With an acclaimed first album, a BBC folk award and a dabble with the briefly regenerated Albion Band, Blair Dunlop has already had a fair chunk of attention. Add in a famous (at least in folk circles) father and there was considerable expectation ahead of the release of his second album this week.
House of Jacks is more of band affair, than his debut release, Blight and Blossom, but it's still relatively light in instrumentation with producer Mark Hutchinson showing an impressive understanding of the material on offer.
The title track is a peach of a song. Dunlop's vocals are heartfelt but never histrionic and the restrained guitar, piano and organ accompaniment blends perfectly providing an occasional break in rhythm that counters a highly melodic top line. Good stuff.
The PR blurb describes this collection of songs as “influenced but not confined by folk roots.” Or to put it another way: This album is pop, with a few folky bits chucked in, and there's nothing wrong with that unless you're in the 'if it ain't trad it's bad' camp.
The opening track Something's Gonna Give Way, is a prime example. It's the tale of outsider's revenge that ends fatally and has a bluesy feel, not dissimilar to Lindisfarne's Don't Ask Me. However, there's a short instrumental bridge that tends toward the Celtic, which sounds as if it might be incongruous, but isn't.
There's one instrumental offering. Violas Reverie is a guitar track that's smoothly delivered with hammer ons a plenty and inspired by footballing support for ACF Fiorentina and er, Spurs. Well, no one's perfect.
Song of Two Bridges sees the album out with a precisely measured acoustic guitar accompaniment and poignant vocals describing life as an observer. It's the only track not self-penned. Dad Ashley Hutchings and former band mate Ken Nicol do the honours here.
The current round of publicity shots show Blair Dunlop staring into mid distance looking moody/pensive/contemplative/bloody miserable depending on your interpretation. He can afford to smile. House of Jacks will add to a reputation that's starting to sparkle.
Blair Dunlop appears at Manchester's Band on the Wall on May 30th 2014.