'Stories often say as much about the teller as the topic – and that’s the case for US-born, Rotorua based Jeshel Forrester.... he has taken songs from 2015’s Alma Rose and added 10 more to create Jeshel, a stunning double album of bluegrass-coloured country folk.
The setting is usually rural Midwest, predominantly Illinois, his birth state, and South Dakota, where he worked as a lawyer on Indian reservations. His easy acoustic strum and fingerpicking drift behind a clear, authoritative voice that tells outlaw country tales the equal of those by Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash.
Dates stand out like beacons – the 1866 cavalry massacre at the Battle of the Hundred in the Hand in the Crazy Horse history lesson Hoka Hey, the 1961 tension between the Bible and indigenous sun dances in Hannah Cried, the 1945 return from war of the doomed Blue Eyed Boy
– but it’s the realism and vitality of the characters that loom largest.
Forrester is skilled in retelling stories of underdogs and women: Selma and Jenny’s hardscrabble lives in Selma’s Waltz, pistol-packing Polly Kincaid fighting off her lovers, and the central figures in such traditional songs as The House Carpenter, Anathea and Girl From the North Country battling the elements, society and the law.
Covers of songs by such Americana heroes as Gillian Welch, Bob Dylan, Buddy and Julie Miller and
Nanci Griffith sit easily alongside Forrester’s originals, proving his relentless storytelling skills, but most of Jeshel’s best colours are painted from memory".NZ LISTENER FEB 11-17 2017 PG 59