There’s something refreshingly different about Jade Jackson’s version of country music. Her debut album Gilded mixes a little punk rock and motorcycle roars alongside the slide guitar and violins. Somehow it seems to work perfectly – after all some hell’s angels wore cowboy boots, didn’t they?
There’s heartbreak on this record and what could be better than country music, the music of pain, to express your hurt. Aden tells the story of a fractured relationship and Jackson’s voice is low – well there’s no point in sounding sweet when you’ve just had your heart ripped out. The violin, played by Sara Watkins, is used almost in place of a guitar solo, and really adds to the sound of these songs.
On Back When Jackson sings about jail, trains, trucks, Hank Williams – all the usual country references – but she’s more Lucinda Williams than Dolly Parton. There’s none of the Bakersfield sound country you might expect from a Californian either. This is dark, slow, haunting, and all the better for it. Bridges is soulful, longing for love again despite the troubles she’s had to endure. Finish Line is more traditional country, loads of nice slide guitar. I don’t need nothing to tie me down, I don’t need no one to care should I leave town. You get a real sense of her wanderlust and independent spirit throughout this album.
Troubled End and Good Time Gone are both rockers but there’s enough whisky here to keep them country. Jackson comes out sounding like Miranda Lambert’s goth sister on some of these songs, and that’s cool with me. No Guarantees gives her darkness more room to grow. Here love is unfaithful, unstable. The guitar echoes her feelings – raw and broken but beautiful in its own way. There’s a real sultry feel to some of her singing especially on Motorcycle, which sounds like it’s straight from the soundtrack to Sons of Anarchy. This is one hell’s angel who doesn’t take any passengers, or prisoners. The final track Better Off suggests she’s got the ambition to go places in her career and if that means leaving people behind then so be it.
Normally you find punk rockers going country years into their career, but here Jackson’s gone to where her heart is straight away. You do kind of wonder if she will find herself caught between two worlds – too rock for country, too country for rock. Still that’s the space Lucinda’s hung out in her whole career and she’s thrived just fine. Gilded certainly has enough dark power to make Jade Jackson stand out from the rest.