Some young artists arrive on the scene seemingly from nowhere and disappear just as quickly. Others stay and grow and fine tune their craft. Kent’s Luke Jackson is definitely a keeper. Few would argue that he is one of the most exciting singer songwriters and live performers out there – totally unafraid to stray across genres, always delivering top notch original material and still only 22.
He first started making waves when barely a teenager, hitting the acoustic ground running. Belying his years with his a powerful, distinctive voice and songwriting prowess way beyond his years his debut album More Than Boys was judged outstanding by many critics and triggered a double nomination at the 2013 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (Young Folk Award and Horizon Award for Best Emerging Act).
Just 18 months later he fulfilled all the promise heaped upon him with his second more blues-based album Fumes And Faith, with the accolades coming thick and fast and last year he introduced his trio of Andy Sharps (bass) and Connor Downs (percussion) in the EP This Family Tree (the first release on his own label, First Take Records) – the only criticism coming from those looking for another full length album.
Now he is back with a real ‘coming of age’ album – his fourth release Tall Tales & Rumours – 12 diverse self-penned tracks moving across myriad styles from folk to blues and rock and feeling like “my most complete album yet”.
That natural confidence is immediately evident in the atmospheric scene setter as Jackson delivers an acapella ‘The Man That Never Wants’ – a haunting song he wrote after watching a documentary about country singer Glen Campbell and his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. “He was starting to forget most things but somehow remembered his songs and how to play the guitar – I found that completely fascinating” says Luke.
The song runs straight into the second completely juxtaposed track – the driving rhythms of the tongue in cheek ‘Treat Me Mean, Keep Me Keen’ – a lyric from which gives the album its title.
Luke’s trio have really hit their stride on this album, working tightly together as perhaps only old college band friends can and come into their own on the restless ‘Finding Home’. Written while touring with Grammy winner Amy Wadge at the start of the year it tells of a life in perpetual motion, never quite belonging, and features Ed Sheeran collaborator Wadge on harmony vocals.
First unveiled in Belgium ‘Better Man’ is a beautifully contemplative and stripped back love song while ‘Kansas’, a love song of a different kind, was apparently written in just 20 minutes is a US hotel room. Says Luke:
“I started 2016 in America at Folk Alliance – I was having a wonderful time but when I wrote the song looking at the night time city skyline, I had never felt so far away from home”.
The sentiment of the homesick blues song percolates through a softer, measured vocal and plaintive guitar chords.
Luke steps on the gas for the rockier ‘Anything But Fate ‘while one of his long time live show highlight ‘Lucy And Her Camera’ has finally been recorded here – a snapshot song where the boy succeeds in getting the girl!
‘Lucy And Her Camera’:
His increasingly sophisticated, astutely observed narrative songs venture into “father and son” territory once more (‘Father And Son’ was an acclaimed song on his Fumes And Faith album). The poignant and pensive Leather and Chrome tells of a parent’s unfulfilled dream. After vowing to ‘build this bike and ride to California’ the father comes to realise he will never see New York City or Tennessee or “lay my head on Venice Beach” but hopes his son will fulfil the trip in his stead.
It’s a memorable stand out song but perhaps more moving still is his bold, bleak ‘That’s All Folks’ – the saddest of goodbye notes. Chilling and raw and recorded in one take it’s a subject that not all musicians would want to tackle.
Elsewhere he unveils songs of misfits – the menacing and percussive ‘I Remember’ is a dramatic song about a stalker with a big soundscape while ‘Aunt Sally’ is based on a character from his locality.
“Last year my secondary school closed and there were rumours that squatters had taken residence. I had the odd idea that maybe Aunt Sally was squatting in one of my old English rooms, maybe even reading one of my essays! But beyond that there’s a more serious message about people who are struggling and unable to find real help.”
The album ends on a more uplifting note with the hooky and upbeat ‘On the Road’ – a number gig goers will recognise as a favourite set closer which Luke says is “the story of the last year really.”
“My mind, body and soul is on the road” says the song. As the assured Jackson gets ever more in demand that will surely be the case for many years to come.
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Artist’s website: www.lukepauljackson.com