The Jane Room 217

Darren Jessee

Bar None Records, 2018

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


Darren Jessee's name probably won't ring a bell for you, but there's a good chance you've heard his work as he's been a longtime member of Ben Folds Five. In the past, he has also played with Sharon Van Etten, Hiss Golden Messenger, and The War On Drugs, among others. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Jessee solo, however, is a quieter affair, finding the multi-instrumentalist taking a confessional style delivery that's acoustic based and full of forthright vulnerability.

“Anything You Need” gets the album started with delicate acoustic strumming and Jessee's soft, raw vocals in the pretty setting. “True Blue” follows with a similar spirit of heartfelt and genuine song craft that's as emotive as it is timeless.

Though Jessee handles the bulk of the sounds here, woodwind help from Trey Pollard on the atmospheric, haunting, and sparse “Letting You Go” makes a big impact, while the contemplative “Dying Violins” takes a similar route with orchestral strings, making this an album highlight.

Side B offers more bare beauty on the folk-inspired and introspective “Leaving Almost Ready,” where warm keys are in attendance, and “All But A Dream” is indeed dreamy with soothing melody and a surreal landscape. “Go On Baby Break Down” ends the listen articulate and expressive, as Jessee exits with just as much grace as he started.

A listen that runs parallel to releases by legends like Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes, Tom Waits, and Leonard Cohen, Jessee recorded The Jane Room 217 on a six track in his New York City apartment. His powerful intimacy is captured beautifully on this really stirring record. While he'll probably always be known as co-writer for The Ben Folds Five massive hit “Brick,” this first LP under his actual name (he's released music before as Hotel Lights) is just as impressive as an accomplishment; it shows the true scope of his boundless talent.

Rating: A-

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