Jackdaw “Ghost in the Big House”

Cutthroat, 2023

Joyful confident album that shows you are never too late to make a start.

The backstory to this album is interesting. Jackdaw and ‘Ghost in the Big House’ is a collaboration based around the songs of Rob Anderson and born in the backroom of a north London pub.  It is the culmination of a journey that began in the early 70’s in Eugene Oregon where an acoustic trio played the small local venues for a number of years. Fast forward to 2012 when Anderson now 65 and based in the UK via a stint in Paris, wrote his very first song in response to one that was written for him years earlier by his old Jackdaw partner Wayne Drury. “No one was more stunned than I at managing to get one out and it carried on from there”.

This current collaboration is between Anderson and two other multi-instrumental musicians Gaby Szabo and Lyle Zimmerman. The result is a delightful, confident album that is a pleasure to experience. His voice has a mellow yet gravelly quality to it. The songs are simple, well-constructed, and have a sage-like quality to them.  You are “known by the tracks that you leave,” he tells us.

In Romeo, he has an imaginary conversation in a bar. It’s a melancholic tale of love that may or may not have been. “I can’t row across the Atlantic or pull rabbits out of my hat. Don’t follow advice, can’t skateboard on ice but I can reset your thermostat”. “You might be my Juliet … but you’ll never know if you go now”. It’s a very simple, touching song with just him on guitar and Szabo’s vocals mixed into the background.  Her contribution throughout really lifts the album and ‘Cimarron Rose’ in which she takes the lead is a lovely upbeat song. The quality and variety of the musicianship throughout is top drawer.

Overall, this is a self assured album that definitely deserves attention. You can feel the joy and spontaneity in it which certainly captures the almost live feel it has.

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