JACK Sandison is definitely a glass-half-full kind of guy, writes Patrick Mainland: “As a songwriter, I believe in positive music. Even the darkest lament will have positive intent somewhere.”
On the four-song EP Dark Horse, that positivity doesn’t reach out and grab you like the feel-good blues grooves of his work with The Holy Ghosts; instead, it flows, a subtle presence in an intriguing set of tunes.
Still young, but in many ways a veteran musician in and out of a number of bands, Lerwick-born Jack has come a long way since the days of the North Star. Here, under the name ‘Jacky Sand & The Soul’, comes a solo project underpinned by a backing band featuring the likes of Daniel McGeever and Bombskare’s Matthew Bartlett.
Dark Horse is 17 minutes of heavily Americana-influenced rock, more restrained, reflective and rootsy than what those familiar with his earlier output may be used to.
His backing band embellish the music throughout, serving both to beef up the sound and to add sweet licks and captivating twists. The clean-cut production makes this all the more effective, with guitars glistening alongside Jack’s assured vocals. Musically, it never tumbles off the edge into something raw and reckless, but still shows an impressive amount of variety in its short running length.
At times it is wistful, such as Day That Strange Love Died, with lyrics inspired by, of all things, a lucid dream from the night David Bowie passed away last year.
Elsewhere, Bigger Picture dabbles in mournful, Spanish flamenco guitar before the surprising twist in the chorus, the closest the band comes to letting loose and playing with fire. Wounded and Weary, a downbeat country ballad, shows the emotion in Jack’s vocals at its fullest. And opening track Long Time Coming is a slow burner – the drums don’t appear until nearly the two-minute mark – and when it hits, the chorus will resonate in your head long after.
Jack describes the record as a “change of pace”, a “retrospective digestive process based on factual and fictional matters.” This change of pace has given him more freedom to experiment and work with musicians he admires. Coming up soon is the official EP launch on Friday 26 May at The Outhouse in Edinburgh – an intimate venue in contrast to the open-air stages he played with The Holy Ghosts.
The following month they support The Rising Souls in a gig at Edinburgh’s Liquid Rooms venue, and in October they have a spot at the Krafty Brew EH6 festival alongside others such as Alabama 3 and Big Country. Tour plans have yet to be finalised, but are in the pipeline, and he certainly hopes to include Shetland on the bill.
So it looks like a busy year ahead. Is there to be more music under this name? “Jacky Sand & The Soul is the guise we are currently going under,” he explains. This relaxed attitude is probably best summed up in his words: “A writer writes, a guitarist strums, a builder builds, a plumber… plumbs?” Hopefully that’s lyrics for the next album.