Album Review – – Jill Sissel’s “Haunted Highway”

By Vince Gaetano

I think it was Groucho Marx who said, “Good will always find an audience.” Or maybe it was something I once heard in a dream. Either way, I believe in the sentiment wholeheartedly; anything of considerable quality has a way of drawing a crowd — it’s unavoidable. And I have little doubt that Jill Sissel’s crowd is drawing closer every day, and in a big way.

Her voice is soft and alluring, her guitar playing is solid, and her lyrics are evocative with a slightly playful undertone. To make that long story a bit shorter, Jill Sissel’s got it. The proverbial “it.” Not just talent—although she certainly has enough of that to go around—but a drive and earnestness that so many talented people seem to lack in today’s music industry. Just looking at the liner notes is enough to make me feel inadequate. Jill Sissel is the lead vocalist; she’s the guitarist (acoustic and electric); she plays the keyboard, the bass, the mandolin; she either wrote or co-wrote every song on the album. Is there anything she can’t do?

And there are no tricks with this album. What you hear is what was played, what was sung. In a time of auto-tuned number-one hit singles and the Lady Gaga’s of the world using image as a stand-in for talent, it’s nice to hear something as raw and unprocessed as this. It’s refreshing, I think, to know that there are still musicians out there who don’t use twenty years of recording technology as a crutch.

But like the old saying goes — and this one I’m almost positive I didn’t make up — “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Well, in this case, her band is a strong link, indeed, and its strength is undeniable. It would seem that Jill Sissel insists on only working with musicians as obviously talented as she. And it shows.

Haunted Highway may not be the best thing since sliced bread, but so what?  It’s good. Arguably, it’s very good. And shouldn’t that be enough? I think so, and I hope you do, too.

Jill Sissel will be performing live at the 315 Bar and Grille in Nashville, TN on February 3; LaHacienda in Franklin, TN on February 19; and Richard’s Louisiana Café in Whites Creek, TN on April 2. Visit http://www.jillsissel.com for details.

Vince Gaetano is an aspiring screenwriter and director who has written film and album reviews for ‘Shake! Magazine’ and ‘Underground Nashville.’ He graduated with honors from SUNY Oneonta with a major in video production, and currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

David M. (Dave) Carew is editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance book editor, publicist, and copywriter.

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