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Winstrom, Jake

Circles
(Self-Released)
Release Date: September 25, 2020

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"Circles"

Jake Winstrom is a singer-songwriter you won’t mistake for anyone else. His sweet, sandpapery tenor has stymied rock club sound engineers for more than a decade. But with the release of his second solo album, Circles, the Tennessee-tunesmith-turned-Brooklynite has finally put out a collection of songs as unique and inviting as his voice.

The nine-song LP sees Winstrom doubling down on the harmony-soaked power pop and slightly off-kilter country rock that catapulted his former band Tenderhooks to high-profile appearances at Bonnaroo and opening for ZZ Top and The War On Drugs. But the 37-year-old has veered away from his former group’s tightly-wound arrangements, crafting a song cycle that’s more raw and personal.

Opening salvo “Come To Texas She Said” kicks things off with a disarming wink and wallop. Winstrom rails against a partner’s proposed red-state relocation, his melody bounding across a bed of slinky bass and pedal steel, before exploding into a defiant chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place on Cheap Trick’s Heaven Tonight album.

“My Hiding Place” is an unflinching portrait of addiction. The lyric chronicles well-intentioned overtures that only end up isolating the narrator, who divides his time between drinking and watching soap operas: “Everybody just talks/but their words are made of chalk I will erase”. The live band performance, captured in a goosebump-inducing single take, echoes Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s Zuma.

“What’s The Over/Under?” is a welcome blast of Byrds-ian rock & roll by way of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The sub-three-minute track chimes with 12-string Rickenbackers and punchy horns, as one of Winstrom’s sweetest melodies belies looming romantic disaster: “I’ve never had much of a handle on what I want until I fuck it up”.

Album-closer “Kilimanjaro” paints a portrait of bright-eyed losers without backup plans: “John would sell his soul if he could just find a buyer/he’s got a staple gun, he’s got a fistful of flyers”. But as the unrelenting squall of electric guitars makes clear – these characters are destined to follow their ill-fated dreams until the wheels come off: “Maybe tomorrow, Kilimanjaro”.

Circles is Winstrom’s second collaboration with producer Jeff Bills, whose career drumming with alt-country luminaries The V-Roys and Steve Earle makes him an authority on songcraft and swagger. Bills’ light production touch embraces live, single-take performances, brought to life by a cast of Knoxville music powerhouses that includes Peggy Hambright (Judybats), Dave Nichols (Smokin’ Dave and the Premo Dopes) and Greg Horne (RB Morris).

Reflecting on the two-year writing and recording process, Winstrom says he and Bills were fortunate to have committed the songs to tape before the coronavirus struck. “Lucky for sure,” he says from his self-described shoebox New York City apartment. “We were basically 99-percent done. So we were able to lean on some very talented friends with home studios to add the odd overdub here and there. And engineers John Harvey and Mary Podio were super savvy to invent a new workflow that let us finish mixing remotely.”

Winstrom breaths an audible sigh of relief when reminded that the record could’ve easily been stuck in quarantine limbo. “We were really fortunate. I mean, obviously, the world needs another rock and roll record like it needs a hole in its head right now. But I needed this one. For my own sanity. I feel like I’ve been working up to this album my whole life. I’m 37 years old. It’s 37 minutes long. Coincidence? I think not! But I do feel like a good chunk of a lifetime is living in these songs. The highs, lows and in-betweens, to quote Townes Van Zandt. I hope folks dig it. I do.”




Circles is available on streaming, download and vinyl on September 25th.


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Photos: Tanya Salazar


Press Contact:Bill Benson

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