LUKE JACKSON – Journals (First Take Records FTCD004)

JournalsHe’s still only 25 but Journals is Luke Jackson’s fifth studio album, not forgetting a stunning live set two years ago. I was knocked out by his first record: mature beyond his years may be a cliché but it was more than apt in this case. Luke has evolved both as a musician and as a writer since then as has his band – Andy Sharps on bass and Elliott Norris taking over from Connor Downs on percussion with the support of pianist Jarrod Piner and backing vocals from Lizzie White.

Luke began as an acoustic singer-songwriter but just listen to him now. For me, the live set represented a sea change in his music and Journals takes it further forward. Now we have rock and blues, country and soul overlaying the sensibilities of his younger self. The first three tracks, ‘Honeycomb’, ‘Home’ and ‘Aimee’, wrap ideas up in singable songs and leave you to tease out the deeper meanings. Actually ‘Aimee’ is fairly straightforward: she’s obviously a hell of a woman but you’re left wondering about her back-story. ‘Cherry Picker’ is amusing and clearly a story that Luke picked up on his journeys through the States.

As one of the ‘Baby Boomers’ myself I’m getting pretty sick of being blamed for all the ills of the world. Where were you in the sixties when the real revolution was happening? In fact, Luke makes some good points and if he’d called the song ‘Politicians’ or ‘Millionaires’ I’d have no complaints. That said, he does conflate memories of those years – long before he was born – with the situation of contemporary society. He goes further back into history for the harrowing ‘Eliza Holt’, possibly the best song on the record except for the intensely personal ‘A Queen In Her Own Way’.

There is one cover on the album. ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes?’ is a brave choice for anyone and it has been heard so many times. Without messing about with it Luke briefly makes it his own with an acoustic guitar arrangement that owes nothing to anyone else Actually ‘This Ain’t Love (But It’ll Do)’ could be best track, taking a swipe at a certain genre of reality TV show. The closing ‘Every Flame’ seems like a cry of defiance. “I worry that my fire’s burning out”, he sings in the first verse – hell, you’re only twenty-five – but ends with “I’m gonna ride it till the wheels come off’. That’s more like it.

With Journals, Luke has taken another big step. I haven’t fully come to terms with it yet but that’s no bad thing. There’s lots more to dig into.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website: www.lukepauljackson.com

‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes?’ – official and live: