Jade Jackson

Wilderness

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AllMusic Review by

A handy rule of thumb with singer/songwriters is that they save their most personal songs for the albums that sound quiet and contemplative, and that when they rock out, they're usually just having fun. Jade Jackson, however, is having none of that. Her second album, 2019's Wilderness, sounds significantly bigger and livelier than her 2017 debut, Gilded, but the self-doubt and romantic disappointment that dominate this set of songs cut deeper than what she delivered the first time around. Jackson is a woman with plenty of inner strength and an independent streak, but on "Long Way Home," she knows that sometimes the price of not getting hurt again is having to spend the nights alone; "Dust" is a devastating tale of a woman struggling with the long-term consequences of a reckless youth; and in "Loneliness" she asks herself the pointed question, "Is my heart worth fighting for?" As a songwriter, Jackson clearly opted to approach tougher themes on her second album (not that Gilded was always a laugh fest), but she's also added a stronger growl to the arrangements. Mike Ness of Social Distortion produced Gilded, and he's back behind the controls for Wilderness. Although this music is still a long way from the swaggering punkabilly of what Ness brings to his own band, these sessions deliver roots rock that pushes the rock side of the formula with greater force, even if it doesn't often break out of mid-tempo, and the beefed-up guitars and keyboards add to the dramatic arc of Jackson's songs rather than taking away from it. The smoky sweetness of her voice also adds a layer of warmth and honesty to the music that tightens the emotional focus of her lyrics. Wilderness shows Jade Jackson taking on a more demanding musical and emotional range than on her first LP, and the finished product finds her carrying the added weight with flying colors.

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