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Thursday, September 10

Album Review: Jackie Greene - Back To Birth

Jackie Greene
Back To Birth
Yep Roc Records
August 2015

It's been 5 years since Jackie Greene last released his solo effort "Till The Light Comes".  During this time he has embarked on what one could see as the busiest years of his career, notable for his recruitment alongside Joan Osborne into Trigger Hippy and the musical chemistry, album debut and tours that followed.  Jackie then hooked up with Chris Robinson and Bob Weir for an Acoustic tour.  Between these other projects Greene was still performing shows and brief tours from his acclaimed lengthy catalog of music.  In 2012 he accepted an invitation to play lead guitar in the well known band the Black Crowes, in what turned out to be their farewell tour. Not one to be known as just a hired axeman to complement already well established acts, Jackie is back, with Back To Birth.  
The album, produced by Los Lobos' Steve Berlin, an 11 track LP is his most accessible to date with a greater emphasis on the pop-rock that he has usually kept away from in albums past.  Well written songs with at times extraordinary music comes across supremely produced with an almost glossed feel to it.  It's the tight production quality winds up being the albums only Achilles heel as he finds himself where many jam-bands have in the past.  The raw and improvisational sound of his live shows barely comes through in this studio effort.  The upside to this is his amazing vocals sound flawless and his wordplay is catchy on "Now I Can See For Miles".  The most touching song on the album is "A Face Among The Crowd" written about his father and is the lone exception to the over-production that somewhat waters down the rest of the album. 

"Hallelujah", a song Jackie first released in it's raw form before Christmas a few years ago is a rousing tune that is bathed with gospel themes showcases the range of Jackie's soul-rock. "Motorhome" might actually be my favorite track from this album as this lighthearted anthem has the singer finding freedom from the foundation of life while traveling the world in home on wheels.  The first single from the album is "Trust Somebody" and again it's catchy chorus and beautiful vocals ride the layered road of music that is complemented on violin by multi-instrumentalist Jason Crosby, one of the many contributing forces on the album.  There are many highs to this record and it's easier to overlook them if you focus on the five years prior of Jackie Greene in the live form.  

Make no mistake about Greene and Berlin took tremendous time and care to make sure every note was properly placed and each bend of his guitar string had meaning if not emotion put into it.  His ability to move from one instrument to another as he has done during shows since he was too young to vote or enlist in our military,  there is a distinct fingerprint on it all.  It doesn't come across as giant leap into the future.  The title alone would tell you that, instead it exemplifies what a great musician can do when not hastened by time, money or other motivating factors that can turn a talent sour.  Greene is like a bottle of Great Champagne ready to pop and that is what he has done here.  All together that pop turns out to be a pop leaning album, at least by Jackie Greene's standards.  It translates into some of his most mature tracks in the live setting yet on the record you might find a softer side to the usually raw and gritty rock star who has rarely traveled so far from the path of Americana Roots.
Review: Sammy Martin

3 outta 5 Glowsticks
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