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

Artist’s website: www.lukepauljackson.com

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

Luke Jackson – new album coming soon

Luke Jackson trio

There’s no argument that Luke Jackson has one of the most remarkable voices out there. And now with his fifth studio album, the 25-year-old can also be said to be one of the finest young singer songwriters too.

Journals, released on his First Take label on November 8, is a milestone album for the Canterbury-based musician, a showcase for his increasingly thoughtful and mature songwriting, with eleven of the twelve tracks coming from his own pen – and the other being one of the best covers of a hallowed song you are likely to hear.

A top notch acoustic and electric guitarist, Jackson is joined on the album by former college friend Andy Sharps on bass and Elliott Norris on drums and guitars, with both men adding great harmony vocals. Impressive piano and keyboards is added on some tracks by Jarrod Piner of the Gentleman Of Few band while Lizzie White adds sensitive vocals.

Luke Jackson started making waves when barely a teenager. Belying his age with his powerful, distinctive voice and songwriting prowess way beyond his years his debut album More Than Boys (produced by Martyn Joseph) 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).

While folk roots may have been his launching pad Jackson is unfazed by genre-hopping and increasingly blues is to the fore along with rock, soul, Americana and even a hint of jazz.

Confident and assured, Jackson is on the brink of his first headline tour in the USA, having played prolifically across Europe, toured regularly with Grammy award-winning Ed Sheeran collaborator Amy Wadge, performed three times at the International Folk Alliance in North America and even supported rock band Marillion.

Co-produced by Luke and Kent-based Dan Lucas (Anchor Baby Recording Co) Journals unveils the singer-songwriter’s strongest set of songs to date – from moving ballads to out-and-out rock tracks – with deeper, fuller, layered arrangements.

Narrative songs range from the heart-breaking to the historical, the wry to the witty.

Says Luke:  “I love what I do but it’s about much more than playing my songs to a crowd.  It’s the car journeys, the people I meet, the music I listen to on the road, the endless podcasts, service stations, conversations and snapshots of other lives, landscapes and cultures and the craic with the lads. And perhaps more importantly, now I’m a bit older, it feels natural to have a greater voice socially and politically, though I’m never going to be an ‘in your face’ political singer songwriter.

“All of these experiences are a bit like keeping a journal in your head – hence the album title. One definition for the word is “a record of occurrences, experiences and reflections kept on a regular basis – perfect”.

With few musical stones unturned, perhaps the album’s icing on the cake is his spine-tingling version of Sandy Denny’s sacrosanct Who Knows Where The Time Goes? Luke admits he was cautious about tackling the ‘jealously guarded’ folk classic but he does it huge justice in a carefully judged, hypnotic performance that highlights the lyrics beautifully. He says “It’s a joy to play such a marvellous song by someone who was a national treasure.”

Artist’s website: www.lukepauljackson.com  

‘Baby Boomers’ – the first single from Journals: