Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 5/5
Are We There Yet? conjures up images of fraught and overlong childhood car trips. On the journey from her first release to Are We There Yet fifth album Glasgow based Paisley born singer songwriter Jill Jackson’s voice has deepened and smoothed, maturing like a vintage wine. On the warm “Country of 1954” and the jazzier “My Baby” it is a seductive and enticing instrument, just a touch of vibrato and husk. 1954 adds an ethereal prairie pedal steel, telling the story of Jill’s grandparents meeting. Lyrical mentions of Greyhound Buses and Californian Sunsets create a sense of place in this lifelong love story. “My Baby” its Resonator guitar and piano pulse is infectious foot tapping hot jazz. A distant cousin of the baby that just cares for Nina Simone. Jill’s voice shimmies through jazz as easily as it flows honey like through country. Of course on a song inspired by a love of Benny Goodman the versatile Gustaf Ljunggren swaps his pedal steel for a light as air clarinet. Jackson builds a beautiful song around childhood cries of “Are We There Yet?” on holiday journeys to Blackpool and a love of Buddy Holly. The storytelling and the sound are both seductive. While the songs are separated by time and distance, like Kate Campbell’s “Galaxie 500” Jill uses a car and the radio as touchstones to draw captivating pictures. Finally serves up Doo Wop, Boo Hewerdine on a Ska Organ and a Jazz brass section to deliver a sensitive but swinging ballad that is just a wonder of restraint and grace. As always on this album Jill effortlessly delivers a perfect vocal. “Needle And Thread” is a jazzy feel good song in Imelda May territory with a great chorus on this one take singalong. “Sweet Lullaby” is another of those delicate spiritual ballads that Jill does so well. Her picked guitars and vocal are joined by Kathleen McInnes’ voice and the results are sublime. “Hope and Gasoline” is another reflective, car time travel song that links to the album title as Jill escapes aged 17 in an Electric Blue Vauxhall Cavalier. Layers of players and instruments wrap around Jill’s vocal, again with admirable restraint to create a beautiful song. “Dynamite” is a real air punching song, a brave and anthemic attempt to document overcoming anxiety lying on the bathroom floor. One to jump up and down to, live it should be dynamite indeed. “Goodbye” beautifully commemorates Jill’s Gran and that sense of losing someone. The arrangement is simple, voice, guitar and atmospherics, as the lyrics and Jill Jackson’s singing create such an atmosphere. The loss and emotion in the voice is real and affecting. Are We There Yet? On the strength of this album I’d say yes, definitely. Sympathetic, sensitive players, superb songs and arrangements and Boo Hewerdine’s production mean that Folk, Country, Ska and Jazz Torch Songs blend into a cohesive and captivating whole. Of course through it all runs the emotional husky smooth joy that is Jill’s wonderful voice, both carried and carrying.