Okay, I admit that my title might be stretching the truth a little bit, but when you look at the titles 'Young male suicide blessed by invisible woman'; 'Men in prison'; 'Come back early or never come', it gives some idea of Jackie's subject matter. However, we won't get hung-up over titles, which like appearances can be deceptive. What we have here are some beautifully crafted, richly melodic, often emotional pieces about suicide, despair, love lost, imprisonment of the spirit as much as the literal sense, and some wonderfully intelligent, deeply felt and sometimes ambiguous lyrics. Couple this with Jackie's richly burnished voice ( a bit like the effect a log fire has on you in the chill of winter), and we have a very moving exploration of some of the 'big questions' of how we often struggle to stay true to ourselves and others, and not be destroyed.
If this all sounds too heavy, don't worry, because the richness of the melodies, and the hooks of the chorus and refrains take you prisoner, wrapping you up in the sincerity and warmth of Jackie's great songs. Only later do you need to pay attention to his sensitive and perceptive lyrics, to discover the depth of his wry exploration of what it means to be human.
Four favourites of mine include 'Working alone' in which a childhood memory of a horse-drawn plough in the fields develops in the observer as an adult, where "the plough moves deep inside my veins/But someone else now hold the reins". I think this is a remarkably accurate picture of many people's working lives (including mine!) In 'Marble City Bar' Jackie is open about his own history of despair and substance abuse, and the suicidal path which grows from this, "Where I first noticed I was fading away.." 'Men in Prison' features a Cornish Choir as a truly sublime chorus, which still makes my hair stand on end with its yearning longing "I thought I saw you running back to me". Finally we have Jackie telling of a walk in the 'Lammermuir Hills'when he discovers his love is no longer his, as "the winter wind blew out our star".
The genius of this album I think, lies in the marriage of a potentially gloomy, downbeat lyrical vision, to some truly redemptive melodies and harmonies, and Jackie's wonderful voice. Despite the worst, there is always some form of consolation: "So let us drink to hopeless situations/That come to greet us by and by/Raise a glass to endless expectation/We love, we lose, but we survive." So what are you waiting for: grab this hidden gem while you still can, and let it take you with it on a walk through the rollercoaster we call life.
on 10 July 2013
An interesting varieties of styles on this album;from folk ,to pop, to rock .I especially like the choir on track 8,Men In Prison.
Three of the last four tracks are however are not up to the standard of the rest of the album.I am ,I will admit, being a little picky saying this.