Hard Sky is the anomalous solo debut of Corpus Christi, TX based Jesse Jerome Jenkins V (of Pure X).Whereas Pure X wrote their languid songs as a unit of shared consciousness, Jesse’s Hard Sky is a remarkably singular effort that puts the singer & multi-instrumentalist on full display from the inside out. Self-recorded, and taking on the majority of the instrumental duties throughout the LP, Hard Sky is a direct expression of Jenkins’ bleak, yet playful, personal creative attitude; all narrated and guided by his unmistakable buoyant vocals. By integrating influences from all modern eras, but operating outside of strict styles and traditions, Jesse’s solo debut achieves a balance and identity that is as impossible to categorize as it is devilishly inviting to listen to.
Unpredictable, spontaneous, yet deliberate and intentional in its compositional trajectory, Hard Sky precariously sets a course lead by Jenkins’ endearing embrace of both the euphoric and abysmal actualities of this life. By invoking the aid of luck, fittingly the title of the album’s opener, a palpable, pervasive acknowledgement that both the highest highs and lowest lows are equally possible permeates throughout the LP. These eventualities are, of course, approached with equal reverence but differing preference. Life’s impossibly dark moments are given levity with an unattached restraint and maturity across the album as Jenkins watches his thoughts, losses, joys, and existential-crises pass over the horizon like clouds in the sky. Both lyrically and musically, it’s almost as if Jenkins is simultaneously laughing at life’s inevitable struggles while accepting that he is barely hanging on.
Unabashedly American in its roots, Hard Sky utilizes and completely rarefies aspects of country, R&B, folk, blues, and minimalist-jazz, all coalesced into a modern, approachable formation. Commenting further, Jesse states that “all of the musical traditions that the album touches on are very American. Made in America, using American traditional elements, but also reflecting modern isolation and emptiness. The album as a whole is about tapping into collective emotions and concepts of loss, love, peace, rest, and acceptance.”
Recorded between 2014-2016, Hard Sky is comprised of experiential snapshots over the course of years, resulting in a true collection of songs written over much time spent and much life lived. While some cuts such as the devastatingly bleak Hotel Rising originate from a hummed-melody recorded as a voice memo on a solo drive from Los Angeles to Austin (while fighting unnavigable dust storms), other pieces such as De-pression offer exercises in full-on studio mastery, resulting in an undeniably addictive composition performed exclusively by Jenkins. On the latter, Jesse is found deceptively upbeat while contemplating impermanence as he questions “what happens when you lost the time, that you had before?”
Though largely a personal affair, Jesse is joined on Hard Sky by long-time collaborator Austin Youngblood (of Pure X) on drums, percussion, and saxophone, Kyle Dixon (of S U R V I V E) with live-processing, synthesizers, and effects, and Daniel Aged (of Inc. No World) on eloquently played pedal steel guitar. Additional contributions from Malcolm Elijah on grand piano, Memo Guerra on B3 organ, mixing help from Stephen Orsak, and a guitar performance from Matty Tommy Davidson (of Pure X) round out Hard Sky’s cast of characters as a legitimate creative-family reunion.
The juxtaposed sentiment that Hard Sky consistently conveys is that “saying hello” to anything is equal to “waving goodbye”. Jesse Jerome Jenkins V lives and thrives in this world and Hard Sky is his hard-earned testament to this inevitable reality.
Drums and percussion on all songs and saxophone on Games of Chance by Austin Youngblood. Pedal steel guitar on Luck and Cinco’s Lament by Daniel Aged. B3 Organ on Cinco’s Lament by Memo Guerra. Piano on When I Call Your Name and Hotel Rising by Malcolm Elijah. Guitar on When I Call Your Name by Matty Tommy Davidson. Live processing and effects on Wild Sun, De-Pression, You Had it Comin’, and Hard Sky by Kyle Dixon.
Art and design by Christopher Royal King.
Back Cover and inner sleeve photos by Ashley Thomas.
Cover by Jesse.
Uniform Group 2017.