Bent but not broken | Bloomfield, New Jersey United States | 05/16/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the great singer-songwriter albums, with a much cleaner sound than on JW's debut (produced by Robbie Robertson) and a determined, against-the-odds optimism (as the title suggests). Some of the lyrics go over the edge into cute (the business about tickling the world's belly button), but not many. Jesse's voice is lovely. Note that Amazon's song list here leaves off the concluding song, All of Your Stories, which is definitely one of JW's most beautiful. And that's saying a lot."
C. Johnson | Decatur, GA USA | 09/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first five songs here have some of the most haunting and simple and spirited lyrics written. Music has great melodies, but the lyrics are special. First got this one in 1972. "if the wheel is fixed, I will still take the chance... when you're skating on thin ice, then you might as well dance.""
Might be even better than his debut
Elliot Knapp | Seattle, Washington United States | 10/31/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jesse Winchester's eponymous 1970 debut established him as an impressive songwriting and singing talent, and was especially enjoyable due to the involvement of Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm of The Band. Two years later we get Third Down, 110 to Go, on which Winchester stretches out, no longer under the auspices of Robertson's help. The result is an album every bit as strong as his debut, but with an even more unique sound without as much of a Band stamp on it.
The album spins off with "Isn't That So," a slinky, bluesy groover. Acoustic and electric guitars blend together as Winchester catalogs his favorite parts of life in a mock dialog with god. Clocking in at 2:26, it's one of the longer songs on the album--although the songs on his debut weren't long by any means, this album features much more concise, simple arrangements that never stay too long to get old. "Dangerous Fun" is a beautiful ditty, showing off Winchester's knack for inventing compelling turns-of-phrase--it takes "nothing to pity yourself/but it's sort of dangerous fun." "Full Moon" may not rock as hard as anything from Jesse Winchester, but it might groove even harder--his voice has more of a soulful edge than before.
Especially invigorating is Winchester's almost mystical enthusiasm for the world and life in general--"North Star" is a pulsing ode to life with some gentle touches of flute. "Do It" inverts life's hardships into joy, with a great Camus reference. One of the aspects that I like the most about this album is the instrumental arrangement--Winchester's fingerpicked guitar is more delicate, but subtly dynamic than ever evidenced on Jesse Winchester, and things like the hand drums, flute, violin, hand claps, and backing vocals that pop on "Lullaby For the First Born" and elsewhere add really excellent flourishes to his thoughtful, well-crafted, and catchy folky songs. If anything, I'd say that not only does this album sound a lot less like The Band, it comes close to achieving a surprisingly unique sound that, despite its simplicity, I've never quite heard anywhere else.
Some other highlights include the tender ode to day and night, "Glory To the Day," the bright, sparkling "Silly Heart." Like any great album, though, there aren't any weak songs in this set, thanks to Winchester's ability to place his own fascinating stamp on the moments and feelings that he chronicles in his songs. I haven't owned either of his first two albums long enough to say for sure, but I have a feeling that I'll return to the honest, quiet intensity of Third Down, 110 to Go a bit more than his debut, but I highly recommend both to fans of folk and country singer-songwriters.