Live Review: Jill Jackson, The Camden Club, London – 21st April 2023

Photo credit: Kesiak

Jill Jackson has been plying her craft in the industry for over 20 years and following some recent support slots for Eddi Reader has added a tour in her own right. For a performer who has gigged in all 50 states of the USA in 50 nights she is nothing if not seasoned on the stage. Tonight she is playing at the Camden Club, sited plumb opposite the somewhat larger Roundhouse, just up the road from Green Note who are this gig’s event promoters.

The new venue is nicely full with around a 120 seated audience and we are as entertained as much by Jackson’s twixt song banter as by the music itself. With a slight shift of structure she could be billed as a comedian who sings!   Classic country is used in many of her online reviews and it’s a fair enough boiled down description of the influences she acknowledges –  Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris –  all aligned under that umbrella. Her latest album ‘Yours Aye has been well received and it forms the cornerstone for much of the set. Glasgow-raised, she spent some years in the pop-rock group Speedway and then a period living in Nashville after that band parted ways.

Jackson is almost disarmingly honest about the charm, eccentricities and indeed awkwardness’s in her immediate family and relationships. They do of course provide a plethora of core material for her songs. And so we hear of her parents’ liberal approach to life… “The swingers of Paisley,” her teenage memories of sharing a spliff with her granddad and of her other granddad being a career magician, apparently “the fastest hypnotist in Britain.” There’s also more detail of the egg retrieval part of the IVF process than most Americana gigs will offer up as she skates what some might perceive as a fine line on the edges of PC sensitivities while she also makes a mock grandiose reference to her Top of the Pops performance with Speedway. In the current moment she tells of the trials and joys of touring nationally with her three-year-old son and the nutrition free meal selections on which she fuels pre gig. Every domestic vignette provides an opportunity to feature in a song.

There are songs from her previous album ‘Are We There Yet’ from 2018. Opener ‘Sweet Lullaby’ asks “What if we became a two “which serves as a leitmotif for much of the content that follows. This includes “Years and years of tear sand feeling blue” in ‘Finally’, which she plays next. ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ closes the first set, a slowed down stripped-down version of the classic.

‘My Baby’ is a stirring rich melody about the joys of parenting an infant whilst the next song ‘Mockingbird’ has the refrain of “I won’t love again” and is one of her rawest exposes of the deep sorrow that ensues when a relationship goes sour. ‘Needle and Thread’ picks up the pace and indeed the mood when a couple are clicking along in unison. ‘Are We There Yet’ references her family’s holidays to Blackpool during her early years which she found a mixed blessing with the repeat plays of her dad’s Buddy Holly cassette an inspirational highlight, much more than the “scabby donkey ” and “washed up johnnies ” (the pharmaceutical items not the chaps called John, to be clear). ‘Yours Aye’ poignantly describes her granddad writing home to his family from the Front in the Second World War (when the hypnotism was necessarily put on hold).

Her final song, ‘Gently Does It’, is a poignant tribute to the very recently deceased Rab Noakes who had been a valued friend and mentor to Ms Jackson since her mid-teens and to whom she owes a stylistic debt which has served her well. She sang it at his funeral. You can’t get a song sung more from the heart than this.

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