The other week some bellend, attention seeker took to Twitter and went viral as he explained that he thought support bands should be abolished. Probably because he’d never seen the object of his desire with no clothes on.
OK, I am giving them more attention here with the intro but it is a neat segue into why you exactly you should always watch the opening acts. I mean, I could tell you the story of how I was stuck in traffic and missed Royal Blood opening in a venue about the size of the average family car, but instead we’ll stick to this one.
A few years ago (actually in the venue a couple of flights of stairs down to where I’d missed Royal Blood come on before Turbowolf) I went to worship at the feet of White Buffalo. Jake Smith, that night had an act on before him that I didn’t know. I did 40 minutes later. Jarrod Dickenson was brilliant that night. He’s been brilliant whenever I’ve seen him since too, but its this, his new album that concerns us here, and lets come right out and say it: “Big Talk” is one of the best he’s ever done.
“Buckle Under Pressure” perhaps shows this one is more of a “rock n roll” record than some of JD;s canon . Not too far from a Brian Fallon tune, or perhaps a Mike Cooley Drive-By Truckers one. The organ is perfect, the attitude is on point. It’s a strident opener, that’s for sure.
If this is Jarrod in 2023, then cool.
Let me tell you, though what Jarrod Dickenson is in 2023, because he’s all of that and more. It’s not too big a call to say that Dickenson is one of the finest singer-songwriters around these days.
“Born To Wander” is Americana, at its root. But its done with a twist. That’s what he does across all these. He takes well-worn themes (in this case, the life of a troubadour) and makes them his own.
“Home Again” (featuring Oliver Wood And Jano Rix) is filled with traditional sounds, almost gospel in parts “I just feel there’s something more than this” he sings, and maybe he’s still searching. However “Prefer To Lose” is a horn drenched, soul filled, slice of catchiness and it’s a highlight, so he’s found the sweet spot.
“Bamboozled” is arguably the best cut here. Coming straight out of a New Orleans backstreet to excoriate Trump and the evils of populism and this collection feels perhaps – a little more than usual – to be about the world around him rather than a collection of stories.
“With Any Luck” is the type of timeless stuff that MV faves The Sheepdogs knock out with aplomb, and speaking of timeless, “If You’re Looking” could be from any era from when Sun Studios opened its doors to now and still fit in.
On an album full of fresh ideas, “Long Hard Look” is still a “wow” moment. The twist at the end of the blues tune is worthy of a miniseries, and on an album that is basically built around it’s keys, “Don’t Deprive Me” has both a wonderful organ lick and is a break-up song (appropriately for the vibe around these songs) that is familiar and new all at once.
It all ends with a simply gorgeous ballad, “Goodnight” – written about his grandparents – full of storytelling and imagery, it gives the album a wonderful ending and another turn down another path.
“Big Talk” is warm, it is exquisitely done and a record of real, true skill. That it takes in so much during its 35 minutes, but manages to sound so cohesive is a neat trick. It’s not big talk at all to call this one – already – as one of the best records of its type in 2023 come year end.
Oh, and always go and watch the support band. You may see a gem.