Review: Jack J Hutchinson – ‘Battles’

British guitarist and singer-songwriter Jack J Hutchinson is on a hot streak of late. Released in 2022, his third solo album, ‘The Hammer Falls’ was well-received and showcased a heavier sound from the likeable North West native now residing in London. Quickly following this up with the Kevin Shirley-produced EP ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’, Jack J was putting the turbulent Covid-times firmly in the past while not so much making up for lost time, but you get the picture. And now Jack is back with a new, lean 10-track album: ‘Battles’.

Any mention of Jack J Hutchinson is usually accompanied by “Blues guitarist” or “Blues-rock guitarist”; a description that conjures up images of trad blues players waking up one morning to find their baby had left them. Or of them going to the crossroads for some sort of salvation. ‘Battles’ is neither. To these ears at least it’s a hard rock album and a damn fine one at that. Soft shuffling blues it most certainly is not, in fact, except for album closer ‘Stay With Me’ (Jack’s strongest vocals to date, on a track that sparks Velvet Revolver flashbacks) devout Man Utd fan Jack very rarely strays towards the blue side.

At times, Jack’s vocals spark memories of Ozzy. That same unschooled rawness. His prowess as a guitarist was always there for all to see, and now Jack has found his voice. ‘Constellations’ opens the album and immediately it is obvious that there is a huge set-up in quality from what Jack has created before. “I’ve found my better days…” he offers up triumphantly on a tale of defiance and survival. Played at a fast tempo with some dazzling guitar solos and a thumping drum sound from Billy Hammett (this kid has some killer footwork) it is a cracking way to introduce the album.

‘Days Are Gone’ quickly follows on and dazzles with an effects-laden groovy intro that packs a bit of a snarl to it. Mixing it up, Jack then takes his foot off the pedal as the track grows into a melodic few minutes full of hooks that hang around for days afterward as Jack talks about “Lessons learned…” on one of the more radio-friendly of the 10 tracks featured on ‘Battles’ (along with the ‘Road To Hell’ and ‘Love Is The Law’ which both feature Jack changing tone vocally to great effect). Well, that would be the case if mainstream radio was not afraid of a guitar solo here and there.

‘Battles’ is in places quite a hefty album, and ‘Running On Empty’ is a great example. Along with Romesh Dodangoda, Josiah J Manning is rapidly becoming one of the go-to producers of the UK rock & metal scene, and one listen to the drum sound that he coaxes out of Billy Hammett on ‘Running On Empty’ highlights why he is so highly regarded. Crystal clear and powerful, without the common issue of the day that has blighted so many recent albums: sheer volume that distorts the overall result. Even at full volume, it remains clear. ‘Don’t Let The Fuckers Get You Down’ continues in the same vein and Hammett’s playing is crucial, especially when Jack floors it with a tasty solo that comes out of nowhere at the 2-minute mark. However, it is the Joe Walsh ‘Life In The Fast Lane’-like guitar tones that impress the most. They have a ballsy swagger to them that is missing in a lot of music today. Top marks on this one. Other moments of note for purveyors of fine guitars would be the shimmering guitar sound on ‘Days Are Gone’ and the organic lighter-than-light tones of ‘Love Is The Law’. On the latter especially, Jack shows great restraint and keeps the solo short where others might overplay and bludgeon the listener with too many notes. Smooth Jack, very, very smooth.

Without wishing to state the bleeding obvious, ‘Battles’ is Jack’s best album so far. Curious to hear what he cooks up on the next album.

‘Battles’ is out now on all digital platforms https://earache.lnk.to/Battles

Physical copies are available here.

Tour dates:

22 February 2024 – Flying Circus, Newark
23 March 2024 – Rockin’ The Blues, Sittingbourne
27 April 2024 – St Austell Band Club
28 April 2024 – Bosworth Blues Festival
1 May 2024 – Bannerman’s, Edinburgh
2 May 2024 – Yardbirds, Grimsby
5 May 2024 – Outlaw Weekend, Glossop
29 June 2024 – Wildfire Festival

Tickets available from jackjhutchinsonmusic.com

Web: http://www.jackjhutchinsonmusic.com
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/JackJHutchinson
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JackJHutchinsonBand
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jackjhutchinson
YouTube: https://youtube.com/@JackJHutchinson

Review – Dave

Portrait – Rob Blackham

Live images – Rob Wilkins

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