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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‘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.”

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‘Baby Boomers’ – the first single from Journals:

LUKE JACKSON – Solo Duo Trio (First Take Records FTCD003)

Solo Duo TrioWow! Luke Jackson stepped on stage at Bramley’s Cocktail Bar in Canterbury and roared his way through a new blues-based song, ‘Fun Of It’ – it took my breath away even at this distance. Solo Duo Trio is Luke’s first live album featuring Andy Sharps as half the duo on bass guitar and drummer Connor Downs completing the trio as Luke led his band through a set divided into the titular three segments.

For his second song he goes back to the title track of his first album, More Than Boys. It was recorded when he was just eighteen but even then he was making his mark. Six years on from that release his voice has matured and I imagine he’s learned some new guitar techniques but it is his command of the stage, his material and his audience that is astonishing even though his stage announcements still sound modest. The third track is another new song and one of Luke’s absolute best; ‘Flowers’ is deceptively simple but quite heart-rending, sung with passion over a minimal guitar part.

Luke closes his solo segment with ‘Last Train’ segueing into a verse of ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ and welcomes Andy to the stage for ‘Father’s Footsteps’ from his second album. I think that it’s only when listening to Luke’s own selection from his catalogue that you realize what a marvelous bunch of songs he has produced in a few short years. The duo segment closes with a brilliant version of ‘Finding Home’ proving how versatile two instruments and two voices can be.

Connor comes to the stage for the trio section, beginning with ‘Is It Me?’ and one of my favourites from the entire album, ‘Aunt Sally’ – what a song that is. Luke tries to take it down a bit with ‘Made Of  Stone’ and the band gets behind him, driving but not racing. ‘Answers Have Gone’, from Fumes And Faith, is another rocking blues and as he starts to sing ‘Sister’ he sounds like an old bluesman. Finally comes the last song from his most recent studio album and ‘The Road’ brings us as up to date as we can get.

If you thought that you knew Luke Jackson, as I thought I did, listen to Solo Duo Trio and prepare to revise your opinions. This is stunning.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website: www.lukepauljackson.com

‘Is It Me?’ – live:

KIRSTY MERRYN – She & I (own label)

She & IKirsty Merryn hails originally from the New Forest but is now, inevitably, based in London where the action is. She & I is her debut album; an ambitious work but also accomplished and confident.

The songs are about or dedicated to influential women except the opener, ‘The Pit And Pugilist’. It’s about Kirsty’s great-great-grandfather and isn’t as macabre as the title suggests – Tommy Mitchell was a miner and boxing champion from Derbyshire and his story roots the album somehow. Listening for the first time without paying too much attention to the lyric the song had Sandy Denny written all over it. There is something about the structure, Kirsty’s enunciation, her piano accompaniment and the opening line “Bitter the winter and petrified ground”. I was tempted to ask “what else have you got?”.

What she had was ‘Bring Up The Bodies’ and then I paid attention. The song is dedicated to Nancy Mitford, author of The Loved One, and Henrietta Lacks, who was still known by the pseudonym Helen Lane when I was at school. Look up her fascinating story for a full explanation. The song is a bluesy shuffle built around the rhythms of Tom Grashion’s drums and the multi-instrumental and production skills of Gerry Diver.

The other influential women include Lady Hamilton portrayed as ‘The Fair Tea Maker Of Edgware Row’ and Grace Darling, heroine of the ‘Forfarshire’, with Steve Knightley singing the role of her father, William. The next two are less well known. Georgina Houghton was a Victorian spiritualist and Annie Edson Taylor was the ‘Queen Of The Mist’, the first woman to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. The story of ‘Delilah And Samson’ is familiar enough – Luke Jackson sings the male part – and ‘The Birds Are Drunk’ is a murder ballad observed by an anonymous protagonist who may well be the victim’s ghost.

Diver’s production is commendably restrained but always atmospheric, leaving Kirsty’s words front and centre. She frequently takes an alternative view of a story so ‘Forfarshire’ isn’t an heroic ballad but more of a ghost story and we are left to decide whether these are the ghosts of those who perished or of Grace herself, who died a few short years later. In fact every song has lines that demand your attention – I particularly like the idea of Emma Hamilton considering a drink of the brandy that her lover was brought home in.

She & I is a remarkable debut album, packed with imaginative ideas and superb songwriting.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website: www.kirstymerryn.com

‘Forfarshire’ – official video:

The 2017 Folking Awards

Welcome to the 2017 Folking Awards. Last year’s inaugural poll was such a success that we had to do it again. The nominations, in eight categories, come from our ever-expanding team of writers and were wrangled into shape with sweat, tears and not a little blood by the Folkmeister and the Editor.

There are five nominees in each category, all of whom have been featured in the pages of folking.com in 2016.

As with the format last year, all are winners in our eyes. However, its not just down to what we think, so again, there will be a public vote to decide the overall winner of each category.

Soloist Of The Year

Luke Jackson
Ralph McTell
Kelly Oliver
Steve Pledger
Alasdair Roberts


Best Duo

Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby
Ange Hardy & Lukas Drinkwater
O’Hooley & Tidow
Ninebarrow
Show Of Hands


Best Band

Afro Celt Sound System
Fairport Convention
Harp And A Monkey
Nancy Kerr and The Sweet Visitor Band
Merry Hell


Best Live Act

The James Brothers
Robb Johnson and the My Best Regards Band
Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys
Mad Dog Mcrea
Megson


Best Album

Tall Tales & Rumours – Luke Jackson
Ballads Of The Broken Few – Seth Lakeman/Wildwood Kin
Preternatural – Moulettes
Somewhere Between – Steve Pledger
Dodgy Bastards – Steeleye Span


Best Musician

Ciaran Algar
Phil Beer
Rachel Newton
Gill Sandell
Kathryn Tickell


Rising Star Act

The Brewer’s Daughter
Hattie Briggs
Said The Maiden
Sunjay
Emily Mae Winters


Best International Act

Applewood Road
The Bills
David Francey
Michael McDermott
Eve Selis


Public Vote

The public vote closed Midday Saturday 22 April 2017 and the winners have now been announced HERE


If you would like to consider ordering a copy of an album for any of our award winners (in CD or Vinyl), download an album or track or just listen to snippets of selected songs (track previews are usually on the download page) then type what you are looking for in the search bar above.

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us

AMY WADGE AND LUKE JACKSON live at Cambridge Junction

Cambridge City Roots Festival, 7 February 2017

Amy Wadge and Luke Jackson

What comes across so strikingly from an evening with Amy Wadge and Luke Jackson is their natural rapport. Both are hugely talented songwriters, singers and musicians with a constant drive to create new music. They work effortlessly well together and although they like to pass the occasional comment on their age gap, it’s plainly not all that relevant to them.

Wadge and Jackson are near the end of this year’s two-hander tour, cramming 15 dates into 3 weeks. No surprise that Wadge, taking the stage first, admits to feeling rather exhausted – although you’d never know it from the gusto and attack of her performance. She ploughs straight in with ‘Always’, ‘Scream’ and ‘Free Fall’, accompanying herself on guitar or on keyboards.

Luke Jackson joins Wadge for the first of the evening’s duets, ‘Thinking Out Loud’, the 2016 Grammy-award winner, co-written by Wadge with Ed Sheeran. It’s the song that made her an overnight success after 20-odd years of striving. Wadge appears to wear success lightly and with unaffected charm. Her between-songs chat is hugely entertaining, with a seemingly bottomless well of anecdotes that feel cosy and intimate, even when dropping stellar music business names.

The other thing of note is Wadge’s songs themselves, often with threads of personal experience woven throughout them. It’s this that really elevates them, making an emotional connection with the listener. She presents a new song, a kind of working-parent blues: a touching apology to her children, acknowledging that the need to follow one’s dreams is not always compatible with the demands of parenthood. Then there’s ‘One Last Dance’, a beautiful song with an equally inspirational source in her remarkable grandparents. There was definitely something in my eye during this one. The final song of her set is rooted in her mother’s illness, whilst also being a tribute to the strength of anyone struggling with life’s obstacles.

Having followed Luke Jackson’s musical progress for a few years, somehow tonight is the first time I’ve managed to see him live. His voice has matured, becoming richer and, thankfully, losing a few youthful quirks. His quiet confidence and talent simply shine out: he’s so firmly in control of his vocals and his guitar, changing pacing and volume with enviably fluid ease. An a capella verse of ‘Ain’t No Trouble’ builds into a bluesy roll. Slowing down only slightly, he segues straight into ‘Sister’, plucking effortlessly at his guitar with his right hand whilst his left-hand finger-clicks to mark the rhythm.

Amy Wadge returns, duetting with Jackson on ‘Finding Home’, a song written during their last tour, followed by the choppy ‘Is It Me?’ and ‘Better Man’. Finally, the pair move on to ‘Lucy And Her Camera’, an older Jackson song which he’s only recently recorded.

Back on his own again, Jackson runs through ‘Aunt Sally’ and ‘Kansas’, each song prefaced with funny, self-deprecating tales about how they came to be written. Jackson also somehow breathes freshness and meaning into Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ – no mean feat with such a very well-worn song. The set closes with Jackson stepping out front of stage to encourage a bit of crowd participation in the chorus of ‘On The Road’.

Wadge, who earlier provided a spiky piano accompaniment to expose the raw beauty of the Manic Street Preachers’ ‘Design For Life’ stripped of its rock bombast, joins Jackson one last time as the pair encore with a country-tinged take on Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’.

At time of writing, the tour is over and the pair are off to different destinations in the USA, but their social media suggests they’re keen to do it all again next year. With such a dynamic, creative and yet thoroughly level-headed and likeable duo, that’s got to be a fixture for the diary.

Su O’Brien

Artists’ websites: https://amywadge.com
http://lukepauljackson.com