Jesse LeBourdais – Rough Time Demo

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

Jesse LeBourdais

Rough Times Demos - Self Released

Vancouver-based Jesse LeBourdais and his troupe plays a loose brand of full-band bluegrass folk-punk.  Like so many artists unable to resume full touring duties during the pandemic, Le Bourdais has had more than a little extra time on his hands.  The result is a brief collection of new songs recorded during the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on a decade old laptop using the equipment on hand.  

The title of the EP, Rough Time Demos, is upfront about this collection being an initial run of new tracks, but this shouldn’t be taken as any sort of indication of a sacrifice of quality.  LeBourdais’ songwriting and distinctive vocals are on full display with surprisingly crisp production work.  Consisting plainly of a combination of acoustic strumming and self-harmonizing and lead vocals, there is a minimalistic nature that invites a curiosity as to what additional layers could be added in production, but never leads to disappointment.  

Opening with “Bottom of the Well,” listeners are met with LeBourdais’ distinct nasally vocals (think Divided Heaven) against a folky acoustic backdrop.  The combination of strumming, piano notes, and mid-song whistling makes for a rhythmically enjoyable romp.  As the song progresses, the breezy, earthy tone invites listeners to let down their guard and embrace moments of solitude.  “It’s really not too bad down here,” sings LeBourdais as he rationalizes perks like peace and quiet, and people dropping things off without the hassle of visiting.  He furthers the analogy by exploring living in parallel with others in similar circumstances, describing how “In the middle of the night, when it’s dark and when it’s cold, I swear I hear the voices of other people who have fallen and are living at the bottom but still just staring at the sky.”  The lyrics land with an emotional heft, but avoid dampening the EP’s initial moments.

“Turn It Over” explores a western vibe circa some subtle pedal steel, while the initial moments of the Taylor Swift cover “Bad Blood” leverage some self-harmonizing acapella vibes.  “Better Ever Than Never” stands out in particular.  With a foundation of simplistic, toe-tapping strumming and an atmosphere that flirts between ominous and introspective, dangerous but desirable.  “Sunken Monument” builds on this momentum, keeping listeners slightly off balance while propelling them into swaggered strumming.  The song’s lingering reverb builds a troubled atmosphere that meaningfully dovetails into the piano heavy finale of “Water Street.”  There really isn’t much to complain about here unless you’re not a hugely into the genre.

Rough Time Demos is a fine collection of home-brewed tracks sure to excite fans of toned-down acoustic punk.  Jesse LeBourdais has a recognizable style sure to catch the ear of anyone into the early 00’s pop-punk scene.  This EP shows that the current pandemic hasn’t taken any wind out of LeBourdais’ singer-songwriter sails, but has mobilized him in anticipation of a post-restrictions return to performance and public life.