Prior to Mandolin Jack, Chris Tulloch had been making music and playing in bands ever since the early 1970s. He grew up in the sixties and he has absorbed a feast of varied tones that range from Lonnie Donegan to Jerry Lee Lewis by way of The Shadows, Johnny & The Hurricanes, The Ventures, 1960’s Surf Sound, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, all of which have made sizeable impressions on Tulloch. Here Mandolin Jack (mandolin, keyboards, vocals) is surrounded by a set of sympathetic pickers. Not least among which you have Darren Buddell (pedal steel guitar), Dave Woodhouse (electric guitar), John Evans (acoustic, electric guitars, vocals), Roger Addison (bass guitar), Pierra-Henri Pichot (fiddle), Caspar Sewell (string bass) and Tim White (clawhammer banjo), plus vocalist Isabella Tulloch, and on backing vocals Mary Tulloch.
Ten songs make up the official album but as a bonus Tulloch includes an Endless Highway mix of ‘Lonesome Road,’ and with it opening in an assured, mystical fashion Mandolin Jack obtains one of the finest moments of the release. Such is the impassioned manner he serves up the song with excellent female vocals and his fine mandolin likewise peaking, the six-minute cut hovers in tantalising fashion. Back to the main body of the record, the music vies from cheery fiddle adorned sing-a-long ‘Mud Crab Blues’ to the sombre (and nice) presentation ‘Goodbye Minnesota’ and inviting ‘Slow Rollin’ Train.’ With more impressive female harmonies to go with a quick paced tempo of the latter, Mandolin Jack attempts to take the listener back in time (to the days of Sun Records possibly), while with a greater emphasis on a storytelling mellow tune, ‘The Good Times’ is gently coerced by pedal steel and mandolin, and it is a good one.
Title-track ‘Phoenix In The Ashes’ speaks of getting on board an alien train, and how Jimmy is living in the past waiting by the tracks for a train that’s long gone. Mandolin Jack’s music is the kind that’s easy to relax to, absorb, and muse over his philosophy without any sudden jolts.
Easy to relax to, absorb, and muse over without any sudden jolts.