Jesse Norell has an amazing album that tells an amazing and inspiring story in Aorta Borealis, which is coming out on March 4 with a local release show on April 8 at the Parkway Theater.
Jesse was a musician. He quit playing in bands. And then he started again after finding a medication for arthritis and finding inspiration. I’ve raced through the backstory because the main event, the story told in the LP, is just so good.
Aorta Borealis is an album about Jesse’s daughter Alyssa who, they found out the day she was born, has Down’s Syndrome and a heart condition that required two surgeries. Well it’s an album about his journey with her, perilous and dark and times but a story with a happy ending. The first seven songs are about that treacherous, but rewarding journey and the rest of the album is a celebration of coming through it, sticking through it and the celebration of his entire family.
The album is very touching. It is easy to think that the album has a primary market of families who have similar crises and I imagine this album will become the soundtrack or oasis for many but the album will have wider appeal. In sharing the details of his experience and his reactions, Jesse has tapped into natural feeling when expectations are both dashed and exceeded on one action. It is overwhelming. It is scary. It opens doors in your heart and mind that you never knew existed. (You can see the easy transfer to life in pandemic.)
The meaning comes through in the lyrics, which at times are very literal yet poetic but also in the music. The instrumental ending of Run the Long Race speaks to losing control whereas How It Feels to Be on Something has the tick-tock of a heartbeat that is necessary and exhausting. It’s hard but rewarding to listen to it. Ode to Luigi, a song written for his son, has a sense of fun and You Are rings with a joy; so I was delighted to hear that was written as a song that parents can sing to their kids. If you don’t have kids, it might be just as rewarding to sing it to yourself.