Sunday, 27 November 2016

Album Review: Luke Jackson - 'Tall Tales and Rumours'

Jackson’s powerful voice brings the album in calmly and nicely with the acapella introduction of The Man That Never Was, and what is immediately striking, as someone who has followed Luke Jackson since he was picked up by Show of Hands and Martyn Joseph nearly a decade ago now, is how much his music has grown. As the instruments start to pick up, along with some cool reverb effects, an even wider range of influences can be detected; Jackson manages to pull them all off well. But it is not all rather simple acapella melodies, as Treat Me Mean, Keep Me Kean demonstrates next with superb songwriting and lyrics reminiscent of Bob Dylan, as it also develops on a more Americana and blues-y sound than previous releases of Jackson’s. At the same time, it maintains a catchy hook, and as I walk over to the other end of the room to refill my drink I cannot help but bounce in time to the music, supported well by his backing band of Andy Sharps and Connor Downs, the previous collaborators of This Family Tree (2015).

Finding Home continues the album as another catchy almost-pop song, but I found myself immediately drawn more towards the calmer feel and solo guitar playing of Better Man. As the song progresses, it begins reminding me of the last time I saw Jackson live, at the 2015 Abbotsbury Festival; I remember sitting towards the front, stunned as Jackson’s voice and stage presence alone made him seem like a giant on the stage, despite the crowd of hundreds of people behind me, and that presence really starts to come through in the recordings of the quieter songs on Tall Tales and Rumours. In another deviation from his folk and roots origins, Anything But Fate sounds almost like a classic rock song set to the modern day; whilst it is not quite what normally constitutes “folk”, it is certainly young songwriting talent at its best, and actually probably my favourite song on the album so far.

By the midpoint of a typical singer-songwriter album, I generally find that the songs begin to blend into each other and feel a bit samey. It is a huge relief then, when I listen to something that does not do that; where I still feel as engaged and interested as I did at the opening. Tall Tales and Rumours is, thankfully, one such album, I realise as Leather And Chrome serenades me. It is an album of stories, and individually unique ones at that as opposed to the massively-overdone “songs about my ex-girlfriend” that seems to dominate popular songwriting at the edge of folk music these days, which I appreciate. Hell, Jackson even manages to play a six minute ballad with nothing but his guitar without it getting stale – something even a lot of more well-known bands seem to struggle with. 

As contrasting as the musical style is, I also really like the rockier feel of I Remember, with its deep powerful bass line seeping through to almost dominate the mix, particularly as it begins to reach its crescendo towards the end. After seeing its radio popularity posted several times by Jackson on social media over the last few days, I am quite excited to hear Aunt Sally, and the track does not disappoint. It instantly feels like a radio hit, and as it punches its way through a few verses and a chorus it seems relentlessly unapologetic for that. It hooks the listener in immediately and does not let them go for its entire duration, and I for one am certainly drawn in.

Kansas rounds off its predecessor nicely. Written, I assume, about Jackson’s trip to the states last year for the international folk expo, it sets a scene nicely in the head of the audience as the melody twists unexpectedly a few times. It does seem to be lacking something, however. Perhaps it is just me, but the song feels like it needs more in the way of instrumentation; a violin or cello would not go amiss behind the soft-spoken guitar playing. The drums come back in explosively for Lucy and Her Camera, in a groovy rock song that sounds as if it could have been written by Tom Petty.

That’s All Folks then provides the beginning of a calm outro, before The Road brings things to a smooth relaxing climax in a full circle from the soft introduction. Jackson may well have found a great live closer with this one; it sounds like it was written to get the audience singing along to an extended chorus, and it provides a nice finish to an album which, whilst straying slightly away from the acoustic roots sound Jackson’s previous releases have been known for, is overall an enjoyable listen, No matter what your mood is, you are sure to find a song on it to suit it, as it draws on several different feelings and inspirations throughout its duration, and this versatility is what makes me want to put it straight back on and give it another listen.

Fuel Rock Club

Fuel Rock Club
Cardiff's Only Dedicated Rock & Metal Bar and Club