Richmond, Va.-based guitarist Thorp Jenson creates the kind of music that makes you want to spend all night in a Southern dive bar and wake up the next morning just to drive across the country—and his songs are at home in either scenario. Jenson’s self-produced debut, Odessa, encapsulates the free-spirited heartland-rock ethos of Tom Petty with a healthy dose of storytelling and singer/songwriter introspection. The record features Jenson’s rich, soul-warming vocals and bright lead guitar supported by musicians and co-writers who have worked and toured alongside artists like Foxygen, Matthew E. White, Natalie Prass and more.
“I wrote a lot of these songs thinking about characters,” Jenson says of Odessa. “It always ends up including a part of me—you can’t get away from that—but if you’re only telling your own story, you’re kind of pigeonholing yourself.”
This character embodiment is apparent throughout the album, no more so than in the title track (below)—a vivid, rollicking tune in which Jenson imagines himself a soldier returning from war to a small-town home that doesn’t quite fit the one in his memory. Along with opening track “Oklahoma,” “Odessa” helps set the overarching rock & roll aesthetic of the album, which Jenson says was influenced by The Rolling Stones, whose catalog was in heavy rotation leading up to the sessions. Jenson also surrounded himself with noticeably simpatico backing musicians.
“I needed to bring in the right drummer to do what I wanted to do,” he says. “Somebody who had listened to Charlie Watts at some point in their life.” That drummer was Dusty Ray Simmons, the band rounded out by bassist/keyboardist Andrew Randazzo, guitarists Charles Arthur and Andrew Rapisarda and saxophonist/backup-singer Suzi Fischer. “It helps to have some of your best friends be some of the best musicians you know,” Jenson says. “They really brought it.”
With Odessa, Jenson offers up a collection of spirited and energetic compositions, setting fire to his lyrics with incendiary lead guitar tightly woven with soaring keyboards, arresting harmonies and a pulsing heartbeat of a rhythm section. After years of building a name for himself as a side-man guitarist in the Richmond music scene, Jenson is now poised to break out as a vibrant songwriter and dynamic frontman with his own story to tell.
Glide is thrilled to premiere “Oklahoma” (below) off Odessa, a dirty whirl of blues, alt-country and junkyard boogie that swarms with musical consequence. Jenson sings with a mix of both rugged and poignancy that reflects that of Petty, while staying true that lost highway sound that evokes our imagination.
“Oklahoma is a song co-written by my friend Russell Lacy and is loosely based on a friend of mine who grew up in Oklahoma.,” recounts Jenson. “I basically tried to write from his point of view. My friend is one of those guys that often finds himself in rather sticky situations he needs to “sneak out the back” of. He’s a particularly great storyteller, and has relayed to me many of his stories about living and growing up in the Midwest. I wanted to use his stories and plight for the basis of the song but I think for me, when I write these songs, even though I’m writing from a character’s point of view, there’s always a part of me that intertwines with that character so there’s an element of me in the story as well.”