Luke Jackson is a young singer-songwriter from Canterbury, England. “More Than Boys” is his debut album, released in August last year.
I first came across Luke Jackson via Bob Meyer’s weekly Folk show on Radio Wey. He first released an EP (Run and Hide) and since then has been busy performing while continuing to write, steadily building an impressive repertoire of songs. As a consequence, More Than Boys arrives as something far more accomplished than anyone would have the right to expect from an 18 year old.
First albums are often given the tag ‘promising debut’, which has always seemed to me to be a backhanded compliment, as if promising is the best we can expect from a newcomer. More Than Boys stands on its own merit as an outstanding album, one that Jackson can be justly proud of.
Jackson and his producer (highly regarded Welsh musician Martyn Joseph) have shown astute judgement in the album’s production, stripping the songs to their bare bones. There is always an inherent risk when presenting songs this way. Any flaws will be exposed, and the songwriter really has nowhere to hide. Thankfully however, Jackson clearly knows his songs inside out and in his hands the simplicity of his songs are a strength, giving them a solidity and grounding which offsets nicely the gentle tone of his lyrics.
For the most part it is just Luke’s voice and his acoustic guitar, showing off impressive technique and a touch of colour to his playing. Jackson has a warm but strong voice which he keeps in check for most of the album, in keeping with the understated arrangements.
Jackson clearly has a natural feel for songwriting, but he is clever with it too. Many young writers try to tackle life’s big subjects before they have really experienced any of them, and ultimately their words don’t ring true. Most of the songs on More Than Boys focus on Jackson’s childhood and the uncertain transition from boy to man. You can forgive the often wistful, nostalgic feel to songs like “Baker’s Woods”, “Big Hill”, “Kitchener Road” and “More Than Boys”. These are tales of the carefree days of youth when responsibility is something for others to worry about. It is sometimes comforting to look back on these moments before embarking into the unknown world of adulthood:
“Hours in our hideout, safe from the winter breeze
Yes and I, well I wonder if it’s still standing up there, at the top of old wives lees
And it’s where we’d talk about our first loves, with our hearts worn on our sleeves
It turned out we were far too young, to really know what any of that means
But now it seems like all my childhood songs have been sung
And it feels like all my childhood dreams are now, they’re all done
The things that I have done and the places I have seen
Will help me to become, the person I will be
And it’s already begun, I’m starting to see, the man in me
The man in me”
– From “Big Hill”
More Than Boys will appeal to fans of folk and roots music, although you can definitely sense a real pop sensibility from Jackson, something he may choose to explore on future releases. With a little more experience and some well earned confidence, we may well see some more ambitious compositions from Luke in the future, along with some fuller accompaniment and arrangements to suit.
None of that is necessary on More Than Boys, which is just fine as it is. Very fine indeed.
For more information on Luke and info on buying the album, check out his official website:
Luke also has a Facebook page:
This is a live rendition of one of my favourite tracks from More Than Boys, the infectious “Let It All Out”. It is a performance from one of the Rugby Roots series of concerts: