Most guys with the age and experience of Jesse DeNatale would have a hard time finding the romance of days gone by. But in all the well-worn nostalgia and twilight storytelling of his second album, there breathes not a pang of bitterness or loss but a genuinely warm, proud contentment in a life well lived. For years, the Bay Area troubadour has traveled the dusty byways between influences like Tom Waits and Ramblin' Jack Elliott, both of whom lavished praise on DeNatale's 2003 debut Shangri-La West.
DeNatale cuts his trousers from a similar coarse cloth, turning over sauntering country folk and rustic cabaret crooning with an articulate, intimate narrative voice. But Soul Parade
maintains a purposeful cohesion even within its expanded instrumentation that's as singular as it is elegant.
Here the touchstone is Van Morrison's underrated Saint Dominic's Preview, another record redolent with Bay Area allusion. Like that album's title track, "Montgomery St." takes a reverent stroll through mythic San Francisco, spinning off into a six-minute epic poem wreathed in banjo, saxophone, upright bass, and slide guitar. Fellow NorCal sensation Nino Moschella sits in on drums for the tender "Children of the Sun," and a backing chorus called the Loretta Lynch Singers adds gospel-like loft to the swooning "Shine Your Light" and jaunty "The Follies of Don Calandro." The effect is one of hard-earned comfort, likely the same feeling DeNatale wakes up with every morning.