Jerry Vessel used to play bass in Red House Painters, and he’s also a touring member of Sun Kil Moon, the alias currently employed by former RHP frontman Mark Kozelek. Knowing those associations should give you a good idea what Vessel’s own solo project, Heirlooms Of August, sounds like. But you still won’t be prepared for just how beautiful it is. Down At The 5-Star is the second album from Heirlooms Of August, following a 2011 debut, Forever The Moon, both of which are released on Kozelek’s label, Caldo Verde. I had been curious about the project ever since reading an interview Kozelek did with Godflesh frontman Justin Broadrick, in which Kozelek talked up his former bandmate’s music:
Jerry was, secretly, a mega-talented person all along. Have you heard his solo record? Heirlooms Of August isn’t a run of the mill solo project. Jerry can play, sing and write. If I could turn the clock back, I could make a lot of money off of him, but we’re in digital times now, and it’s hard to give the right push to a new artist with a small label.
Whether there was ever any money to be made from spare, plaintive Americana is an open question, but Kozelek was absolutely right about Vessel’s mega-talents. Heirlooms Of August is extraordinary. Down At The 5-Star strongly recalls Red House Painters’ acoustic music, and Sun Kil Moon, especially 2012’s Among The Leaves — although Vessel’s narrators are a bit warmer than Kozelek’s — as well as Lyle Lovett’s bleakest work, specifically 1992’s essential Joshua Judges Ruth. Vessel’s lyrics focus tightly on the minutest details of the most ordinary lives, and his songs take on the quality of great realist short fiction: Tobias Wolff, Breece D’J Pancake, and of course Raymond Carver. Vessel’s intricate guitar-playing and weathered voice are capable of spectacular beauty (both were plainly influenced by Kozelek); his melodies deliver countless chills and climaxes. We’ve got Down At The 5-Star for you to stream in full today. Listen.
Down At The 5-Star is out today via Caldo Verde.