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Clay Walker, ‘Jesse James’ – Song Review

Jesse James
Curb / Sidewalk Records

Fans of Clay Walker know him as a lot of great things, but ‘outlaw’ is not one of them. It’s a fair question for people to ask if his new single, ‘Jesse James,’ is sung with tongue loosely planted in cheek. One leans towards yes after checking out the cover art. The hat is a little big, the pants a little too pressed. He’s a cowboy if cowboys shopped at Banana Republic.

As a pure outlaw cowboy country song, ‘Jesse James’ works pretty well, but it’s hardly a revolution. It’s only when you’ve followed Walker for years that lines like “You hear that Law Dog / The law don’t go around here” induce chuckles. From top top bottom it’s a good song — it’s just going to be interpreted two different ways by two different groups of people.

I wanna line ’em up and drink ’em / I wanna love ’em and leave ’em / Sometimes I wanna just rob a train,” James sings during the chorus before adding, “Be the first draw in that high noon sun / And feel the kick of my six gun / I want wanted above my name / Sometimes I wanna be like Jesus / Sometimes I wanna be Jesse James.”

There is implied feeling of good guy with rowdy dreams with Walker’s lyric. However, he doesn’t establish the base emotion well enough early on to allow fans to revel in the catharsis of the story. While it’s sung with great emotion and brilliant range, ‘Jesse James’ sounds mostly like a song about robbing trains. That’s cool, but not often hit material.

I was raised knowing right from wrong / Baptized under that old rugged cross / I try to be a good man / I always give it my best / But truth be told some days I wanna go to the wild, wild west,” Walker sings during the verse first.

This single — Walker’s fourth from ‘She Won’t Be Lonely Long’ — is an adventure that’s fun and unique. However it might have been best left as an album cut — a quirky spike between two more traditional moments on the singer’s 2010 record. One thing ‘Jesse James’ does is prove that the singer still has plenty air left in his lungs. This is the sort of vocal performance one could imagine hearing from the back row of a theater after Walker’s microphone has been turned off.

3 Stars

Listen to Clay Walker, ‘Jesse James’

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