Concert Review by Toby Wood
Well, we could do with something to cheer us up. No sooner had the Covid restrictions been largely lifted than Vladimir Putin decides to invade Ukraine, thus putting Europe on high alert. We certainly needed an evening of high-quality songs and musicianship to lift the spirits. And that’s precisely what we got!
The stage is set – guitar cases, instrument stands and a sheepskin jacket casually draped on a chair. Jack sits at the side of the hall reading ‘101 whiskies to try before you die’. Just as well it’s not ‘101 whiskies to drink before you go on stage’. After Woody’s statutory two-song warm-up, we’re straight into it – The Lancashire Liar, an obvious opener for a proud Holmfirth, Yorkshire man who immediately reminds us that he has hightailed it to Baston down the A1, one of his favourite roads. Nothing like mentioning a road to get the audience on your side. This is immediately followed by the acapella Down by the Derwent Side, sung with feeling and clearness. Two songs in and we’re putty in Jack’s hands!
Jack plays three instruments, guitar (a very nice Gibson), bouzouki (described by Jack as ‘wonky’) and voice. I deliberately include the voice in this list because it deserves recognition as an instrument in its own right, such is its clarity and strength. His playing style is as light and fresh as a rippling Yorkshire stream.
It’s not long before this Yorkshire lad with checked shirt and trucker’s cap veers off into the country sound of Bakersfield and delivers an accomplished version of Dwight Yoakam’s It Won’t Hurt. Jack’s not afraid to sing something a little leftfield, as he does later with Fourteen Corners’ Small Northern Town and Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill. He also gives full credit to those who have influenced him over the years, The Watersons and Nic Jones, the latter so tragically injured just a few miles away from here at Whittlesey in 1982. He also sings songs with intriguing and evocative titles and words, Young Susan on Board of a Man-Of-War, The Banks of Sweet Dundee and the Dalesman’s Litany – “From Hell, Hull and Halifax, may the Lord deliver me”.
To my ear Jack is at his strongest when he sings grand, sweeping ballads such as Fair Janet & Young James and Ammon Wrigley’s The Hills of Longendale. As Jack himself notes, they could easily be used as the basis for Hollywood epics – come on Coen Brothers, now’s your chance!
Jack is currently crisscrossing the country and is soon to hurtle southerly to Somerset, South Wales, Staffordshire and South London. No doubt many new roads will be featured as part of Jack’s stage patter.
I heartily recommend Jack’s excellent 2019 album, Gold of Scar & Shale, whose cover features Jack looking straight ahead at the viewer, beaming broadly. The image of Jack is just like the man and his music – open, warm, straightforward, uncomplicated and very high quality!