The penultimate night of an extensive UK tour has Sussex-based band Noble Jacks headlining at a bustling, sold out and very enthusiastic Black Heart. If there’s a niche for ‘power folk’ then the band seem prime candidates for that category. They have also thrown ‘BrAmericana’ into the descriptive mix. If we mention that their recent album ‘Stay Awake’ was recorded at The Levellers’ studio, that’s a big hint of one major influence on their sound. As, to this reviewer’s ears, is Seth Lakeman. It’s a beefy rumbustious vibe in the main – indeed they self-assess it as “ something of an antidote to unhappiness” – and it’s not a surprise to see that their career thus far is peppered with many well received festival slots, and foot stomping is pretty much instinctive when they get rolling.
The sound is built around the pairing of Will Page, who covers lead vocals, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin and Matt Davison on guitar and there’s a hefty drum presence in most of the material too. Opening song ‘Ten Times’ encapsulates the traits above and the set is off at a gallop. ‘Ramblers Steam’ is driven apace by the harmonica leading whilst ‘Reason To Stay’ is a standout, its edgy staccato delivery not too far from 999 post-punk territory. ‘Stay Awake’ has the guitars dominating over the fiddle in powerful vein as does ‘Better Man’ a few songs later and the final number of a tightly packed 45 minutes set.
‘Gun Hill’ is another fave of the cognoscenti and the dancing and singing from the floor is close to universal for this one. There’s then a slick and arresting set of fiddle-based instrumental noodles. ‘Rely On Love’ is another crowd-rouser with its “I said….she said” chorus being taken up eagerly. ‘This Is Real’ is a more straight down the line rock sound, reminiscent of The Waterboys when they head down the rock n roll pathway. ‘Blacksmith Stomp’ is the encore, one of the band’s earliest tunes, and it’s maybe the band’s most anthemic song, and the title places it firmly in the English folk rock canon.
Support tonight is Jake Morrell, the popular East Anglian country/folk artist who is solo acoustic tonight ahead of a full band tour in early 2020. He has a big level of support and highlights of his set include ‘Wire and Thorns’, his breakthrough crossover country-pop song that first brought him to national attention, and ‘Englishman’, a presumably autobiographical description on of all the alluring USA places that he – the titular Englishman – doesn’t actually need to visit to write his songs.