You’ve probably never heard of Jesse Dayton, but you’ve certainly heard of some of the musicians he’s played with. Whether that’s in the studio or joining them on tour, Dayton has collaborated with X, Mike Ness, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Rob Zombie, Willie Nelson, and many more. Beaumonster is anecdotes from Dayton’s life of meeting and playing with some of these acts, as well as wild hijinks being part of the outlaw country genre. (Full disclosure: My friend, Chris Rhoades, plays upright bass in Dayton’s band.) Beyond playing with a wide array of punk and country musicians, Dayton has also acted, directed a movie, and crashed on Alex Chilton’s couch.
Beaumonster (the title is a reference to Dayton’s hometown, Beaumont, Texas) starts with short tales from Dayton’s childhood. Following this, he recounts how he learned to play guitar and got his career moving with his first real band, The Road Kings. Each successive chaptertells of an experience with various musicians, politicians, and actors. Dayton also shares stuff from his personal life, including his early marriage and divorce and meeting his current wife. The stories are told in a relaxed, personable manner, which is the same way Dayton tells them from the stage during his live performance (which I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a number of times).
There are a number of quibbles with Beaumonster, however. While Dayton writes in an informal style, it can be to the story’s detriment. There are numerous times he goes off on a tangent and then circles back to the story with, “Anyway…” If you have to come back from a statement or story with “anyway,” it means the tangent probably wasn’t worth mentioning. Even beyond these side notes, the chapters can include much more information than need be. While I know the editor wants to let Dayton speak in his voice, Beaumonster could’ve stood to have a heavier editing hand. In addition, there is a lot of name dropping in the book. While it’s understandable given Dayton’s career, it’s overwhelming at some points. It’s difficult to remember who the different characters are, especially when it comes to less well-known musicians.
That being said, Beaumonster is an enjoyable, easy, quick read. The chapters on punk musicians such as X, John Doe, Mike Ness, and The Supersuckers may be of more interest to most Razorcake readers. Yet it’s still amazing to see how a guy who’s a talented musician is consistently awed playing with some of his heroes, whether they’re well-known to the average music listener or not. Dayton constantly considers himself lucky and his tale is told in a positive tone. While parts of the book could’ve been better written, the overall message is uplifting and encouraging. –Kurt Morris (Hachette)