With only a handful of releases under his belt, this Nottingham rascal has already been compared to the likes of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan – not bad for 18 years of age.
His self titled album dives straight in with a chain of three flawlessly dynamic country tinged folk rock tracks. First release ‘Lightning Bolt’ swaggers along with a slicked back 50’s confidence, a voice so self assured and upbeat jangling guitar strums all doused in a wild and youthful alertness.‘Two Fingers’ is 3 minutes of gutsy, smokes- and -drink-fuelled nostalgia, simmering with adolescent angst yet acting simultaneously as a shout out to shut up and get on with life. The third of the opening trio ‘Taste it’ is something from a past decade. Speeding along at 99mph with its country twangs, Bugg’s outstanding vocal range and knack for riffs make this a definite album highlight.
After this initial blasting, the next 11 tracks somewhat blur into each other, all tender, heartfelt croons and supple strums. There’s never a dull moment, mind as ‘Seen it all’ slows down the ride with more raw and refined acoustic tendencies. Slightly slower and denser in its lyricism, its Bugg’s signature warble that wins through and swirls into ‘Simple as this’, in which the vocal bares uncanny resemblance to Dylan, with the harmonica just topping it off.
The short and sweet ‘Country Song’ is all caressed slides and plucks reminiscent of Bombay Bicycle Club, overlayed with a croon not far off from that of The Tallest Man on Earth, seeping into ‘Broken’, which is hollow sadness in music form. Slow and rhythmically mesmerising, then speckled with a sun-shot Fleet Foxes-esque outro. Everything picks back up on ‘TroubleTown’, encapsulating the moody frustration only a teen can experience in a snappy three minute bubble of swaying vocal harmony and edgy, self- experienced lyricism.‘Ballad of Mr Jones’ takes on a spaghetti Western turn- all dusty streets and lasso wielding ranchers. You can imagine him writing this whilst sitting astride some sort of mule in Kentucky.
‘Slide’ and ‘Someone told me’ are wistful and yearning love songs beyond his years, whilst ‘Note to self’ is equally dappled with melancholy. ‘Someplace’ sees a return of careful finger picking, blushing to a sorrow- drenched crescendo but underpinned by a certain hopefulness in his tones. Finale ‘Fire’ crackles like its being played on a clapped out old record player in some 50’s diner but nevertheless rounds up the album nicely, blurring out to crumpled distortion.
14 track débuts can become boring with songs annoyingly getting lost in one another. However this effort manages to entrap you with the relentless range of his young voice and clear musical talent; I can’t see this début bugging anyone…
Trouble Town by Jake Bugg