Jesse Harris Duo

Thursday, August 5; Gateway Arch Stage on the St. Louis Riverfront

Aug 4, 2004 at 4:00 am
It wasn't enough for singer/songwriter Jesse Harris to win a Song of the Year Grammy in 2003 for penning the Norah Jones hit "Don't Know Why." Late last year he released his major-label debut, The Secret Sun, and wowed critics with his own crystalline renderings of the breezy, contemplative melodies he spins so well. With the release of this year's While the Music Lasts on Verve, Harris and his trusty backing band, the Ferdinandos, drive their message home with an ambrosia salad of easy, creamy goodness in nonperishable roots-rock form. String arrangements by the legendary Van Dyke Parks and a few tracks with Jones tickling the ivories sweeten the intelligent production further, lifting Harris' songs to new heights. With all the foot-shuffling among critics, the 33-year-old Brooklynite seems fated for another hit on the Adult Oriented Rock (AOR) charts.

If you have preconceived notions of Harris based on those few reports that his voice is thin and unsubstantial, suspend your verdict until you've had a close listen to the man's instrument. It's not a big voice by any stretch, but every breath he doesn't spend upping the decibel quotient of his buttery tenor is invested in his impeccably spry expressions of melody. The effect is a lazy, lilting bliss and a calm truthfulness in his heady timbre. It's the sort of voice that might summon a halo of adoring butterflies.

Harris writes mostly of deep, romantic yearning, but the simple sophistication of each melody contains a sunny promise that every thirst is eventually quenched, every hunger sated. Ideally, your first experience of Harris' music will find you reclining on a vast expanse of grassy meadow with a light buzz and a new lover. Lucky you: He's playing River Splash on Saturday. Bring your own new lover. Bassist Tim Luntzel is the only Ferdinando accompanying Harris on this tour, so you'll have an opportunity to enjoy the subtle richness of the man's voice in a nearly unclad state.