Whether an artist is conservative, centrist, liberal or downright radical, there is nothing wrong with getting on a political soapbox as long as you're musically sound. Merle Haggard's right-wing diatribes and Public Enemy's angry black nationalist propaganda are equally inspired, and both artists are exciting musically regardless of whether you agree or disagree with their political views. The same can be said about activist/folk-pop singer Fred Small, who addresses his share of political and social topics on Jaguar. The subjects that the Bostonian tackles on this CD range from endangered species ("Jaguar") to sexual abuse of children ("Light in the Hall") to wars that are fought over oil ("Warlords"). It's safe to assume that when Small wrote "Warlords," the Persian Gulf War was very much on his mind. But not everything on Jaguar has a socio-political bent, and Small is equally appealing when he sings and writes about romantic relationships. When you're listening to Jaguar, you are sometimes reminded of American folk's European roots. There are slight hints of Celtic folk traditions on some of the songs, which makes perfect sense because the music that Irish and Scottish immigrants brought with them to U.S. helped pave the way for American storytellers like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Whatever your politics, Jaguar is a compelling folk-pop effort.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson