Even now I can still ‘hear’ the silence that descended on the packed Harmonie auditorium when Jack Savoretti came onstage to open for Madison Violet this year. It was the silent sound of expectancy that started out of inquisitiveness –”Is this man really going to hold our attention with just a battered acoustic and a microphone for company?!” If you’ve read my review of that concert you will know that he did indeed do so for the whole of his criminally short set. If you wanted to hear more (I did) then there were the CD’s on the souvenir table.
2007’s ‘Between The Minds’ debuted on the UK Indie charts at place 5 and two tracks from it featured in the hit US TV Programme ‘One Tree Hill. ’ 2011’s ‘Harder Than Easy’ was also critically well recieved so expectations from the Press and also from myself were high for ‘Before The Storm’.
Recorded at Abbey Road, the disc does an excellent job of retaining Savoretti’s travelling minstrel image and retaining his ‘on the outside looking in’ perspective on life and love. The opening chick-a-boom rhythm of ‘Not Worthy’ even now makes me expect to hear Bruce Springsteen start singing “Hey little baby is your daddy home…” from ‘On Fire’ but as on a good many other tracks here, Savoretti has the writing talent to take a style, sound like someone else, but still sound ultimately like himself. ‘The Proposal’ leans heavily on The Eagles sound, ’Lifetime’ is something that could be from the last Joe Cocker CD. Always though there’s that vagabond persona of Jack Savoretti peeping through to make the song his own – most obviously on the very track ‘Vagabond’ “The life of a vagabond is an endless road” he concludes. Hopefully he’s right if it creates songs like these. The title track particularly shines with Cocker style phrasing and Savoretti style lyricism:“When the cold winds blow, I’m gonna know what it means to let you go”
He’s the lonely troubadour again on ‘Crazy Fool’ pleading “Why do you love me, a crazy fool” and concluding “I’m not worthy of your love”. Later, on ’Come Shine a Light’ he bemoans that “Everything I ever want is never mine”
It’s not all slow ballads and broken dreams though I hasten to add. Amongst my favourite tracks are the more up-tempo ‘Last Call’ with it’s up-tempo shuffle beat, and the salsa powered ‘Lifetime’ with a message to subscribe to: “If you feel like you’re wasting your time, that’s okay, waste it if you want to. There’s only so much you can do in one lifetime.”
Although before we all get too happy time-wasting there is a caveat that we also tell ourselves and others white lies:“We will all say goodbye, but that’s alright, happens to everyone. The ‘alright’ part is a lie, but that’s alright, we tell it to everyone”. My favourite track off of the disc is ‘Knock Knock’ which hits all the best buttons on Savoretti’s ability list: A swinging rhythm, hook that sticks long after the song finishes, and a wonderful set of crime in the big City lyrics – “If you can get it with small change, it might as well be free”, in a world where “The sun came up, and the shit went down”
All in all this is a super album for those who fear that songwriting is a dying art. If I’m knit-picking I’d like to hear the rasp of Savoretti’s voice more and the string arrangements less. They seem calculated to draw emotions that the lyrics and voice create perfectly well on their own. The production is a little too slick for my liking. But that really is subjective. I’ve had a number of CD’s on my player recently by much better known musicians and they are excellent discs too, but I’ve come back to Savoretti after every one of them. It’s a disc that needs a few listens but also one that will be played after other discs disappear forgotten down the back of the bookshelf. The reason is simple – This man is a Modern Minstrel with a guitar over one shoulder and a sackful of dreams that are yours and mine over the other. Should he come into your town, give him a place by the fire and a welcome – take it from me, you’ won’t regret it. Until that day, this disc will do just fine.