Jesse Winchester filled the Bayou last night with subtle pleasures: mint julep vocals, smoky whiskey melodies and a sentimental romanticism that marks him as a fine regional protrait artist in the tradition of Stephen Foster. Winchester may live in Canada, but his country soul remains deeply rooted in the environs of Memphis. Since he's been able to return to this country, the longing once evident in poignant ballads of separation from that southern homeland has not only lessened but has become increasingly private. Barriers are no longer political, but personal.
Winchester performed solo, with only an acoustic guitar; he needs nothing more. His delivery is direct, low-key, shifting calmly between the muted melancholy of "Mississippi You're on My Mind" and "Little Glass of Wine" and the jovial sensibility of "Everybody Knows but Me and "Twigs and Seeds." Winchester's sweet breezy vocals are surprisingly potent in the context of his subdued guitar syncopation. It's an easygoing approach that is highly effective. Jesse Winchester is a songwriter rooted squarely between the minstrel and ballad traditions, an ambivalence no less distinct than the one he sings about in "Nothing but a Breeze": "Me, I want to live with my feet in Dixie and my head in the cool, cool North."