JACK BADCOCK – Cosmography (own label JKBK003CD)

CosmographyFrontman and founding member of world-folk outfit Dallahan, since 2021 Co.Kilkenny-born Badcock has also been following a solo career, Cosmography being his full length debut. It opens with the near nine-minute heady opus ‘Life In Three Dimensions’, which, following the title, comprises three verses of being grateful for the life given, each taking a different tempo, key changes and arrangements, from piano-backed to guitar and drums. A jazzy clarinet groove informs ‘The English Samurai’, a song based around an imagined letter from 16th century navigator William Adams, the first Westerner to reach Japan and the inspiration for the Shogun TV series, to his wife back in Kent.

The lightly fingerpicked, slow walking rhythm folksy ‘Too Many Things’ with its piano interlude turns its attention to over-indulgence (“There’s too many things I don’t need in my pocket”) when all you really need is a glass of wine and a good friend or lover. Steel guitar enters the mix for ‘Agapi Mou’ (essentially ‘my love’), a gentle ballad that travels from Greece to Vietnam, knitting together memories of a long distance relationship (“for a week we were entwined without a fear/and only for another two throughout the year”), returning then to historical inspiration with the violin and piano caressed ‘The Ruin’, a reworking of an Old English elegy from the 8th or 9th century about a ruined former Roman city, generally thought to be Bath, though metaphorical interpretations are clearly possible.

Initially begun on a small boat coursing the Amazon jungle, the piano anchored ‘Venus Was Adorned’ has a jazzy-blues feel to its contemplation of the power of nature and the ephemerality of the universe (“twenty thousand stars a second fading from our view”) and, by extension, human mortality. Another poem is the foundation of the choppily percussive ‘The Ghost Of Leland Birch,’ written by Badcock’s cousin Michael Creagh about a local bootlegger in County Laois, with instrumentation embracing jazzy clarinet and piano.

Not, as you might think, a musing on nature, the piano and violin coloured slow-paced, jazz-blues folk of ‘Deep In The Hills’ paints a picture of a fractured relationship (“deep in the hills north of here…there lives a boy on his own/holding out for a summer will never come”).

Arguably the album stand-out, the stripped-back nigh six-minute ‘How To Raise A Child’ is a poignant commentary on how “the American dream is a nightmare for too many folks” and the plight of children trapped in circumstances over which they have no control (“the language of violence they learn to speak on the fly”) and incarcerated or spiralling into fatal addiction as a consequence, Badcock being joined by a chorus of female Scottish singers for the “make our world a home/raise them as your own” coda.

Cosmography ends back in a jazzy vibe with ‘Entropy’ and another reflection on the fleeting nature of life, not as a downer but more a reminder to savour the moments while you have them, a fitting closure to an album that is contemplative and comforting in equal measure.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: www.jackbadock.com

‘Agapi Mou’ – official video:

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