Jackie Greene isn’t exactly a household name here, but that could be about to change. His first live shows in the UK will not only launch his new album, American Myth, but if justice has anything to do with it, will bring him very quickly into the public eye as a singer-songwriter of immense talent.
The 25-year-old from Sacramento, California sounds so polished that his gamin looks come as a shock. Whether delivering a Dylanesque monologue – he is frequently compared with Bob Dylan, with good reason – or rocking along like The Rolling Stones in the good old days, he is impressively in control of his material. The ten-minute epic Supersede could almost be a Dylan song. It sounds like a cross between Mr Tambourine Man and Desolation Row, and though the lyrics do have slightly less bite it’s a tour-de-force.
Jackie Greene is far more than a Dylan-wannabe, though. His voice is far better for a start, and the varied material presented in American Myth shows it to be almost infinitely versatile. He sings hushed, husky love songs, rip-roaring rock numbers, jazzy blues and at times even seems to pay homage to The Byrds.
Opening track Hollywood kicks off with some discordant jangly guitars before morphing into a cracker of a song with some wicked lyrics on that dystopian culture: “See the Freak, See The Freak / He’s the flavor of the week / The ratings all went up when they discovered he could speak”…
The strong, dark vocals and anthemic qualities of I’m So Gone wouldn’t be out of place on a Depeche Mode album. Love Song; 2:AM owes a huge debt to The Carpenters‘ hit, Solitaire, with its falling melodies. But this that’s where the similarity ends and this is a touching and tender song, with subtle and atmospheric mellotron adding to the beauty and giving it a timeless feel.
Cold Black Devil / 14 miles is classic blues updated for a new century, Greene’s voice taking on a terrific harsh edge to match the spiky, exciting sounds coming from a very accomplished backing band that includes Elvis Costello‘s rhythm section.
Described as a roots artist, Jackie Greene’s talent is to be take just about any existing genre – blues, country, fold, boogie-woogie – and build on it to create something that sounds both fresh and yet as familiar as your favourite comfy chair.
There are so many stand-out tracks on this album (coming in at a generous hour-plus of material) that I can’t describe them all. I also can’t decide which style I prefer – the guitar-picking romantic or the full-on rocker. They’re both great, and the latter is just what you need for a summer drive with the roof down – the California sound underlying the entire production is irresistible.
His debut UK gigs are on a small scale. I predict it won’t be long before he’s selling out Brixton Academy.