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Jessie Wagner - Shoes Droppin (Wicked Cool Records)

10 August 2020

This is a debut album that transcends the usual first, artistic outing. Virginia native Jessie Wagner, soaks up the atmosphere of New York as she pulls out all the stops, and ploughs every inch of her creative soul into Shoes Droppin. It vibes with a slick, cool aura, every track outdone by the proceeding one. It is killer without filler, oozing with the confidence that Jessie has already gained as an integral vocalist on tours with Lenny Kravitz, Chic, Duran Duran, Kid Rock. But her turn as backing vocalist as part of Steve Van Zandt’s Little Steven and The Disciples Of Soul, has led the lady here. Signing to Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool Records, and in turn allowing the lady the spotlight she so rightly deserves. 

This album defines what hunger is. The hunger to succeed for art, and Jessie strips every good, and bad emotion that weighs on her, holding them up for the world to see. From the first crank of the raw blues of the title track “Shoes Droppin”, a song that erupts like dynamite, single handedly capturing the spirit of Chicago. The stinging bottleneck guitar drives a train of addictive melodies against the acoustic wall that builds the backdrop for her vocal athleticism that dominate proceedings. Into “Over And Over” and the lush sounds of Memphis horns that summon up the sound of Stax. It becomes clear that Jessie is bringing the listener by the hand on a journey across America, soaking up the influence of the sixties, and seventies and casting them in her own unique image. Her voice is startling and defiant, entertaining and energetic, heralding the start of an addiction for her new-found audience. 

The paring of the more restrained numbers does not interrupt the flow of the work. “Great One”, a motivational piece, biographical or not, rises with angelic harmonies. Followed by the lovelorn tale “Hard To Let You Go”. Against a minimalist setting, what would normally become bleak is slightly uplifting in it’s heartbreak, as she sings-
“I am powerless to turn back the night,
All that’s left in me is a burning need to fight”

After the wistful slow burning “Lover’s Lullaby”, things become more uplifting with the gospel fried “Passin Me By”. A song that would not be out of place booming in mono from a transistor radio back in the day. “My Darlin My Dear” echoes with the sounds of Muscle Shoals, and the spectre of Aretha watching over proceedings. The swirling organ is a genius inclusion to give it that authentic feel beneath this unique vocalist. With a tinge of Americana, “Biggest Mistake” strides along gracefully, and fits beautifully into the album’s framework. The one-sided love affair of “Caretaker”, starts slow before detonating with drums. But there is a purity in the honesty, and you know every word is from experience. 

With some 21st century funk, and R&B, “End Of Time” (latest single) chugs along majestically, with Jessie providing the sassy vocals of someone enjoying what they are doing. The sing-a-long chorus represents this perfectly, as it becomes more enjoyable on each listen. Personal observations, and feelings come under the microscope in “What You Get”. The apology, and thank you to those paternal figures in our lives, highlighting the respect and appreciation that aging brings. A standout final to this breeding ground for bliss. 

This is the perfect record. Encompassing a number of themes and structures. Not sticking to the one singular sound, which is a part of Jessie’s talent, the talent to stretch herself. There is however a downside. The record is so well presented, so fully realized, that Shoes Droppin is far removed from a debut album. Hinting at the aforementioned issue I refer to at the start, as the listener will want to hear more, and Jessie Wagner is only at the genesis of her career. And going by this album, it’s going to be one hell of a career 

1.Shoes Droppin
2.Over and Over
3.Great One
4.Hard To Let You Go
5.Lover’s Lullaby
6.Passin Me By
7.My Darlin My Dear
8.Biggest Mistake
10.End Of Time    
11.What You Get

Due For Release October 9th, To Pre-Order;