A dark and brooding album for these dark and brooding times
The first thing that strikes the listener about ‘The Death Throes Of A Jaded Empire’ is Jack Cade’s astounding voice. It sounds like it’s been dredged up from the deep, primordial mud of the Thames Estuary where Jack was brought up on the Isle of Sheppey – an area not previously renowned for Americana. His amazing instrument sounds like a laboratory experiment where a mad scientist has mixed together the vocal chords of Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Kris Kristofferson, dropped in a pinch of Johnny Cash and added some of that estuary silt for good measure.
With a voice like Jack’s (not his real name but the name of a mythical 15th century Kentish rebel), the songs are inevitably going to be dark – in this case a darker shade of black for most of them. There are lyrics such as “Fear is fed in the darkness” (from ‘The Awakening’), “My daemons are hiding just out of my reach” (‘Night Terrors’) and “They burn like fire through your bones, questions with answers nobody knows” (‘Bruises’) – this is not an album for warm sunny days but one for cold nights where the wind blows and the trees whistle and shake.
There are also a number of songs that talk about the truth, such as ‘It Ain’t Easy’ which includes the line “Oh give us the strength to hold a light up and let it shine on the truth”, “Now all that we knew from those jaded half-truths” (from ‘Saviours And Sinners’) and “Because lies can be gilded and polished but truth is founded on knowledge” (also from ‘The Awakening’) – is Cade commenting on current politics in the US, the UK and around the world where telling the truth is no longer a given? And which “jaded empire” is he referring to?
Musically the line-up is pretty standard with acoustic guitar from Cade, some excellent dobro from Ben Cox-Smith which gives the album a lot of colour and depth, some wonderful fiddle playing from the superb Hana Maria and drums from Adam Perry and Mark Tudor. There are some big songs such as ‘Saviours And Sinners’ with its heavy chorus, crashing chords and its echoes of an old sea shanty and ‘What Do People Say’ a song with a traditional English folk song feel where Cade’s estuary vowels peek through the big vocal chorus behind.
Recorded during lockdown ‘The Death Throes Of A Jaded Empire’ is a dark and brooding album for these dark and brooding times. Cade’s voice isn’t always an easy listen, but the always interesting and imaginative lyrics make this an album that stands out from the crowd.