Jess Zimmerman and her band enjoy their sturdy and growing reputation as one of the best modern American rock acts working today. It is clear why when you hear a song such as the band’s latest “Say What You Want to Say” and truly appreciate the maelstrom four talented musicians can conjure. It’s nearly a forgotten art. Zimmerman, however, cannot be pinned down to any style. There are myriad influences running through her songwriting, vocals, and music that never embraces one path above others for long.
Zimmerman comes out with all guns blazing for this song, however. It’s an assertive and head-long guitar fueled rocker from the outset and Zimmerman’s voice is more than up to meeting its challenge. Guitarist Joe Barszowski has a boisterous yet fluent sound; you will not hear any needless guitar theatrics from him. It certainly helps that “Say What You Want to Say” boasts a thunderous rhythm section courtesy of bassist John Knobler and drummer Joe Mattis. There’s a smattering of keyboards present, as well, during the song, likely to help give it an even fuller sound.
The heart of the track, however, is Zimmerman. Her impassioned bray cuts through the arrangement and connects with listeners. It is a bluesy yowl, without question, but never simply sound and fury signifying nothing. She works considerable emotional nuance in her singing. “Say What You Want to Say” is far from an one-note emotional experience; Zimmerman explores a gamut of emotions during the song.
“Say What You Want to Say” has conversational lyrics rather than obscuring its intent with poetic pretensions. It isn’t any slight to say that songs such as this are “slice of life” songs that speak to audiences in a straightforward way and Zimmerman’s vocal approach reinforces that quality. She reflects it as well in song length. The single is doesn’t have any wasted motion; the arrangement and performances alike place each part in its appropriate place. There’s a relaxed and confident precision about this song.
The confidence burns bright. Jess Zimmerman faces this song down like she is born to sing its words, no one else, and it reaches a near terminal velocity. She feels and sounds like she means every word. It is a performance of fierce individual identity and doesn’t pull any punches. She’s put another notch into her column with this single and shows the sort of continued development you want to hear from potential five-star talents. She has more than potential, however. She’s potential realized.
Encountering talents capable of doing a little bit of everything is rare. Jess Zimmerman and her band fit the bill though and it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone successfully pigeonholing their style. “Say What You Want to Say” finds them working in full on rock mode and will blow away existing fans while corralling many new ones. It is only a matter of time until Zimmerman and her cohorts reach global recognition. Their new single shows they are just too damn good for anything less.
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