James River Swim – Stephen Jacques (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

With the previous, Charmed to Death, album Stephen Jaques proved that he was as equally at home with a foot on the monitor arse-kicker as he was a more deft and delicate ballad. This latest single, taken from his new album, Soul Hydraulics, certainly comes from the latter end of the sonic spectrum.

But as always, there is more to the story than that. Yes, the song is fairly restrained, balladic, haunting and ethereal, a lilting and laidback piece draped in shimmering guitar shards and heavenly harmonies but it has enough drive and edge to pull it out of the realms of the merely soft and the sentimental, though it exercises both of those elements too.

And there is something about Stephen Jacques voice which adds to the edge and frisson of the piece, his voice sitting somewhere between Lou Reed and Nikki Sudden and the music reflecting the bluesy balladry of the latter as much as it does the streetwise edge of the former.

As always, it is the natural allure and underplayed production of the song, its offbeat and outsider nature which makes it much more attractive than any highly polished sonic artefact that might catch your eye. Or should I say ear.

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