"Classy and Quality Country Rock/Alt. Country Crossover from the Chester Delta"
This album arrived on one of the few days I look at the upcoming releases spreadsheet and sighed as I wasn’t ‘in the mood’ for anything that was about to be released. So as I was downloading these songs my ‘Spidey Sense’ was piqued via the opening track Shooting Star, which I’d wrongly presumed was a cover of the Bad Company song of the same name; as this trio are a DIY band from Chester on the England/Wales borderlands.
I was wrong, it’s actually a self-penned quality song with one foot in the Country Rock camp and the other ankle deep in Alt. Country too. I won’t get too bogged down in their influences as some are obvious but there’s an undercurrent of some ‘cult’ singer-songwriters in there too, which makes these songs well worth investing my time in.
The key thing here are primarily singer Phil “Lash” Blundell’s world weary and raspy vocals and the writing of the songs which is coincidentally (?) a marriage made in Heaven, most notably on The Great Divide, When I Look at You and the desperately emotional Wind of Change late on in proceedings.
The core acoustic/electric guitar/bass combo has been cleverly recorded alongside a ‘drummer for hire’ and creates an ‘atmosphere’ that takes us on a road-trip across Middle America without leaving our armchairs, plus Jaklash Cat are so deceptively ‘laid back’ you’d be forgiven if you initially miss some of the finer points on songs like Each and Every Year and Secret Love which could both easily have been tracks on an album by an ex-member of The Eagles or Poco; but they’re not …. they are by a band that still busk twice a week in their home city!
Judging by the artwork on the album cover, the members of Jaklash Cat are way past the point when they expect overnight success that will have them staying in a Premier Inn in Portsmouth on a Tuesday night after a support slot for someone they’ve never heard of then having to drive to Aberdeen the next day for a support slot with someone different the next night.
Perhaps that’s why there’s a subtle and defiant self-confidence in these songs; they are doing it because they can and they want to, which is quite refreshing.
There’s nothing too deep here; but there’s certainly ‘light and shade’ and songs written from experience that deserve a bigger audience than provided by shoppers on a Wednesday afternoon.
The Best of Me follows a similar love lorn path, with Blundell’s acoustic guitar front and centre as he pours out his innermost feelings as a windswept string section in the background swoop and swell as the story builds to an ending that will bring a tear to a glass eye.
The more I play this album the more I like the depth of the songwriting/story telling that the band use; most especially on The Love That You Supply and maybe You’re Not Alone both of which defy you not to concentrate on the story until the bitter end; and many listeners will think that either song was written especially for them.
Which brings me to my choice of a Favourite Song; and on a DIY release that’s been a lot more difficult than you’d at first think.
I’m torn between three songs; all coincidentally ‘love songs’ of one sort or another.
At first I was drawn to Different Streets as it initially reminded me of the days 45 years ago that I first encountered the future Mrs Magpie, as we lived in the same village and many of the lines here describe my feelings about that first unrequited love … but scratch the surface and the song is actually about a relationship break up … such is the power of the writing.
On the third or fourth time I played the album Each and Every Year took me by surprise and had me listening open mouthed thinking ‘why were these guys not on my radar?’
Seriously; you’d normally associate quality like this with household names from America/Canada on or about their 4th or 5th albums.
My actual Favourite Song though is When I Look At You; a fairly simple and basic Love Song that hooks you in on the first line and doesn’t shake you off until you’ve played it 6 or 7 times on rotation ….
“When I look at you
I can hear Sam Cooke Singing
When I look at You
A new pathway appears
When I look at you
That bar room stool is no longer calling”
Guess who I’m thinking about each and every time I hear this song?
There’s nothing else left to say; this has been a joy to unearth and will remain on the Top Shelf of the CD collection, ready for easy access when I need to hear it … and I expect that to be quite a regular occurrence over the ensuing years.
(Released April 2023)
“Shooting Star” is the second album from Chester based country and Americana trio Jaklash Cat and it's a strong follow-up to their debut album “Promises and Vows”. The first thing that strikes me is the tight knit playing on the record and the second thing is the well written songs that make up the 12-track record. The vocals are very grounded, casual sounding in a way almost conversational.
A standout track for me is “When I Look At You” which is melancholy and laid back. The ballad “Each and Every Year” with its finger-picking guitar is another gem as it tugs on the heart strings. The production is purposefully sparse leavIng space for the message of the song to land with the listener. I want to hear more of this type of song from the band, it really suits the vocal style for starters and really made me connect with them more than the previous songs: it reeled me in and showed me their strengths.
Overall, l'm really looking forward to hearing more from the band.