Luke Jackson : JournalsProper Music : 8 November 2019
Perhaps Luke Jackson's most audacious decision in recording this, his fifth, album was to cover Sandy Denny's revered "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?".
That he fully expresses the song's inherent pathos and melancholy, and has given it one of its finest ever readings, speaks to the depth of his talent.
The other eleven tracks laid down in the studio for Journals were self-written, and they are all exceptional; if the insistent, rhythmic blues of Honeycomb that opens the album announces some serious musical intent, then it is fully delivered on by the time the set closes with Jackson vocally wringing defiant emotion from the last words of Every Flame.
In between, genres are skipped through with masterly ease.
A plaintive ballad, Aimee, nestles next to the hard-drummed, blues groove of Cheery Picker. The final instrumental shape of Red Oak (which starts as a poetically-imaged guitar/voice piece and builds to a short climax detailed by a squall of electric guitar) shares space with the straight-forward pop swing of Heavy - the latter an insightful essay on male emotional fragility.
Those tracks are not the end of the creative shape-shifting.
There is the atmospheric, 'rollicking' folk in the form of Eliza Holt, the simple, pure longing of Home (which might be a love song to a hotel room) and the wry blues rock of This Ain't Love (But It'll Do). There is even time for Jackson to celebrate his grandmother; A Queen in Her Own Way is a gloriously unashamed, beautifully realised acoustic sketch of a much-cherished family member.
Overall Journals is a reflective collection. Most of the lyrics are personal and observed. The closest to a political statement comes in a stripped-back nod to Billy Bragg, Baby Boomers, but its firmly stated message is still framed by close-to-home recollection.
In his thoughtfulness Jackson was abetted in the studio by Andy Sharps (bass) and Elliot Norris (drums, guitars). To colour and shade the sound Jarrod Pinner added keyboards, Lizzie White fine backing vocals. Keeping things mostly in house, the sympathy and clarity of the album's production is due to Luke working in tandem with Dan Lucas (Anchor Baby Recording Co.). All involved have contributed to something undeniably extraordinary.
Iconoclastic Irish singer-songwriter, and Jackson's anagrammatic semi-namesake, Jack Lukeman treads some of the same ground as is covered here. As noted elsewhere, Richard Thompson is an obvious reference point, as is Jeff Buckley.
But Journals is a revelation all of its own; and the empathic connection between the musicians, Jackson's sheer songwriting might and the wonder in his resonant voice make it an enthralling, exhilarating one from the very first note.
LUKE JACKSON I Honeycomb