Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter, Marble Son

Peter Blackstock

By Peter Blackstock

on 08.01.11 in Reviews
No longer seeking their identity; they’ve found it

It seems incongruous, at this point, that Seattle songstress Jesse Sykes and her band were ever entrenched in the alt-country camp, given how much they’ve diverged from rural routes as they’ve progressed over the past decade. Yes, guitarist/co-writer Phil Wandscher was a founding member of Whiskeytown, but he was always more of a rock guy even back then, and Sykes’ pre-Sweet Hereafter endeavors tended to recall Jefferson Airplane more than the Flying Burritos. That San Fran psychedelic element is still with her on Marble Son, but she and her band have internalized it, filtering those past echoes through a progressive perspective to create a sound that’s admirably hard to peg, yet familiar. “Come to Mary” makes the most immediate connection, its soaring, layered vocal harmonies floating above guitar leads that wander and swirl. The title track’s lyrics are heavy of heart — Sykes sings of “worried minds in need of silencing” — but the music plays out a symbolic struggle between major and minor keys. “Weight of Cancer” is a jazz-inflected instrumental adventure, written by Wandscher apparently in response to his father’s recent passing. The Sweet Hereafter’s records have always been moody affairs, but those moods have more depth and more purpose on Marble Son, and it’s the sign of a band no longer seeking their identity; they’ve found it.