Country music icon Jessi Colter is getting ready to release The Psalms, her first album in over a decade. We have it streaming right here a week ahead of its release date, so sit back, hit play and get ready, because this is not the typical kind of new music you hear in 2017.
Colter first came to prominence in 1975 with her chart-topping country-pop crossover song “I’m Not Lisa.” She gained legendary status for being the most significant female artist to emerge from the mid-’70s outlaw movement in country music, collaborating with Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser and husband Waylon Jennings on the seminal album Wanted! The Outlaws.
Now, at age 73, with 15 albums and tens of millions of record sales to her credit, she has taken on what is seemingly her most ambitious project yet: 12 original spontaneous musical interpretations of Old Testament poems.
The Psalms is produced by writer and musician Lenny Kaye (best known as the longtime guitarist for Patti Smith), who met Colter in the mid-’90s when he co-authored Jennings’s autobiography. Kaye recounts the meeting in the liner notes of the album:
"One morning in 1995, while working with Waylon Jennings on his autobiography in Nashville, I came into the living room to find Jessi Colter at the piano, singing the Psalms. She would place her fingers on the keys, forming simple chords and expressing melodies as they came to her. There was no forethought, no conception of composition; only the intuitive expression of the spirituality behind these most ancient of sacred poems, the divinity they wellspring within each of us. I listened transfixed while she paged through the Old Testament, choosing each psalm, finding within them the emotive voice of the Shepherd Boy, the Warrior, ultimately the King that is David. It was one of the most beautiful expressions of belief I had ever witnessed.”
The album was eventually recorded in Manhattan during two sessions in 2007 and 2008.
"There was no rehearsal," detailed Kaye. "We would select a ssalm. She sat behind the keyboard, gathered herself, and then began to sing. There were one, perhaps two takes of each. Sometimes I accompanied her on guitar. Over the years I decorated them with chosen musicians, careful not to disturb their intimacy or their moment of improvised creation and inspiration.”
Now, a decade later, The Psalms is ready to be released. Even if holy recitations are not typically on your playlist, Colter’s distinctive vocals, beautiful melodies and simple treatment make this album a listening experience unlike any other.