Jack James - Letters of Last Resort
Glaswegian singer-songwriter’s fifth album is a welcome addition, but takes no real risks
Jack James may be doomed to become one of those perpetually emerging acts who continue releasing albums like the futile-bottled correspondence of an island castaway. Despite the overall quality of his songwriting, it’s hard to shake the suspicion that Letters of Last Resort risks being lost in the post.
Glaswegian James has now released five albums of what he admits to be ‘mostly folk’ – sparing, lo-fi acoustic indie with bright moments of emotional intelligence. His sixth LP plays like an extension of his previous work, despite declarations of technical progression. There’s truth to that; strains of a Hammond organ smooth out the rough edges on ‘Taking a Dive’ whilst chugging single-contender ‘Phone Number’ sees James try out some indie guitar melodies on his Telecaster. So while songs on Letter of Last Resort are closer to the rolling rock of Star Wheel Press than the folk revival contemporaries referenced on his previous records, it’s hardly a sea-change.
The thing is, playing with a larger set of tools suits James. He’s got a soulful, gravelly voice which could produce some genuine pathos, if it were backed by the courage needed to take a creative risk. It’s disappointing, considering that James is an accomplished writer who, on the evidence of bluesy album highlight ‘Newfound Gold’, has at least one really solid rock album locked away somewhere waiting to be hammered out. Instead, we’re given comfort-zone folk-rock that sticks with the structures and melodies of his previous five albums.
Letter of Last Resort is welcome addition to a journeyman’s back catalogue, but probably represents a missed opportunity to push the envelope.
Letters of Last Resort is out now, self released.