Country/folk artists have a niggling tendency sometimes to come across false and not genuine, the main reason for this is because of the clichés that surround the genre. For example, an artist in England singing about his travels around America, when they have never stepped out of their bedroom, or left their town. Understandably it is storytelling, and I really do appreciate it, but it’s hard because it lacks a certain real aspect to the songs.
However Phil Jackson walks straight past this problem, with guitar in hand and a smile on his face, as his songs feel real, familiar and relatable. Sandy Sessions is full to the brim with folk and country songs that have a lot of depth to them, conjoined with melody and neat guitar work.
The opener ‘A big man’ is a strong start, as it is reminiscent of something that Johnny Cash himself would come up with. As it slips between a fast paced melody and heartfelt breakdown, the song remains to be catchy and easy to sing, which is a key element of any song.
The album manages to entwine the fast paced, shout to the top of your voice songs, with the more slow and soulful ones with ease, and is a credit to Phil and his diversity as a songwriter. The pick of the bunch in these slow ones has to be ‘Going to the fair’, although it only lasts just over two minutes, the pain ridden feel behind Phil’s voice makes every bit of the song special. Another song that also catches this feeling is ‘Searching’, which is not only well composed and performed, but like ‘Going to the fair’ has these detached vocals which suit so well.
An interesting element to look at in the album is that Phil is ripped down to the bare minimum, just his vocals and his guitar, with limited effects. Some artists/bands hate the thought of this, as they feel like they lose that well-polished sound, however this entirely works in Phil’s favour as it brings out the best in his work.
‘Times’ is the final song on the album, where you hear Phil reminiscing about past times, and it seems theirs personal feeling embedded within that song, making it genuine to whomever is listening. Even if it doesn’t carry a personal meaning, he’s done a very good job of making it seem like there is.
Phil Jackson is flying the flag for people without fancy names and gadgets, as throughout the album he created very honest music, where each song has a quality to be found and picked up. It may not be the most glamorous piece of work, but it could possibly be the best unsigned acoustic album I’ve listened to in a while.