JULY ALBUM OF THE MONTH
We have been living through unprecedented times: for many a period of hardship, of risks and fears, yet it is also often during dark times that the enduring spirit of rock n roll can shine brightly. In the way that recorded music has helped so many people to get through the days of isolation, so this period of crisis has also driven some artists to push boundaries, to create in the face of adversity – and Jack J Hutchinson’s new album is an emphatic example of this. Not only is it a triumph in its own right, but I have a feeling this could be one of the albums that – in its very essence – defines the age we have lived through.
Credit to the rising guitar music scene, there have been so many fine albums released already in 2020, and respect to all the young bands that have released new music at a time when fans have probably needed it the most. But in recent months there has become a distinction between acts that are issuing finely recorded and produced albums (largely recorded prior to the pandemic), and artists that are capturing ‘the now’ – music with context and relevance in its very DNA. The soundtrack of the current period is about the raw, the gritty truth and imperfection. There is a truth to the art of musicians holding a mirror up to the world in these dark times and, through music, capturing the mood of the times. The LoFi album from Skam, The Distopian suite from Mike Ross, the emphatic CovAid2020 project, Toby Jepson’s busking series and Verity White’s sessions – all these projects say something about the context in which they were created and stand as art that testifies for this period in our history. And the new album from Jack J Hutchinson does the same, but perhaps in a more complete way – and it’s for this reason it stands as our album of the month for July.
For this review I’m not going to do the usual track by track narrative. Rather, I’m going to talk about the five reasons why this album – as a cohesive collection of work – stands tall.
- Forced innovation. This album weaves together people playing music in different places and was then polished in Brazil. Jack J is a guitar man and he will be the first to admit he is no tech geek. At a time when many artists are unable to gig and face challenges in how they can even be in the same room together, this album shows what can be done, what is possible. It was not an easy project to pull off, it would have been easier for Jack to play an acoustic in his bathroom and do an online stream. There is a bravery, almost a belligerence to press ahead with a full band sound and an album – and this is art defying the limitations and threat of Covid. It is a remarkable feat and it shows what is achievable when there is the determination to push forward and to create – whatever the odds.
- Electric: In recent weeks there’s been a lot of acoustic stuff on social media. It has helped many people and the intent from musicians to do something is to be applauded. That said, rock fans ultimately like the amps turned on and the music up loud. After weeks of unplugged sessions, this album is something to celebrate and it’s come just at the right time. Turn it up loud!
- Live music. Significantly this album is a live set – and it is the ‘greatest hits’ setlist Jack intended to take on the road. The imperfections remain on the album. With gigs off, this album reminds you what the magic of a live set feels like. This album is a real counterpoint to those heavily over-produced studio albums and by comparison the imperfections on this album show up auto-tune studio age as being, with hindsight, a bit phoney – a bit like looking back on 1980s replays of Top of the Tops where everyone is miming on stage. Not only is Jack J’s new album the soundtrack of the age in which it was created, it could also signal the start of a new chapter for recorded music in the non-gig era. A move towards authentic, live recorded sound – albums that capture the magic of music being played in the moment, rather than the invention of perfection. The recent Dust Coda sessions EP is another example of the allure of naked truth over polish.
- Physical art: beyond the music, the physical packaging is also core to the experience of this album. A lot of thought has been put into the artwork and the bold purple vinyl. Again, after weeks of music going online and endless weeks of streaming, this album re-states the tangible art of physical music. The album as a purple vinyl is an event, it’s something to enjoy receiving in the post and to listen to on a good stereo – and to listen to properly from start to finish. With gigs, off and there being almost too much noise online, the time may be coming when artists need to revisit the art of monetising their music. This album re-presents the case for physical music being an enriching immersive experience. Turn the computer off, stop chasing the likes and shares, pour a drink and enjoy a quality music experience on a good stereo system.
- Staying busy. Jack J Hutchinson is one of those artists that has kept himself very busy during lockdown. Whilst some have seemingly focused more on brand marketing and social media during lockdown, Jack has been busy focusing on the art – the music. He’s recorded acoustic sessions, streamed sets, explored covers and recorded a live album. Jack has created during uncertainty, and as a result he has grown as an artist – and as a person. The craft of musicians is ultimately to write good songs – and the quality of their music is what defines their legacy. The future of the live scene is far from certain, there are heaps of unknowns and challenges and the one certainty is what’s next won’t be the same as what went before. Jack has rolled his sleeves up and just got on with it; writing, performing, creating. Everything he has done has been about the art of creating new music. This bulldog spirit is captured on this album, along with the positivity you get from just cracking on with creative projects. For me, the mood that permeates the whole album of one celebrating a love of music making mixed with defiance against the notion of giving up. The true and timeless spirit of rock n roll.
So, these five factors considered, this is a special album that is, arguably, in a class of its own. The album itself is an achievement, its authentic live sound reminds us what it felt like to be at a live show and it’s an album for our times. More than just a collection of songs, this could well become one of those iconic albums that is synonymous with defining a period of our history.
Who Feeds The Lockdown is released on 17 July.
Pre-order the album on purple vinyl, CD or download format at https://jackjhutchinsonmusic.com/2020/05/20/new-live-album-who-feeds-the-lockdown/
The Jack J Hutchinson Band are:
- Jack J Hutchinson (vocals and guitar)
- Lazarus Michaelides (bass)
- Felipe Amorim (drums)