Very Same Dream represents a significant step forward for the singer-songwriter Jamie Bernstein, in his current incarnation as front man for J. the Savage. Produced by Kermit Ruffins’ regular drummer, Derrick Freeman, Very Same Dream is effectively set up to play its roots-rock eclecticism against its unmistakable Big Easy roots. There’s no doubt about it: though it was recorded 350 miles away in Como, Mississippi—much closer, in fact, to Memphis—this is a New Orleans recording through and through. We hear that in Walter Harris’ drums and, in particular, in Mark Yacovone’s playful accordion on the lyrically telling “Skippin’ at the Mardi Gras.”
A collection of Bernstein’s original songs, except for the gospel traditional “Eye on the Sparrow,” the album is thematically diverse and, for all its guest appearances—along with Yacovone on accordion, Freeman himself and the guitarist (and the owner of the studio where Very Same Dream was recorded) Jimbo Mathus are on the long list—it remains remarkably consistent in its sound.
What works well for J. the Savage at its live shows, though, is less effective in the studio. The band and the arrangements are tight, but they’re set up to feature too prominently Bernstein’s lyrics and his own vocals, which simply aren’t the best-played instrument on the record. Still, whatever its limitations, Very Same Dream shows off Bernstein and his band developing a sound and style that carry both New Orleans music and Americana in a direction uniquely their own.