It’s only been a little over a year since Edmonton’s Jesse Werkman released his debut album, but inspired by the loss of his maternal grandfather, the truly solo artist has already come out with a follow-up EP, I Will Keep You Close.
“I never met my grandfather before he passed away in 2007,” he explains. “We were pen pals my entire life, and I still look over some of his letters, trying to decipher his slanted German-English writing.” That lingering preoccupation is what inspired the six-song EP—a collection of tracks that puzzle over our relationships, how they form and how they affect us.
Part of I Will Keep You Close is mournful nostalgia—full of doubts and questions of what might have been, while others are roiled more by what was. Performing each part of the album himself, Werkman blends Celtic ballad melodies with modern synths, using an echoing percussive to punctuate the verses—a fluttering heartbeat that fuses the past and the present in a way that only adds layers to his reflections.
A springing fiddle is interrupted in opener “Weigh Me Down,” abruptly cutting into the synth pop number as Werkman’s vocals carry a brief a Capella bridge before launching into the album’s most peppy chorus. Werkman’s violin on “Days Go On” is a truly aching performance—each note full of regrets and longing as he sings, “The days go on/the nights are long.” Showing off his multi-instrumental talents, the track is followed by the devastatingly quiet piano solo on “Falling” as the flat notes jar, marking each new pang of sorrow.
It’s a rousing in the round to kick off Werkman’s tribute to his grandfather on “I Will Keep You Close,” as the album blends grief and hope, loss and discovery into the celebratory “000.” It’s a profound way to honour someone Werkman has never met—one that touches at the very essence of what it is to know someone, and further still, to recognize the marks we all leave on each other, however distant we may be.
Top Track: “Weigh Me Down”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)