Sunday, November 04, 2007

Review: Jack Hudson at the Pack Horse, Loughborough, Friday 2nd November...

















A lot of anticipation and building excitement for this one – Jack Hudson doing a full gig at the Pack Horse. I had only seen him once before – a brief spot to a sparse audience, but he was brilliant and moving, one of the performances of last (or any) year and gave of himself as if to a large concert crowd – I figured that this was the way he always played. Hopefully... you can lay too much freight onto someone. An anarchic start to the night frayed a few nerves – the door to the venue upstairs was locked (a new landlord has just taken over and things are still settling down). But the key was located in time as people started arriving – so a somewhat rushed beginning. But it settled down pretty quickly. All in the ongoing spirit of the club, anyway...

Jack Hudson is a tall, rangy man with a slightly ironic/lugubrious face. An old hipster... with a deep, resonant voice, dark honey poured over grit and gravel, that conveys a stoic, burned down romanticism, shot through with a good leaven of wry humour. Songs of moving, the transitory friendships of the road, relationships licit and otherwise, the stuff of the heart, that hit you right where they are aimed at. Supported on fine-sprung clawhammer picking that balances the vocals without over-fussy distraction. This is a man who is renowned for his interpretations, the manner in which he gets inside a song, his own or well-selected covers. You could call it 'Americana,' for a fast tag that conveys something of the emotional areas he inhabits, strung off the blues, country and the country side of rock and laid onto an acoustic 'folk' framework – but that is only a necessary shorthand to describe loosely a unique performer. I use the terms occasionally of 'channelling' and 'blackface,' the first being a movement into material from outside culturally that nevertheless finds the true core and delivers it with soul and honesty, the second being a copy that rings hollow, broadened out from its original sense of imitating African-American music. Think white blues or English country in general for the second – and then the (admittedly few) exceptions in those genre who know how to 'channel' the material. Or all tribute bands... with no exceptions. Being English, then, and singing American and American-influenced material is a dangerous route to travel. Most don't pull it off. Jack Hudson does. In spades. Tonight over two sets he will rove through a variety of songs that have one solid link – the emotional truth they convey. From his own fine compositions – such as 'Driftwood and Nails,' about an illicit affair, the Hemingway-esque 'Elvis is alive and well' and the sad waltz 'She likes to go walking' – to some great covers, a man and his guitar and voice delivered one of those special nights. You really wouldn't need more...

The second half bounced of some classic Little Feat songs – 'Willin',' 'Roll 'em Easy,' 'Dixie Chicken' via a righteous version of Guy Clark's 'L.A. Freeway and a duet with one of his friends (Una) on Susannah Clark's 'Come from the heart' (via Mark Twain), less emphasis on his own material now, to end on the Mentor Williams classic 'Drift Away.' There was the occasional fluffed line and odd mistake but Jack is a charmer – they were smilingly shrugged off and oddly made his performance more endearing. A minor quibble, anyway, thrown in for some semblance of objectivity... as far as this audience was concerned, myself included, he could have finished the night by walking on water. He said later that he wasn't as road-sharp as he would like to have been – due to the absurdity of not getting many gigs. Cue outrage... Some people seem to demand cheap pigeon-holing – Jack does not fit easily into purist straight-jackets – as no musician of any worth does. At the end of the night he said: 'If you are able, don't take shit from anyone.' The qualifying phrase shows an intrinsic human understanding - some things are just not that easy. But should be striven for... Jack is a man who has travelled some difficult roads, I would hazard. What he brings back from his journeys, the hard-won truths encased in the pure gold of his songs, I would urge people to seek out. There are not many around like this...


A brief note on the Pack Horse – the new landlord seems to mean business, the room has been cleaned up (shock, horror etc) and hopefully things look bright for the future after some uncertain times recently. The usual hosannas to Mr Marmion, curator extraordinaire. I know how much this gig meant to him. And me...




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