Friday, 1 June 2018

GIG REVIEW: Jill Jackson - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Thursday 31st May 2018

Confession #1 this gig was actually an alternative option for the evening triggered into action after the Jon Dee Graham tour was cancelled at the last minute. Confession #2 the music of Jill Jackson has been on my periphery for a couple of years without afforded the opportunity to get any closer. Lesson #1 when an artist impresses during a festival set ensure you actively follow them up. Lesson #2 high quality singer-songwriter music will eventually find its way to the discerning ear and patience will pay off. At eight o’clock anticipation of what to expect started to grow, by ten thirty the horizon had leapt a great deal closer. Instigating a candid approach to her music and its impulsive influences, reaped dividends for an artist venturing south from her Scottish base. A packed Kitchen Garden, boosted by a healthy portion of Jill Jackson devotees, hooked into a compelling performance delivered by a performer bestowed with an affable persona.

Sat aloft a stool and accompanied by longstanding musical sidekick Johnny MacKinnon on keys, Jill launched straight into a bunch of songs that have emerged as the entity of a brand new album, which eventually became the spine of a show spanning two sets. Eventually the songs, adding up to a total of seventeen when time was called, shared the billing on the evening with plenty of enlightening chat shedding large beams of light on Jill Jackson – the artist and to some extent, the person. The welcoming environment lulled her into a revelatory zone, from which she thrived and reciprocated the overwhelming affection.

Although a lucrative spell as founder of the pop rock band Speedway gave her a footing into the music industry, it is a love for country music, especially its song writing intricacies, that has fuelled the solo output over the last decade. Jill Jackson is not an artist to wear the badge, but a melding into the core of this genre is visibly apparent in the approach and execution of her art. Joining a near domination of original material in the set list was an impeccable cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘I Still Miss Someone’. A song treated with unwarranted caution in light of a particular influence from a version by Suzy Boggus and, her own country music hero, Chet Atkins.

As previously mentioned, the new album dominated proceedings and ARE WE THERE YET? ushered in as her most reflective body of work to date. In true singer-songwriter style, the background to highly personal songs such as ‘1954’, ‘Sweet Lullaby’ and ‘Goodbye’ raised the mantra before delivery. The craft and guile of these songs was briefly sampled prior to the show, but nothing prepares you for their bare stripping and heartfelt unfiltered playing. The stories were far too numerous to summarise or document, anyway there is a code tucked away in preserving what has happened onstage into the minds of those present. With maybe the review acting as a tempting mechanism for more folks to tap into the live environment.

Away from the ten-song strong new album, Jill dipped into other numbers that have been part of a blossoming post-Speedway career, both in solo albums and part of The Chaplins brief output. ‘Over and Done’, ‘Long Way Round’ and most strikingly ‘The Rambler’ were the pick of this sector of a career now stretching back approaching twenty years.

Jill was most complimentary towards the Kitchen Garden as a venue, commenting that it was one of her most looking forward to venues when hitting the road to tour the new album. She was last in Birmingham, and this very venue, when joining Boo Hewerdine and Brooks Williams on their State of the Union tour. Promises to return soon will be held to account by a near sell-out turnout.

Having first taken note of Jill Jackson’s music during her set at Southern Fried Festival in Perth a few years ago, the circle of appreciation was finally completed during this wonderful exposure. An assured experience, acute judge of influence and innate ability to dig deep for the meaningful song is burning bright in the musical career of Jill Jackson. Nights like this re-affirm the magic of live connective music and the framing of an artist who exhibits the notion of ‘show not tell’.