Jackson Pines “Gas Station Blues and Diamond Rings” (Independent, 2019)

Acoustic duo Jackson Pines are singer-songwriter guitarist Joe Makoviecki and stand-up bassist James Black.  Originally from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey they are now based in Philadelphia and have received multiple local awards (Asbury Music Awards/Jersey Acoustic Music Awards).  On tour they have opened for Old Crow Medicine Show, Margo Price, The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, Joe Pug, Nicole Atkins, The Felice Brothers and Band of Horses over the last few years across the U.S. and in the U.K.

Following up on their well-received studio album ‘Purgatory Road’ which was produced by Simone Felice (The Felice Brothers, The Lumineers)
and the ‘Lost and Found’ EP, both released in 2017, they have just put out a second five-track EP titled ‘Gas Station Blues and Diamond Rings’. The EP was co-produced by Makoviecki and Erik Kase Romero of The Front Bottoms who has produced a handful of notable indie albums on the east coast of the U.S.  Romero also plays B3 Organ, electric guitar, and piano on the EP.  Santo Rizzolo played drums and percussion.

This is a back to basics stripped down recording that combines minimalistic acoustic arrangements drawing on folk, blues and gospel roots with Makoviecki’s clear and distinctive voice to tell stories of hard times, overflowing love, disappointment, and hope.

The introductory eight bars of the opening track ‘Radio Kid’ demonstrates very capable guitar picking technique with a solid alternating bass line accompaniment from James Black.  Makoviecki’s baritone vocal has the appealing gritty warmth of a seasoned story teller. The simplicity of  the musical arrangement contrasts nicely with lyrics that speak to complexity in a contemporary vernacular from line one; “The age of space and apple pie –  came down like the Cuban missile crisis – now I got a phone with an eye –
and a retinal scan for my iris.”
  The lyrics to this track sit somewhere between poetic and cryptic reflecting on memories and feelings from childhood, on the frustrated ambitions of an absent father, on nostalgia and the truth that things are rarely as they seem.

Track two ‘Bay Ridge’ picks up the beat adding shaker, drums and organ to the mix and a little grungy guitar to the hook melody.  The songwriting is purposeful and lucid; it’s about putting down roots in the new world, families making their lives together and that sometimes after generations have passed two people find each other and find love. “Why’d your family come?  They found Bay Ridge and called it home.” A notable recurring theme in Makoviecki’s writing is place and identity.

The last track on the E.P. is ‘Friends of Mine’ played a la Dylan opens with strummed acoustic guitar and harmonica.  It’s a song about relationships, secret demons and acceptance.  Makoviecki conveys details of each friendship with love and tenderness gently revealing the bigger picture; “kids were reared and people passed, everyone turned out fine”.

These songs are about the human condition as observed by a somewhat detached soul travelling freely amongst us, noting our foibles, our endearing qualities, our strengths and weaknesses. The context is generational change, people movement, putting down roots, lives in the making. As noted above; it’s about place and identity – the thoughts that strike you when you’re driving back from a late gig on a Sunday night.

Jackson Pines have spent the last two years on the road in their 2012 Grey Honda Civic with their bags and stand up bass in the boot playing small theatres, clubs, festivals, schools, bars, fairs, backyards and funerals.  Down the road they have more gigs lined up including a few Nashville shows and a follow up album in the pipeline featuring this EP as the A side and their earlier ‘Lost and Found EP’ as a B side.  Definitely worth checking out.

Talented indie-folk duo with an authentic voice

About John Vaites 11 Articles
London based musician and music fan.
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