Review Archive

‘House of Jacks’ by Blair Dunlop - unmistakeable guitar and songwriting

(April 05, 2014)

Rather than dramatic changes or setting off down untrodden roads, ‘House of Jacks’, the second Blair Dunlop House of Cardsalbum by Blair Dunlop, quite simply lives up to expectation. Sure, it expands on what has gone before, expressly his 2012 debut ‘Blight & Blossom’, with the result more complex but equally accessible. The guitar style and songwriting are unmistakeable, the lyrics touching and relevant, with a level of maturity applied to the music that while it belies the writer’s years, expresses the essence of the man. And as always, there’s the memorable Blair Dunlop guitar and melodies.

Another one of those albums with folk roots that’s not necessarily purist folk, ‘House of Jacks’ leads down folk-tinged passageways and through its narrative style expresses a clear folk edge. There’s a wealth of mind-sets tied up in these songs - the tough recognition of resentment in the ‘un-cool’ school victim in ‘Something’s Gonna Give Way’ setting out the danger of wanting to belong, the contradictions of sadness in ‘50 Shades of Blue’ and the piercingly sharp observations of ‘Chain by Design’ will surely make you sit up and take notice.

There’s some unforgettable too - the eponymous ‘House Of Jacks’ that walks a path of realisation experienced by many and put superbly into these lyrics, and a couplet of thought-provoking songs separated across the album, the ‘45s (c.’69)’ with its distinctive hook and beguiling melody, and the ‘45s (c.’14)’ more downbeat and less easy to hear - both looking at the times of a Soho club spread across unforgiving years and the changes life shapes on the place and the people.

UK release date is 26 May 2014 on Rooksmere Records.

Reviewer: Dan Holland

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