Album review: Gilded by Jade Jackson

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A small amount of research on Californian singer-songwriter Jade Jackson will reveal that Lucinda Williams – I want to call her a troubadour, but perhaps ‘raconteur’ is better – is an influence on her music. That influence is there in Jackson’s singing style, in the way she is sometimes tempted to flatten a note to emphasise it, and in her willingness to mine the less shiny parts of life, but its impression doesn’t last long. At the risk of offending Williams fans, let’s just say that Jackson is a singer and Williams is, well, a raconteur. That’s Williams’s style, but Jackson’s instincts as a singer are stronger than any influence, and they will likely become stronger as time goes on and she feels more comfortable in her own musical identity.

This is not to suggest that Jackson doesn’t sound comfortable – more, that there is a rich, rounded, gutsy voice there and it sometimes feels like she’s holding it back. Of course, that means there is certainly more ahead for her fans: more layers to peel back, more depths to plunge into. And there is a lot already on Gilded, which could be defined as country-blues-rock and which would also respond well to the label announcement – as in, Jackson has announced her arrival.

There is no way to properly define or describe talent – there aren’t many words for it, just that one word – and it’s clear Jackson has it in spades. It’s also clear that she has the work behind her to actually make something of it: the songs each have a story and a purpose; they are cleanly constructed and thoughtfully executed. This album is not the creation of someone who rushed that announcement. There are no bad or even half-baked songs here, only songs that will grab you right away and hang around for a long while, welcome visitors all.

The opening track, ‘Aden’, is a lost-love track but even as Jackson sings ‘you are tearing me apart’, she doesn’t sound sorry for herself, and the beat of the song suggests she’s moving forwards even as she’s looking back. ‘Finish Line’ was released as a single along with what looked like an autobiographical video, although it seems that all the songs on Gilded are drawn from Jackson’s personal experiences. ‘Motorcycle’ is a riveting, growling declaration of self-sufficiency. There is sentimentality on this album, as on ‘Back When’, but it’s of the reflective, not sappy, kind.

The album was produced by Mike Ness of punk-rock band Social Distortion, but Ness has certainly not tried to turn Jackson into a mini-me. Rather, it sounds as though he’s used what he knows about songs done economically for their own good and applied the principles on Gilded. There are few instruments, and Jackson’s voice is the main attraction, as it should be. Because we can hear her quickly we can hear all the emotion in her songs, as well as the imperfections that make them more perfect.

Gilded is out now from ANTI-

jadejackson.com

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