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|Son Jack Jr.: Devil Calls On Washington
1 September 2008
Son Jack Jr. lives in Seattle, Washington and hails from London, England—as www.sonjackjr.com so aptly puts it: ”Delta Blues. The Real Deal.”
Well, yeah, but don’t be alarmed: he sure can play, and apart from many other deals of the 21st century, has developed a genuinely distinctive style of acoustic blues playing that mixes the real-real deal with folkish/rockish influences in a manner most pleasing to the ear.
|Many reviewers before me have praised Son Jack Jr.’s ”beautiful voice” and ”highly original songwriting”; unable to resist the opportunity to pick another fight with the world, I must say that the tracks that most impressed me on ”When The Devil Calls” were the Graham/Jansch-like instrumental ”The Lynching Tree” and the covers of Eddie Cleanhead Vinson’s ”Cleanhead Blues” and Blind Willie Johnson’s ”Soul Of A Man”.
To start from the latter: if a guy can pull off a man-and-his-guitar arrangement of such an oft-covered piece and remind me of Jimi’s backward-looped rhythms on ”Are You Experienced?” instead of Chris Thomas King in a Wim Wenders feature, he clearly knows what he is doing. Never all that popular with the long-hair guitar camp, ”Cleanhead Blues” has long been a favourite of mine—it’s great to finally hear a country blues version, and even if Mr. Jack’s vocal abilities are not quite on a par with the famed sax player’s, his stripped-down arrangement is delightful, his delivery heartfelt.
There is one more cover among the 13 tracks on the album, Skip James’ ”Devil Got My Woman”. Of the rest, the instrumental and compositional prowess displayed on ”The Lynching Tree” easily steals the show, while Son Jack Jr. the singer-songwriter seems at his best on sparse tearjerkers like ”If I Should Fall”. I must admit I’m still having slight difficulties grasping the wealth of meaning behind lines such as ”I’m Son Jack Jr., now you know what I mean” on the musically excellent ”I’m Son Jack Jr.”, but hey Bo Diddley—it’s certainly comforting to know that at least Mr. Jack’s ”goldfish is good, so it could be worse” (”It Could Be Worse”).
Depending on your personal preferences, this may be a positive or a negative thing, but it must be said that on the whole and from the sleeve design down, ”When The Devil Calls” exhibits two tendencies symptomatic of ”modern” blues: exploring the days of old for subject matter, and stressing the grave seriousness of the whole sordid business. Luckily, the first does not reach the extreme escapism that rules most of today’s metal scene, and the latter is not quite as overwhelming as with certain other, err, British blues guitarists, so please don’t let titles like ”Dance Of The Living Dead” scare you away. The music is good and the playing solid; in the late 60’s John Mayall tradition, Son Jack Jr. has even been considerate enough to specify the key for each song in the liner notes, so let’s get pickin’!
Son Jack Jr.: When The Devil Calls. Independent, 2008
Son Jack Jr. (guitar, vocals, producer)
Links: Son Jack Jr website and MySpace