Cancer Takes Jessi Zazu of Those Darlins

It is with a heavy heart that we pass along the news that Jessi Zazu Wariner, guitarist, singer, songwriter and all-around fireplug for the Nashville band Those Darlins, has succumbed to the cervical cancer that strangled her body for the past year. Jessi passed at Nashville’s Centennial Medical Center on Tuesday, September 12th, surrounded by family, friends and numerous fellow musicians. She was 28.

Beginning in 2006 as an all-female trio playing traditional country-folk tunes in the vein of the Carter Family, Those Darlins (originally Jessi, Nikki Kvarnes and Kelley Anderson) soon merged that with electrified garage rock for a fun, refreshing mix, marked by liberal dollops of both humor and sober passion that thoroughly charmed Nashville. The release of their self-titled debut album in 2009 brought the rest of us on board the bandwagon, with “Red Light Love” being used for a Kia commercial.

By the time their third and final album, Blur the Line, came out in 2013, they were a significantly transformed band. Anderson was out, Linwood Regensburg was fully entrenched as a member, and even Adrian Barrera (of Atlanta’s Barreracudas) played with them for an extended stint. That album abundantly displayed their growth as serious songwriters and musicians – Jessi Zazu’s leadoff destroyer “Oh God” might be the best song Neil Young never recorded with Crazy Horse. For my money, though, it’s that middle album Screws Get Loose that remains the revelation, where they balanced the sober with the silly in a precocious, effective approach that turned heads and warmed hearts. It’s where they proved to the world that they were a force to be reckoned with.

Jessi was indeed that, so full of spirit and spit and bravery even after her diagnosis and subsequent decline. The future held so much for her. Heartbreakingly, it wasn’t to be.