Was a time, it didn’t look like Jesse Dayton could miss. Tall, handsome, personable and talented, he seemed a certain star. But little is ever certain. Hey Nashvegas! ended up being the record Justice never released, though two separate versions circulated (one retitled Letter To Home) several years back as producer/label honcho Randall Jamail sought to fashion a key to country radio.
Instead, Dayton moved to California (he’s since returned to Texas) and toured with the Road Kings, Justice shuttered, and the Texas roadhouse circuit became a phenomenon of sorts. After releasing 2000′s Tall Texas Tales, Dayton decided to license Nashvegas and see if it had been worth all the trouble.
Might be the world’s caught up, might be it’s passed him by. There, singing behind him on “Panhandle Jane”, are the Dixie Chicks. Johnny Gimble did some fiddle work, Mickey Raphael added a harmonica part, Flaco Jimenez dropped by with his accordion, and Mandy Barnett contributed vocals to two more songs.
Nothing wrong with any of that, except that expensive tires won’t make the car start. Dayton’s performances are far from dead here, but they do reflect the kinds of compromise felt necessary to approach country radio, and they don’t capture the fire he’s been capable of onstage.
Doubtless, given a major-label promotional budget, one or more of these songs (say, “Never Started Living”) would sound nice on the radio. Absent that, not enough here commands attention. These are safe songs, professionally performed. But what makes Jesse Dayton special still isn’t on disc.