The first time I heard Jack Broadbent was at the Montreal’s Jazz Festival, a few years back. The British guitarist has a style that falls somewhere between blues and folk, and his trademark move is playing slide guitar with his alcohol flask. He also has a powerful voice that matches his sound perfectly. He is of the breed of artist that can own a stage by himself. ‘Moonshine Blue’ is Jack Broadbent newest record and probably my favourite of his. I’ve often felt that he has difficulties bringing his live sound to the studio, but on Moonshine Blue, he finally succeeded. The result is an album that goes through multiple moods and never stagnates. The end result is quite impressive and has been in constant rotation in my playlist. Let’s dig in.
The album opens with the title track, ‘Moonshine Blue’. The laid back guitar riff lets his voice take central stage and he wastes no time in setting the mood. I love the lyrics, especially the chorus where he asks: “What should I do about the man I turned into? Moonshine Blue”. The tempo goes up a little bit and you can feel the hypnotic melodies sink into your ears. ‘If’ is up next and this one is just pure fun. The vocal melody intertwining with the guitar riff makes you want to dance or at least move you head along with the beat. The slide guitar solo is excellent and is played great restraint on his side. He could have gone overboard with it but he always makes sure that it benefits the song first. ‘The Other Side’ reminds me of old school Van Morrison; it’s the kind of song where you want to snap your fingers to the beat. This time, instead of a guitar solo, he lets his saxophonist shine. The sax solo takes the song by assault and continuously creates awesome melodies until the track slowly fades out.
‘Everytime I Drown’ is a little bit more on the folk side compared to the previous tracks. One of Jack Broadbent’s special traits is how he manages to modernize the genre in which he plays. His vocal melodies are always very catchy, and for sure the songs will stick in your head. ‘This Town’ is the perfect example. Once again, the song leans on folk more than blues but it all comes together perfectly when you hear the exchange between his voice and his guitar. The track also highlights how good the production on ‘Moonshine Blue’ is. On his previous records, you would often lose the texture of the music and everything would blend together. I am pleased to say that this is not the case at all this time. Everything sounds crystal clear and you can hear all the subtleties.
‘The Lucky Ones’ is the only track that doesn’t do much for me. It’s not bad per se, and I actually like the verse, but the chorus is a bit too repetitive. I also wish he would have done a bit more with the guitar. You can hear his classic slide guitar sound, but he doesn’t do much with it except the part at the end where he goes into full frenzy but even then, it’s more noise than melody. Luckily, things get back on track with ‘Tonight’, one of the catchiest songs on the record. The chorus is excellent and the guitar solo is simply perfect. I often hit the repeat button as soon as it ends. ‘Wishing Well’ is closer to rock and roll and is a good example of Broadbent’s versatility. It sounds like it’s taken straight from the 70’s and I love it. The solo is played on an electric guitar this time around and it has an edge not heard on the album up to this point. He is clearly having fun paying homage to his favorite guitar players from that era. The album finishes with a haunting ballad called ‘Too Late’. I was pleased to discover that I already knew the song since he played it the last time he visited Montreal.
If you like blues or folk you have to check out ‘Moonshine Blue’. I would also greatly recommend his live album called ‘One Night Stand’. I think the best way to discover Jack Broadbent’s music is by listening to it live but with both records you are sure to end up a fan. If you are still not convinced check out the video attached to this review.
Jack Broadbent’s website: http://www.jackbroadbent.co.uk/