Although Stephen Jacques is the master of pushing his own musical boundaries, taking the singer-songwriter form into excellent pastures new and skirting the realms of folk and pop and country and beyond, there is always a seasoned underground acoustic rocker to be found at the heart of his songs. The sort of guy who would have been found opening up for the likes of Dogs D’Amour or The Quireboys at the point when they drunkenly tumbled out of the pub backrooms of West London and into the public consciousness.

The new album, his eleventh, Groove Atlantic-O, is a cool collection of music, a sweet suite of love songs that look to the energy and romance of the titular ocean for inspiration.

He can play the coffee house folk troubadour with Syracuse Lawn Chair as deftly and readily as he can stick his foot on the monitor and fire off rock and roll salvos with the latest single, Slept On a Ridge, reflect on harsh realities as he does on opener Dreams on Fire as easily as he can gently tease with good-natured humour, which he does throughout the album but particularly well on Weird Iceland Hotel Dinner.

There is also something wonderfully Bukowski-esque about how he lyrically paints his various scenes and scenarios, a blend of the every day and the mythological and peopled with a cast of heroes and losers. And musically, he is always accessible, consistently inventive and eminently great company and proof that the singer-songwriter format doesn’t need changing, as many record companies seem to be suggesting, but that most people performing under that guise just need to write better songs. I’m not saying that many will get to the benchmark that Stephan Jacques has set for himself, but it wouldn’t hurt if a few of them tried.

Pick up Groove Atlantic-O now and work your way through the hefty back catalogue; you’ll be glad you did. And if you fancy yourself as a musician, make notes. Make lots of notes.


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