Are We There Yet was released a few days ago on May 18th. The album was produced by Boo Hewerdine and has that classy feel you’d expect from “the wonderful man of magic” as Jill Jackson calls him on the sleeve notes. At the age of 22, Jackson had a pop career signed to a major label, and has paid her youthful dues on tour with the boyband Blue in arenas – whilst hankering for Nashville. So she went there, played at the Bluebird Café and began the musical journey she wanted to have. Are We There Yet is her fifth album.
The opening song ‘1954’ tells the story of Jackson’s grandparents, clearly an inspiration to her throughout her life, a smoochy vocal on the verse turning into a country chorus. The title track is a tale of the family holidays packed into the car, fighting with her sister on the back seat, singing ‘That’ll Be The Day’ and ‘Rave On’ and chanting every child’s summer holiday question “Daddy, are we there yet, there yet, there yet” to a pleasant earworm of a tune matching the child’s question.
There are a couple of tracks, ‘My Baby’ and ‘Needle and Thread’ that capture the feel of thirties music – Jackson describes it as her obsession with Lindy Hop. Musically they’re fun and unsurprisingly they enjoy playing with words. On ‘Needle and Thread’ you have jocularity and sincerity combined, as with pre-war song: “We go together like needle and thread/Like butter and bread, like belt and braces/ We go together like rhythm and blues/ Like socks and shoes, like cars and races” – you need a good vocal to make lines like this work and Jackson has a delightful voice capable of delivering the complex jauntiness of these jazz/swing lyrics just as well as she does the country songs.
‘Worries’, ‘Sweet Lullaby’ and ‘Dynamite’ are musically joyful while lyrically dealing with tough times in Jackson’s life – generally a country feel, but with an up tempo pop-ish edge in the back of the arrangement. It’s an album that’s grown on me.
As for Jackson herself, not only does she have a voice with a great range in her intonation and her mix of styles, she has written all the songs. There’s a consistent quality in the writing, but I’d pick out two, both very personal, which show her depth. ‘Hope And Gasoline’ is a tale of teenage escape, a slow verse building to a rising chorus to capture a seventeen year old’s sense of adult freedom from having a car and “All I need is hope and gasoline….All I see is being 17/ and I wanna know you love me/ and I’m a little more than nothing”. The album closes with ‘Goodbye’, a haunting elegy to Jackson’s gran, gently powerful “How will I spend my time without you by my side/I’m not ready for that goodbye.” Both musically and lyrically, this is a grown up album.
Jill Jackson is on tour from 25th May to June 14th playing a dozen concerts from Scotland to London.
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Artist’s website: http://www.jilljackson.co.uk