Yes, these kinds of albums have been done before. Mark Erelli did a fine job with his album of the same title, as just one example. And, the adage these days is that the only bands that make any real money are cover bands. So, this writer’s tendency is usually to resist these kinds of “I’ve heard it a thousand times” efforts. The artist needs to bring something new to familiar songs and the versatile Texas/Louisiana- influenced style of Jesse Dayton does indeed take these tunes into new territory on Mixtape Volume 1. Dayton covers an eclectic group of artists suited to his sound which blends rock, old school country, flairs of punk and zydeco too. These artists include AC/DC, Neil Young, The Clash, Elton John, ZZ Top, Jackson Browne, Gordon Lightfoot and more.
Originally hailing from the Texas/ Louisiana border town of from Beaumont, Texas, Dayton got his start performing in zydeco bands at the age of 15 before taking up residency at the famed Broken Spoke in Austin. It was during that time that he formed a trio that would go on to sell out venues all over Texas. Over the ensuing years, he performed as a guitarist for a range of artists including Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Ryan Bingham, Duff McKagen and seminal L.A. punk band X. He has toured with the likes of Social Distortion, The Supersuckers and John Doe, written soundtracks for three Rob Zombie films, wrote and directed his own film and just signed a publishing deal to write a memoir. With more than 50 songs licensed to film and television, 11 studio albums and one EP, Jesse Dayton is a gifted, unflagging creative “machine” who continues to tour nearly 250 days a year. After three decades in these various roles, most of it under the radar, he can do practically whatever he wants. Here he revisits some of the songs that helped build his musical foundation while paying homage to the icons that have inspired him.
Those names in the preceding paragraph point to an intersection of country and punk, the two threads that drive most of these interpretations, turning punk and rock toward country and swamping up some of the more country-imbued songs like Young’s “Harvest” and Elton John’s “Country Comfort.” His country-rock version of Browne’s “Redneck Friend” bests the original. He also transforms The Clash’s reggae-infused “Bankrobber” and AC/DC’s rock anthem “Whole Lotta Rosie” into rip-roaring, honky-tonk staples. Dayton offers compelling rockabilly interpretations of Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper” and Dr. Feelgood’s “She Does It Right” and turns The Cars’ “Just What I Needed” into a classic southern two-step.
Dayton delivers all the scorching electric guitar leads, adds percussion and background vocals to his leads with the accompaniment of even other players who are not household names but add plenty of punch. They are bassist Chris Rhoades, drummer Kevin Chamey, pedal steel guitarist Nathan Fleming, keyboardist and harmonicist Matt Hubbard, fiddler Noah Jeffries, Melloton player David Boyle and percussionist/background vocalist Patrick Hertzfeld.
Dayton not only renews these classics; he infuses them with an energy we didn’t even realize they had.