves. Many of the songs on Barbed Wire Heart are about distance, or longing for the past and nostalgia for lost loves--transient moments never to be regained.
Aycock retains his instantly recognizable high waver of a voice, but he sounds more seasoned and older singing the lyrics "I could have dreamed of you last night/ it's been a long time coming/ but instead I didn't dream at all/ I laid awake and thought of nothing."
Whereas the instrumentation and arrangement's of Life's Ladder changed from song to song, there is stability and a consistency in the make-up of Barbed Wire Heart that is appealing.
Aycock largely mines the guitar-led styling of classic vagabond troubadours such as Tom Petty and Neil Young for the center of his sound but feels free to stray. When the listener reaches the track "Hailey's Blue Eyes" for example, they are enveloped in a mystical and dreamy down-tempo waltz wherein the drums are pushed to the back of the room and a violin enters the mix to a great effect.
On the six-song EP, Aycock's guitar and lapsteel is regularly reinforced by local heavyweights Eric Arndt (Vandevander, Hero Factor) on bass and Josh Ramer (Jacob Fred Jazz Odessey) on drums. But Aycock's live backing band often rotates based on the availability of the musicians involved, so it is not unusual to see him perform with support from a wide cast of characters.
Compared to years passed, these days are slightly more tranquil for Aycock. He still performs his Higher Education nights weekly with Dustin Pittsley and various guests at the Eclipse (1336 E. Sixth St.) on Thursdays. The Jesse Aycock Band has also been asked to perform as a backing band for Shawnee songwriter Samantha Crain on a short cruise to Belize at the end of February. Most recently, Aycock was enlisted as a backup lapsteel player for Arkansas band Love Ghost as needed. Basically, Aycock is the cook in a lot of kitchens.
This weekend, however, he is serving up his own music on both Friday and Saturday night. Find Aycock and his band performing at Arnie's Bar (318 E. Second St.) on Feb. 12 in the Blue Dome District, a place Aycock described as one of his favorite home bases. Plan for a good time and a long night.
The following night of Feb. 13, the Jesse Aycock Band plays Eclipse with the aforementioned Love Ghost and Jacob Abello. Expect another night (or two) of fun--a blur of songs and faces, stories, clouds of cigarette smoke and friends.
Share this article: