Remembering Jesse Winchester (1944-2014)
Even if he couldn't sing a lick, Jesse Winchester would still be remembered as a world-class songwriter who brilliantly blended folk, R&B, country, gospel and rock into his own idiosyncratic brand of Americana. From the start of the '70s through to the 21st century, he assembled an astonishing catalog of compositions that have been covered by everyone from Elvis Costello to Reba McEntire. But Winchester also happened to possess a warm, vibrant voice and the ability to send it straight into the soul of anyone within earshot.
Nevertheless, he was always more of a "songwriter's songwriter" than a star, and Winchester's understated style always remained a relatively underground phenomenon, the Southern gentleman's famous fans notwithstanding. He spent the first several years of his career in Canada as a Vietnam-era draft exile, which enhanced his mythos but didn't do much for his career. But his cult-hero status never diminished, even during the spotlight-shunning songsmith's long layoffs from recording. Winchester's time among us ended when cancer felled him on April 11, but the light that emanates from his finest work (handily assembled here) will remain eternally undimmed.