“The White Stripes meets the Carpenters,” said Jesi Di, when asked what style her indie folk-rock group Charley & Jesi intends to be. While this is the oeuvre to which the Glendale resident and her bandmate Charley Hinchcliffe aspire, their latest release is closer to Hootie & the Blowfish meets Peter, Paul & Mary.
But no matter the influence, it’s apparent that the couple enjoys the time recording together.
Di and Hinchcliffe first met in 2008 at an open-mic performance in Oceanside. They hit it off and have been writing and performing together ever since. The pair traveled the country playing acoustic sets everywhere from New York to Texas and the deep South, California and Hawaii. Scheduling short recording sessions at different studios along the way, Di and Hinchcliffe put together the tracks for their first release, “Raw” (available on iTunes). “Raw” was just that: an unvarnished collection of acoustic numbers featuring the duo’s signature professional songwriting, outstanding guitar playing and lovely harmonies.
Their new album (available at www.charleyandjesi.com) is a pairing of eponymously named EPs from “Charley & Jesi” and “Charley Hinchcliffe.” It is a compilation of Hinchcliffe’s solo music plus some songs from “Raw,” performed with a full band (Hammond B3 organ, electric bass, electric guitar and drums). The result is a sound that evokes a lazy summer afternoon. It doesn’t quite capture, however, the true essence of this pair as displayed on “Raw” and in their live performances.
Charley & Jesi sound great as a primarily acoustic act, and they should be able to transition to performing as a full band well. All of the elements are there. The songs are well executed and demonstrate a strong talent, as far as writing and instrumentation is concerned.
Di may not be Karen Carpenter, but she has a beautiful and often ethereal voice that can transfix a listener. Hinchcliffe’s voice is terrific as well, ranging from soft and controlled tenor tones to a subtly aggressive whiskey growl. Together they manage some fantastic harmonies that elevate key moments in their songs in a way that often take the listener by surprise.
This dynamic (and recently engaged) couple are also launching their own record label, called Wini Flashdance Records. In the future, they will be putting out albums as Charley & Jesi, as well as releasing solo albums independent of each other.
When you listen to their latest release, you may not be rushing out to tell your friends to buy it. If you see them live, however, you will surely encourage your friends to get in on the ground floor so they can say, “I saw them when....”
Lance A. Wawer has been a freelance writer for 26 years for publications throughout Southern California.
What: Charley & Jesi/Wini Flashdance Records
Find it: www.charleyandjesi.com