PREMIERE: Jake Xerxes Fussell Flips Duke Ellington’s “Jump for Joy”

From the North Carolina guitarist's forthcoming What in the Natural World.

“Jump for Joy,” a Duke Ellington original, is as timely and prescient now as it was upon its release. It’s a song for dreamers more relatable than an off-key Gosling track, an ode to the quiet countryside and the joy of a life well lived. Jake Xerxes Fussell, the otherworldly guitar player from Durham, North Carolina, has an innate ability to infuse traditional folk songs and older works with a revived sense of purpose, a freshly calibrated compass. Fussell tackles “Jump for Joy” on his forthcoming What in the Natural World,  trading Ellington’s muted horn for the clean tones of his trusty electric guitar, evoking intimacy and emotion from simple, paced plucking.

Ellington’s original is a loose, freewheeling jam, swinging along to brushed drums and the Duke’s otherworldly yelps. Fussell extracts the underpinnings of the original lyrics, flipping the song’s radiant ode to the future into something meditative—a survey of modernity and the search for happiness in an increasingly fraught climate.

Fussell’s voice is warbly yet knee-buckling in its beauty. There’s a fresh coat of moroseness lathered atop Fussell’s singing style, accentuated by the song’s perfectly placed piano stabs. He sings, “And when you stomp up to heaven, and you meet ol’ Saint Pete, tell that boy jump for joy.” Fussell sounds more saddened by the end of a life than at the prospect of meeting an apostle. Ascending to heaven comes with a steep caveat.

“Jump for Joy” is the first track on Fussell’s forthcoming What in the Natural World, out March 31st on Paradise of Bachelors. It’s an album of lost and forgotten folk ballads revived and resuscitated with surgical touch and precision. While Jake Xerxes Fussell has always been able to add personal style to the work of others, on What in the Natural World, and “Jump For Joy,” especially, it finally sounds like the music is all his own. Check it out below.

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