Kate Jackson

British Road Movies

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After the breakup of her group the Long Blondes in 2006, Kate Jackson began working on solo recordings with producer Bernard Butler. Before they were able to finish, Jackson turned her back on music in favor of moving to Rome and focusing on painting. Though she released a couple of tracks from the Butler sessions in 2011, the duo only really finished work on the record after Jackson returned to England and rediscovered her need to make music again. They polished up the songs they had recorded, adding new parts when needed, then it was released in 2016 as British Road Movies. Thanks to the recent work the duo did, the album sounds perfectly fresh, not at all like rehashed, decade-old songs. With echoes of great British artists like David Bowie, Roxy Music, Pulp, and unsurprisingly, Suede and the Long Blondes, the album falls firmly in the tradition of big, hooky songs with soaring guitars and keyboard flourishes, fronted by a vocalist with a definite point of view. Jackson's voice isn't as idiosyncratic as the singers previously mentioned, but she has a powerful persona and delivers the lyrics clearly, like she was a photographer taking in the entirety of a scene. The music is far more composed and epic than anything the Long Blondes aimed for and totally disregards the electronic direction their last album took. Instead, these are big rock songs with full productions, every bit of their arrangements filled with sound and most often driven by big guitar hooks. "Wonder Feeling" is the one that sounds like a single, with Butler's chugging glam rock guitars, Jackson's strongest vocal, and a hook the size of a 747. Quite a few others fight for that honor, like the similarly strutting rocker "Stranded" and the classic rock-heavy "Homeward Bound," but there's plenty of room for introspective ballads, too. Jackson didn't really do much of that with the Long Blondes, but she proves here that she's more than capable. The piano-led "Last of the Dreamers" and album-ending weeper "Velvet Sofa from No. 26" definitely show her range. The album is at its best, though, when Butler is cranking up the big rock and Jackson belts out melodies as straight and clear as an empty motorway. British Road Movies has plenty of that, and if it's not quite enough to make anyone forget the Long Blondes, it's a definite reminder to keep in touch with Kate Jackson. Especially if she continues to make records this good.

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