One of the most exciting records to come around this year - and it wasn't done on a massive budget, it doesn't delve into dubstep or use fancy special effects or state of the art LA recording studios. No, it's by a 17 year old kid from Nottingham and his six string guitar. And it must be working OK because he's just released his fourth single 'Two Fingers', his (upgraded) shows are selling out fast and the album isn't even out yet.
Most music looks to the past. Good music takes it further than mere imitation. In 1962 a 21 year old Bob Dylan released his eponymous debut, a collection of songs influenced by his hero and idol Woody Guthrie. The album caused a major stir with people drawn to the simple - sometimes ridiculously so - melodies that veiled his astonishing lyrical prose. To say Jake Bugg will have a similar influence may be rather overdone, yet it is hard to deny the impact his music has had even before this release hits the racks. His popularity crosses over genres and age barriers: younger listeners may be seduced by his pretty face and soft vocals; older fans are astounded by the prodigious songwriting. Few are immune.
Bugg himself has said he is a 30 year-old in a teenager's body, and it's not hard to see why. Some of the tracks feel like they could come from legends like Hank Williams Sr., Pete Seger or even Dylan himself. Those extraordinary, existential songs where falling in and out of love was a matter of life or death. Take the exquisite 'Simple As This', with the young protagonist contemplating the word and his place within it: "Travelled to each oceans' ends / Saw all seven wonders, trying to make some sense / Memorise the mantra, Confucius says / But it only let me down."
Other songs like the lovely 'Country Song', the fine honky tonkin' 'Trouble Town' and the heartbreaking beauty of 'Broken' (complete with emotional crescendo) would have made Hank Williams Sr. proud to call his own. The vocals have the same fragility, that slight vibrato, sweet yet so haunting that will have grown men crying into their whiskey.
Yet Bugg is as influenced by bands like Oasis as those old country and western guys. 'Two Fingers' and 'Ballad of Mr. Jones' sound like episodes of Skins, and the chilling night-out-gone-wrong vibe of 'Seen It All', is a cautionary tale of mixing with the wrong crowd: 'And at the door they shone a light into my face / Had to admit I felt a little out of place ... Then a friend took me aside / Said everyone here has a knife.'
It is difficult to explain the emotional resonance an album has, and how when it hits you it is visceral and primal. Young Jake Bugg has the voice of an angel, yet his lyrics make him seem old and wise beyond his years. What his future will be only time will tell, but he is certainly on the right path. A remarkable, and exciting, new talent.
Last updated: 31/05/2018 04:30:31