On the one hand Jack Bessant plays bass with the band Reef who aren’t exactly heavy metal but certainly don’t hold back. On the other hand he’s a singer songwriter. The thing is: he looks like a bass player – Jeremy Cunningham immediately springs to mind – and on Lucky Mountain, his new solo album he sounds like a singer-songwriter. There is, inevitably, some crossover in his work. Jack is hugely experienced and his arrangements have rock elements, in particular Dave Haggerty’s lead guitar, and most of the songs have keyboards and drums. But there is banjo on a couple of tracks courtesy of Julian Bath.
More than twenty-five years ago, Jack’s brother took his own life and he has been living with that and working through it ever since. Lucky Mountain may be the end of that journey, particularly ‘Save 1 Kiss’, in which he describes a family Christmas with empty places at the table. It’s a simple but very moving image. The opener, ‘Slow Burning Angel’, is just that. Beginning with acoustic guitar and harmonica before Haggerty joins, it’s a mournful blues that sets the scene for the album and, as if to demonstrate the authenticity of the recording – in a barn on Jack’s farm – a dog barks at the end of the song. ‘Peacemaker’ is another blues with Bath’s slide guitar and Haggerty’s growling lead and probably closest to Reef’s sound. ‘Dusty Quarry Days’ is a lazy blues with a hint of nostalgia – at least that’s how I hear it – with Jack’s harmonica howling in the wind.
It isn’t all doom and gloom, lest you get the wrong idea. ‘Stack Up The Beers’ lets its hair down with wah-wah guitar and banjo and sets off in the van for pastures new. ‘Big Bus’ is another languid piece extolling the virtues of just kicking back and lyrics straight out of the 60s and the title track with its chugging, country-edged beat could come from the same source. Finally, ‘Rays Of Light’ initially takes an unexpected and different direction laid down over a bass riff before James Stewart’s guitar and percussion join in.
OK, Lucky Mountain may not be folk music as we understand it but if you’re a songwriter with something to say you use the sharpest tools at your disposal and Jack Bessant has done that.
‘Peacemaker’ – official video:
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