During a cross-country trip that dipped through Texas nearly a dozen years ago, New York singer/songwriter Jesse Harris met a young music student who impressed him greatly. Harris had already gained some profile with his first band, Once Blue with then-girlfriend Rebecca Martin, and after the end of their relationship and band, he was looking for a new gig when he met the vocally and musically gifted young woman in Texas.
Harris returned to NYC and assembled the Ferdinandos, which ultimately yielded their first album of sparse urban Folk. Not long after, the young music student relocated to New York and recruited Harris to help her with some demo work, which included recording some of Harris’ songs.
The student was Norah Jones, one of the songs was “Don’t Know Why” and the end result was platinum sales, not to mention a Song of the Year Grammy win for Harris, who beat odds-on fave Bruce Springsteen’s "The Rising” in the category that year.
Since Harris’ Grammy moment six years ago, he has been content to keep a moderate profile. He had left Jones’ band before the Grammy excitement (they remain friends; she has sung on a number of his subsequent albums) and has regularly released CDs, with the Ferdinandos and as a solo artist. His latest album, Watching the Sky, falls into the latter category, which finds Harris moving from Reggae to jazzy Tom Waits-inspired deconstructionism, all steered by the Van Dyke Parks-tinged urban Folk Pop direction he has so successfully mined in the past. One of the hallmarks of Harris’ increasingly voluminous songbook is his penchant for writing songs that shine from within; even at his most melancholy, he exudes a palpable sense of hopefulness. It’s literally impossible to walk away from a Jesse Harris gig without being feeling anything but uplifted.
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