Jacob Golden - Manchester Roadhouse

Golden’s uniquely athletic poetics make me shiver, laugh, cry. The Californian's debut album ‘Revenge Songs’ is one of 2007’s unexpected delights. After chancing upon him supporting Catherine Feeny in June, another support slot (this time opening for The Kissaway Trail and The Autumns) demands an unfashionably early start. Quite how he engages for his meagre half hour is fascinating, playing as he is to the usual mix of fans and politely curious. The latter, judging by their response as he exits, walk away converted. Tonight he takes an album of just voice and guitar and delivers it with brave poise and commendable sense of drama. When he takes it right down, and for the most part people stand in silence, rapt, the tension is palpable. Vocally, he goes to places too terrifying by half for many singers, exposed as he is, whites of eyes and open heart on show.

Tonight he plays pretty much all of his remarkable record and, gradually, most are becoming live highlights. The spiralling ‘Out Come the Wolves’ (“A gospel on the wire saw my baby lighting up the ceiling, Where the weeping wall of music sings but radio has lost that loving feeling…”); ‘Pretend’, with its almost chilling riff; the darkly triumphant title track. He lets rips with the towering 'Shoulders'. Part of the drama he creates is due to the achingly personal tone of his songs (just guessing – our man has had some dark days) combined with an onstage persona that is, certainly between songs, affable and charming. Because troubadours who can tick the three major boxes (carry a tune, vaguely literate, charisma) seem a tad thin on the ground this winter, you will him to be good. He’s just starting out and this is his first album; expecting great things seems absolutely reasonable.

A William Carlos Williams with guitar, he fashions almost infinite possibilities from the most perfectly prosaic components. Music this quiet, fragile and spare has never sounded quite so far-reaching and full-bodied. When, on ‘Revenge Song’, you catch the line “I’m gonna sing to save my life”, you believe every word.

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