My friend and band mate, John Dunbar has been singing the praises of Wesley Stace, AKA John Wesley Harding for as long as I've known him. To say I've resisted wouldn't be quite accurate. I bought JWH's full length debut "It Happened One Night" back in '88 and liked it enough to buy his next three. But I never fell in love with any of those records. There was something about his voice that bothered me. It's hard to explain, the same way I can't explain why I don't like Teenage Fanclub other than, every song sounds the same, or why I hate the sound of a Fender Rhodes piano. I just know, it'd be a turn off, even if Beethoven was giving me a personal recital on it.
By the time he started using his real name, and got a deal with Yep Roc records, there were way too many JWH/WS records to catch up with, and the occasional song I did hear, failed to grab me long enough to convince me, though "There's A Starbucks (Where The Starbucks Used To Be)" is quite brilliant. Plus, I've been following him on Instagram. Stace is an avid record collector and posts some terrific pics and often hilarious commentary of records he has purchased, as well as anything he thinks is worthy of snapping and chatting about. I was loving his Instagram feed more than his music.
Then I found a cheap vinyl copy of his most recent Yep Roc release, "Wesley's Stace's John Wesley Harding," which like the most recent Ray Davies, has The Jayhawks backing him up. (You know where I am headed, don't you?)
30 years later, including the 6 months or so after the initial release of this new record, and now I am just slightly obsessed with catching up on all things Wesley Stace. I love this record. I fell like a sack of rocks at the opening tune, "I Don't Wanna Rock And Roll."
"I'm hanging up my leather jacket/my backstage passes and my laminates
Take my name up off the list/I've seen the show, I've got the gist
No more purchasing of merchandise/someone else can do your advertising
Every day another debut/I'll find something new to do cause...
I don't wanna rock and roll no more"
I've been feeling this for years, only my version doesn't have The Jayhawks harmonizing behind me.
Just about every song has something to hold onto, and unlike "Americana," which I have not gone back to since it came out, I think The Jayhawks lend themselves better to JWH's voice than to Ray Davies, and this new-ish release has been doing hard time on my turntable.
"You're a song and someone else is singing you now"
Man, I wish I had written that line.
For those who already know what I have been missing for years, it is time for me to catch up. But if like me, you never found a minute to listen to John Wesley Stace Harding, try out this new record and let me know what you think.