March Album Of The Month
“Being at Muscle Shoals, the distance gives you perspective. It’s given my songs new form, new life, coming here has given the demos the oxygen they deserve. We go in tomorrow and we start recording. I’m ready. We’ve done all we can do in terms of pre-production but you don’t want to overdo it, you don’t want to over-rehearse, because you want to tease yourself so you go in and grab the moment.”
My radio interview with Lynne Jackaman from Muscle Shoals the night before she went into the studio to put her vocals down captured a moment in time. Lynne felt at one in her spiritual home, liberated – and was looking at her songs through new eyes and with new inspiration. She had a sense that something was about to happen and this album proves it did.
Having followed Lynne’s story for a number of years, I was flattered when Lynne offered me an early listen of the full album. It is remarkable, and whilst the retail release is a couple of months away, I felt compelled to write an early review. There is a story to be told here and a vitality to the music gives the album a strong personality and life of its own. The fans that pre-ordered the album can be assured that one of the defining albums of 2020 will be landing very soon.
From rock diva to soul queen, Lynne Jackaman is the voice of a generation. She can sing anything in any setting, share a stage with anyone and the audience impact is always the same – emphatic and total. With ‘One Shot’ we have a debut album that raises the bar on what good looks like in terms of craft, technical ability and authentic production quality. An album inspired by Lynne’s soul heroes, the artistry on this album nonetheless makes a nonsense of genre silos or music fads and reminds us that good music is good music – and good albums are always about great songs.
Beyond a critical review of the songs, there is a ‘feel’ about this album as a body of work. In a digital age, so often the production of albums adds layers of artificiality; to polish songs that might sound good on radio, and sometimes you have a feeling that the songs you hear say more about the art of invention with software tools. This album does the opposite, conveying the magic of spontaneous, live performances from the studio. The sound is natural and totally authentic – whilst listening you feel yourself being transported to the cool summer evenings of Muscle Shoals, the creative ghosts of past greats still alive in the ambient studio sounds you hear. ‘One Shot’ isn’t stripped back but the recording gives the listener a truth and direct connection to the music that will make the albums you hear before and after feel a bit synthetic. This is the art of the album, the magic of capturing a moment in Lynne’s evolving creative journey.
‘Supernasty’ opens the album. It’s a perfect opener – a song with immediate intent. The crisp production and arresting grooves set the mood for the whole album and the vocal sits atop of the music like a sparkling crown as Lynne effortlessly hits the high notes and works the key changes.
In contrast to the ‘No Halo’ EP, here the horn section gives the music both space and depth. The guitars are still there, but Lynne is working on a more panoramic canvas here and it gives room for the light and shade of the vocals to flourish on a scale not experienced before.
Fans that discovered ‘Nobody’s Fault’ during Lynne’s acoustic shows are in for a treat with the new album version – and here the Muscle Shoals experience really shines. The arrangement lends a degree of edgy menace that juxtaposes the yearning, soulful vocal performance wonderfully – which builds in drama as the song unfolds.
‘On Your Own Now’ brings the mood down and gives the listener the first indication of the range of styles and moods that the album will present. You can feel the shadows of a Muscle Shoals summer evening, the winding river and the landscape framing the soundscape. The music has an essence of its own that washes over you. This is a song all about mood.
The song also showcases Lynne’s consummate control in how she uses her voice as an instrument. Known for her dynamic range, with a vocal performance such as this one, less is sometimes more. A perfect late-night radio song, oozing character and atmosphere.
‘I’ll Allow You’ is up next and, for me, this one represents the bridge to the ‘No Halo’ EP – with the dirty guitar riffs, the funk and Lynne’s vocals sailing over the music. The vocal naturally flies up and down with the freedom of a bird here, and with the intensity that defines Lynne’s unique sound. Powerful without being too loud, dramatic without being technically show-boaty. First hearing this song took me back to Lynne’s performance at the John Lennon Anniversary show at the Hard Rock Café last year. Lynne appeared on stage and stole the show with just one song, as she effortlessly went through a vocal range that stunned the audience. For me, this is probably the radio single on the album that packs the wow factor in just three minutes,
For the title song ‘One Shot,’ the bass delivers the heartbeat of this song, the heartfelt narrative here more centre-stage than the vocal aerobatics.
‘Red House’ feels like the natural Lynne song; she feels very comfortable and at ease with this song, she’s not trying too hard but it really works. ‘Red House’ shows how far Lynne has moved on from rock, but how she can also draw back from the ornate horn sections. This is a simple song in construction, but there is complete and natural harmony between the voice, the beat and the rhythms. The voice is controlled but naturally shines. It is perhaps when Lynne is not trying to impress that she shows the natural musicality she has that few can match. In the streaming age, here we have a song that would add something to any playlist – and a playlist of any genre.
‘Beautiful Loss’ is a moving song that I premiered in 2019. Given Lynne’s reputation for outstanding acoustic shows, it seems only fitting we have an acoustic, stripped-back song on this fine album. Beautiful in its minimalism, this is a song about coming to terms with loss, remembering a life. The words are the colour on the canvas here, and anyone that has gone through the loss of a loved one will likely find comfort and a soothing tonic from this song.
‘Sooner or Later’ is a real treat and lifts the album. I remember the various treatments this song has had, from rock to acoustic but here we have a Muscle Shoals happy-hour party and this version of the song feels spot on. The drums are lighter with the horns and choir giving the song an inspiring soul character – it could now almost be a gospel song. I feel we may yet see different versions of this song in the future – but this version mark’s Lynne musical evolution to where she is – and what she is about – in 2020.
‘Nothing But My Records On’ is the song of the album for me – and it brings together Lynne’s past and present into a compelling song that demands attention. Here we have rock, funk and soul influences weaving together in a piece of music that is urgent in its delivery and where we have the best of Lynne’s sensitivity and creative drama in her vocal delivery. Great songs start and finish well and with ‘Nothing But My Records On’ the song starts with immediate intensity and finishes with a head-turning vocal outro: one that suggests that having conquered rock and soul, Lynne could credibly also have a go at opera.
The album finishes with two songs I was lucky to premiere on my Friday show. ‘CopyCat’ we ran with whilst ‘Supernasty’ was winning hearts and minds on national radio. ‘CopyCat’ for me is a song that really defines the essence of everything that happened at Muscle Shoals. ‘On My Own Stage’ is far more than a song for us, an early 80-second clip of it aired on my Friday show some time ago and drew repeat requests for months on end – so much so, it’s now strange to finally adjust to the full version of the song. It ends the album beautifully, and the acoustics of the piano give the song a subtle but emphatically different mood setting for the song. And Lynne’s vocal performance here defines what makes her so special. A one-take recording that breathes life, nostalgia and hope into a song. Lynne can do the rock, the soul, the horn arrangements – but with a lone voice singing reflectively to piano accompaniment this album closer reminds us that Lynne’s craft can cross age, demographic and music genre. The voice of a generation and second to none on stage or in the studio.
This album has not been a quick turnaround, but like a fine wine, some things are more than worth the wait. In a music age of fast-faced churn, where success is often manufactured and judgement is based on clicks, shares and likes, Lynne reminds us of music’s true soul – and what really matters: Song-writing that will move you, technical performances that will inspire you and production values that breathe life into the tunes you hear. ‘One Shot’ marks the arrival of Lynne Jackaman on her own musical terms and is the calling card for one of the defining talents of the new decade.
Follow Lynne on socials
As album of the month I will be playing two songs from the album during the month of March and doing a track by track feature interview with Lynne in the weeks ahead.
Listen again to some of my audio interviews through time with Lynne
My three-part interview series with Lynne from Muscle Shoals and the hour special record shopping at HMV London will be re-broadcast next month.