Friday, August 19, 2011

REVIEW: Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers - Luck

There are bands that play at rock and roll, and there are bands that play rock and roll. And there are bands whose art is so convincing that you can say that they have a rock and roll heart. The rock and roll heart beats strongly in Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers. On their debut release, Luck, they don't give you slick music with soaring harmonies. But they do make you want to move and sing along, and they validate that life can be hard and cruel but if you're still breathing, still sipping your drink, you're winning. Most importantly, they make you feel. And if you don't feel what Jacob's feeling, the music just might remind you to think about something else you should be thinking about. (Of course, if you don't want to think about it, you can drink to forget.)

In general, the sound is a mix of blues, punk, swampy southern roadhouse Americana, rockabilly, Tom Waits storytelling, bar band and Glasgow urban rock. And the songs are fleshed out by Jacob's direct, observational and somewhat outrageous lyrical expression. The instrumentation is guitar, bass, drums and piano/organ. Listen to them and you can hear the authenticity of the descriptions of Jacob's music as "Doom Wop" and "Horror R&B". Think Tom Waits and Nick Cave channeling Junior Kimbrough. But why just think about it? You can hear it in one of my favorite tracks -- "Can't Stop":

There are eight tracks on Luck. Some of them are stompers, and some of them are mid-tempo musical stories. The opening track, "Mark", is one of the doom wop stompers, and kicks off proceedings with a fittingly dark tone. The following surrealistic psychobilly of "Black Dog" leads us to another of my favorites, "Mary Hell". "Mary Hell" is a horror R&B impression of the Maryhill area of Glasgow, complete with descriptions of Jacob's legless father and a barbecued cat. "Dundee" is a musically softer, but continues the dark tone. The fifth track is the above "Can't Stop". The sixth through eighth tracks encapsulate the band's range. "Vessels" is a serious and stately piano-driven piece with bitter lyrics. "Lemonade", which I've provided below, is a rousing slide guitar bit gem of bluesy pop/rock. "Luck" closes with "When You Left Me". And this final track underscores why the music of Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers is so much more than a weekend night's good times soundtrack. The somber subject of the death of Jacob's dad is told in a way that conveys love, loss, anger, and abandonment, but is infused with sufficient deftly phrased levity to provide genuine depth to the story. I suggest you treat yourself to a session with that song at the Bandcamp link below.

Popular track "Lemonade" (as a backdrop to a biking video):

Escaping the city from Stefan Morrocco on Vimeo.

Overall, the album is both boisterous and dark. To understand the darkness, you need to realize that since the music is based on Jacob's observations, it reflects a certain Glasgow experience. Experience with a city in which a sizable segment of the population is being treated for drug dependency, and many dwellers deal with drugs, gangs, joblessness and sectarian strife. It is just a different facet of the modern human condition illustrated by Kimbrough, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Hound Dog Taylor and other greats in America.

Thanks to Re:Peater Records, you can stream the entire album below:

Jacob's actual surname is Lovatt; Yates is his mother's maiden name. The band is listed as "Jacob Yates, Jamie Yates, Rick Yates and Michael Yates", but the other three actually are Richard Holmes (guitar), Michael Bleazard (traps), Jamie Bolland (keys and guitar). Luck was recorded at the Green Door studio and is released on Re:Peater Records. As is the case with the band's labelmates, She's Hit, the attractive album art is by Hrafnhildur Halldorsdottir.

I love this album. For me, it is one of those essential branches of rock music that some of us who grew up in America, decades ago, find to be hard wired into our brains. Even if this edition, and the stories it tells, come from Glasgow. Should you be interested in agreeing with me, I've provided the Bandcamp link to Re:Peater records below.

Bandcamp link for album
Facebook for Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers
Hrafnhildur Halldorsdottir's website

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