Welcome to Boombox Blitz, an artist spotlight series showcasing overlooked singers, songwriters and musicians who are quietly taking over the world.
“My motorcycle only seats one,” Jade Jackson, of sunny and southern California, broods ominously over the grimy rumble of a motorcycle sputtering down the highway. While the fling “has been fun,” a committed relationship was doomed from the start ⎯⎯ and she moves “like the waters in the river” to her next ill-fated destination. Her feathery voice bites hard and drifts saloon-style amidst a murky, Lindi Ortega-spiraling echo, brutally somber and chilling. That level of honesty flies like a caged bird finally set free throughout much of Jackson’s debut full-length, Gilded, immersed in generous fiddle and steel playing, anxious vulnerability and unsettling restlessness.
“Don’t you know you’re breaking my heart,” she wails on “Aden,” the well-strung, rock-purposed downtempo opening the set with aplomb but ripe with haunting misgivings. “Can’t you see, you’re tearing me apart,” she also imparts to her lover, who has cut ties rather abruptly, leaving her scorned and burnt around the edges. “Please don’t make me move on,” she cries. “Bridges,” then, a rather bleak ballad in which she pleads for her tides to turn and for some kind of solace in another lover’s embrace, is weary-eyed and wistful, as she plods achingly through the motions until her time finally comes. Later, “Finish Line” swells even more vehemently with her agony, granted through her most visceral, bone-crushing vocal take. “I saw the way they looked and I heard them laugh / They couldn’t wait to talk until I turned my back / Well I won’t be that bitter taste in their mouths / So, I ain’t never going back to your family’s house,” she swears, the production piercing her heart and letting all the hurt bleed onto paper. “Instead of just feeling extremely upset and just wallowing in that, I just picked up my guitar and sort of wrote my first empowering song. I feel like that was the really true-to-me song,” she described the song, which trots out classic-strewn mannerisms, right down to the guitar’s woeful howls. “I didn’t have to put myself in somebody else’s shoes. I just was feeling what I was feeling and wrote it.”
Gilded ⎯⎯ the title track of which contains the crucial first verse “there was a time when I was young / I’d lie in the tall grass and stare at the sun /Nothing to do but dig in the dirt / Long before my heart learned how to hurt” ⎯⎯ was produced by Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness. Her history and fascination with the punk-rock band is rooted in her adolescence: as her first concert on her own as a bright-eyed and curious 13-year-old, the performance was transformative, forever seared onto her brain, and it sent her spiraling down a wild and free and hazardous expedition of self-discovery, heartache and atonement. “Troubled End” and “Good Time Gone” twist the knife deeper into rollicking and devilish vices in her attempts to shower her troubled heart with faux-brilliance and to off-set her suffering. Subsequently, often in her most intimate and intensely hushed moments (“Back When,” “No Guarantees”), Jackson allows herself to dig shrewdly into her subconscious, uncovering things long buried beneath mounds of mock emotional heft. “How does one get what they don’t have?” she ponders on “Salt to Sugar,” airy breaths coloring her slow glide up into the notes, with the guitar injecting cumbersome melancholy. “I can’t go back. I’ve gone too far. Got in a wreck and totaled my car,” she sobs. “We both know it’d be better off without me,” the singer mourns on the final number, the sentiment hitting up against a wall of sound.
The album (recorded at Groove Productions Studio in Santa Ana, Calif.) boasts some of the most talented players in country and bluegrass music, from Andrew Redel (guitar, mandolin, piano), Tyler Miller (drums) and Jake Vukovich (bass) to guest contributors Sara Watkins (fiddle) and Greg Leisz (pedal steel). The set is unquestionably ambitious and is steeped in a life well-worn, tattered even, and achingly remarkable. This is only the beginning.
Gilded is out now on iTunes, and you can spin the album below, via Spotify: