Released on the Bucketfull of Brains label, The First Ten is the debut solo release from London troubadour Jack Day who lists his influences as Son House, Townes Van Zandt and Woody Guthrie right through to Bruce Springsteen. As the album title would suggest it contains ten songs, all of which were self-penned. Day’s career has recently been gaining momentum in and around his native London and he has even been honored enough to play a live support slot for his increasingly revered and always mesmeric label-mate John Murry. Devotee’s of the latter will surely have had their ears pricked by Jack Day’s masterful song writing and honest performance. These traits are wonderfully captured on The First Ten.
The album was engineered by veteran producer Brian O’Shaughnessy (Primal Scream, Beth Orton) at Bark Studios in North-East London, a studio that prides itself on their use of top end, vintage instruments and recording equipment. “There was a gorgeous old Fender valve amp for the telecaster and upright piano sweet with age; you can hear the foot pedals on the recording. It’s that type of deal”, says Day of the recording process. It seems that there was a certain warmth in the studio and in that process. This manifests on the album as the listener cannot fail to be drawn in by the fullness of sound and the rich weight of the performance.
The First Ten opens with the beautifully wistful I Often Think Of You. The tempo is marked with a faint but rhythmic hand-clap and foot-tap as the finger-picked guitar takes centre-stage before Day’s soft vocal oozes the melody on a song packed with lyrical imagery. Lonesome cowpokes, lost ships and long shadows all feature in a tale of isolation and longing. The arrangement has an honesty in it’s sparsity – almost a “what you see is what you get” approach. Day states that the songs on The First Ten are tales of lessons learnt, mistakes made and songs of loss. “There’s a lot of love in there, a bit of London and a bit of hurt”, he continues. He is young but writes with a sincerity more often seen from much more experienced song writers which leads one to speculate positively as to this performer’s potential.
The album develops further as Jack picks up the previously mentioned Telecaster on Just a Little Time. The dark theme continues here with an intro reminiscent of the soundtrack to some long-forgotten and bloody western movie – like Ry Cooder on downers. The scene becomes more optimistic as the intro gives way to a warmly uplifting love song on which Day is joined by the wonderful vocal talents of Troubadour Rose member Bryony Afferson. Day’s vocal is more hushed and almost haggered on this track and Afferson provides a counterpoint of beauty and subtlety with her folky tones. The song is a dreamy, late-night tapestry of passionate whispers.
The versatility in Jack Day’s musical style is highlighted as the album moves from songs like Birdsong, which sees him don a rockier persona, harsher, gravelly vocals and a harder edge, to songs such as Snow and Sleet, which is strangely uplifting and sorrowful in equal measure. The First Ten often throws out such musical paradoxes which, quite simply put, work a treat! The joy of the album is in the manner in which the emotions of passion, sorrow, isolation and love are sewn together in such an intriguing and enjoyable way.
Day moves somewhat closer to Tom Waits territory on a couple of occasions on this release. The first time occurs on the song No One Moves Like You which sees pianist Graham Knight pulling up a seat at that upright piano which could be in the corner of Wait’s bar somewhere around Closing Time. It’s another sadly uplifting song which gives you a song writer’s embrace as Jack growls “Can I say, we’ve come such a long way, But I think we’re gonna be alright…No. No, no! No one moves like you. No one moves, nobody moves. No one moves like you”. The music is poignant and intense while the words and performance of them are nothing short of beautiful.
The other song which has an air of Mr Waits about it is the very interesting closer entitled It’s a Girl’s World. A conversation between a dude and his girl, looking back at the trials and tribulations of their love. It is a thoughtful and reflective end to the album which echoes long after the needle scratches into the LP’s run-off groove.
The rest of The First Ten sees Day firmly rooted to his guitar, be it acoustic or electric, finger-picking his way through dark ballads and songs of love and regret while he whispers, growls and laments his way through one of the most impressive debut albums I have heard for some time. The Bucketfull of Brains label seems to be on a bit of a roll recently having released some of the most talked-about Americana-style albums of the last couple of years and in this release it would seem that they have unearthed another pure gem which will embed itself deep in your mind if you choose to let it. This is a young, British song writer with an enviable ability to write mature, meaningful songs and he has got the musical talent to back them up.
Jack Day has a handful of UK shows coming up in the London area soon but if the momentum grows as it rightfully should one would expect to see this talent taking his music much, much further afield before too long. Suffice it to say buy the album now, enjoy it and let the songs in, and hopefully sometime soon you’ll catch this rising star in your town.
Review by: Craig Walker
Album Stream: The First Ten
08.02.2013 – The Jago Sessions @ Carpenter’s Arms, 135 Cambridge Heath Road, Stepney, London
22.02.2013 – The Railway, Winchester *SUPPORTING ROBERT VINCENT*
24.02.2013 – The Harrison, Kings Cross, London
30.06.2013 – Leigh Folk Festival, Leigh-On-Sea, Essex
07.07.2013 – Maverick Festival, Suffolk