Lincolnshire may not have the same blues gravitas as say, the Mississippi Delta, although it can boast many, many famous people ranging from Hereward the Wake through numerous Victoria Cross recipients to Margaret Thatcher and musicians such as Bernie Taupin. I want to add another ‘notable’ to that list as, with his fifth album, Moonshine Blue the guitarist extraordinaire Jack Broadbent has provided us with nine superlative examples of well crafted and executed blues shot through with jazz and folk and, above all, the scintillating tones he manages to pull out of his guitars. There are traces of other genres too as Jack grew up listening to everything from Robert Johnson to Radiohead and served his apprenticeship on the streets of London busking before earning (and I mean earning) an opening slot for Lynyrd Skynyrd and, very recently, for the legend that is Ronnie Wood. Now that’s what I call a CV! And he even has his bass playing Dad (Mick) on-board…Mick was in that under appreciated band, Bram Tchaikovsky. (Check out the Strange Man Changed Man album for what some call power pop and I call different rock.)
On Jack’s album the opening and title track is, lyrically, an object lesson in coping with the world we live in; the vocals tell that story while the guitar immediately captures you with its own theme. Jack weaves such aural tapestries with his picking and the ‘finger buzz’ just adds to the atmosphere and reality of the whole song even if it takes a few listens to fully appreciate the skill and complexity that grows the deeper into the song you go and the oh so subtle electric slide is gorgeous. A shift in pace and emphasis next as If has clever chords from the acoustic and rolling piano pieces from the aptly named Mr Keys…it develops into a gentle and yet weighty blues-rock that also gives us a first proper taste of how Jack can really play slide. Yes, it is far too short but this is great song of southern tinged blues-rock so I can forgive him…just! The Other Side is a neat shuffle based blues with jazz over and undertones. The slide is present throughout and is shiver-inducing in its tone and phrasing: the sax solo is good although I would have preferred that slide to take it instead (surprise!) I can imagine Van the Man doing this song…as long he keeps the slide in. Every Time I Drown boasts one of the better lyrics this year…”I’m wasting water every time I drown”. Again, the guitar is magical and the sometimes-strained vocals are actually effective once you’ve listened a few times as this voice and guitar duet delivers as many messages as you want to read into the lyrics of the words and the picked acoustic.
This Town is a carefully structured piece and brings some of Jack’s folk leanings into play and is, I guess, a sort of Donovan for the modern era. The next track moves the pace up as The Lucky Ones pulls in a rockabilly feel but with some of the best slide guitar phrasing you’re likely to hear…it has a looseness and a built-in, purposeful discord that just works brilliantly…and the only gripe is that it isn’t, in my guitar mad mind, exploited fully. (I tried to reproduce that sound but I’m buggered if I can work out the tuning!) Tonight is a blend folk-rock with a bit of pop thrown in and therefore, although the guitar is again clever with a lovely solo, it is a bit too (in the modern parlance) vanilla for me. Wishing Well, however, is a whole different ball game…think 70s blues-rock with a hint of psychedelia layered in. The guitar may sound didgeridoo at first but quickly plays chords in a stoned Stones way before it becomes an electric/acoustic piece that brings in some mild Hendrix and heavy Kinks. That may sound messy but it is actually brilliant and the solos are phenomenal if too short as they embrace psych, rock and blues all at the same time. The closing track, Too Late, slows back down to folkish acoustic blues…it feels a bit too languid after the last track but soon gets into the mind and heart as the story unfolds. Jack’s falsetto may take some getting used to as I mentioned but if you get used to it then this tale is stunning in its lyrical content and the unfussy but wonderful guitar behind it all.
This then is an album that is not the blues… it is way more complex than that and embraces many a genre as Jack takes you through a journey of styles of playing and composition. All of the songs work at the target level and it needs to be listened to appreciate the complexity and dexterity that is on display. Obviously, Wishing Well will be forever my favourite but the rest are pretty damn good too. Give it a few listens and see what I mean.
Bluesdoodles Rating – Stupendous
- Moonshine Blue
- The Other Side
- Everytime I Drown
- This Town
- The Lucky Ones
- Wishing Well
- Too Late
All songs written byJack Broadbent
Produced byBruce Cameron and Jack Broadbent
Jack Broadbent – vocals, guitars, drums
Mick Broadbent – bass
Bruce Cameron – keyboards (1) (4) (5)
Peter Keys – piano, keyboards (2) (3)
Miqui Gutierrez – saxophone
(The iTunes run on track this time gave me a reminder of the skill and craft of the legend that was Jack Bruce from his solo album, Shadows In The Air. Out In The Fields is one of those ‘takes some getting used to’ songs, but it grows into a stunner!)