Sticking with the UK flavor of our last review (Ian Parker’s album paying tribute to blues great Willie Dixon), today we’re discussing the eponymous debut album from a new four-man band called Jawbone (who take their name from a song by The Band). Formed by guitarist Marcus Bonfanti and keyboardist Paddy Milner, both of whom have had some nice success on their own, Jawbone also includes bassist Rex Horan and drummer/percussionist Evan Jenkins.
Bonfanti and Milner share primary vocals, with Milner’s smooth, often jazzy delivery nicely balancing Bonfanti’s gruff voice to create the aural equivalent of the chocolate and peanut butter combination of a Reese’s peanut butter cup.
You get a good taste of that vocal exchange on the strong, opening “Leave No Traces”, on which the pair move from trading verses to harmonizing on the chorus to an intensifying call-and-response exchange that has Milner declaring “heaven doesn’t want me” as Bonfanti finishes the statement with “the devil doesn’t know who I am”, accompanied along the way by some punchy horns and a slick guitar solo from Bonfanti.
What follows is a whole lot more rootsy, cool grooves from the band, with sounds that range from those of Trigger Hippy to Loverboy to TBelly and others, with influences such as The Band, Little Feat and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young also quite evident. Whether it’s swaying ballads like the closing “The Years Use to Mean So Much” and the slow, country-flavored “When Your Gun is Loaded”, or much more uptempo numbers such as the fun, chugging Jim Donovan & the Sun King Warriors-ish alt-rocker “Rolling on the Underground” and gritty, all-out rocker “Big Old Smoke” with its 80s/90s feel, or anything in between, including, for example, the partly biting, somewhat breezy “Get What You Deserve” and the dark, contemplative “Bet on Yesterday” with its horn-laced crescendoes and rapid, rolling classical-style piano playing, Jawbone absolutely nails everything about this 10-track debut.
While Bonfanti and Milner are both pretty impressive on their own, Jawbone allows them to bring out the best in each other musically and vocally, with Horan occasionally contributing falsetto backing vocals for a three-part harmony that’s impossible not to be drawn in by. The album is also quite rich lyrically, as demonstrated on such numbers as “When Your Gun is Loaded” (“don’t point it at your feet” being the concluding sentiment of that chorus, with “never make the same mistakes, I make new ones every day” and “I always seem to find myself, on the outside listenin’ in/ I wish I knew the story, I’ve got the punchline” also being some of our favorite lines from the song) and the serene, inviting “Sit Round the Table”, with lush harmonies complementing such reassuring messages as “Come on and sit round the table, pull up a pew/ let’s laugh at our problems, let’s laugh ’til they’re through/ when we’re sat round the table, time stands still/ let’s share our troubles, like we share the bill” and “When you’ve lost your way, through life’s great complications/ and your mind is full, of things you have to say/ well I know, what you need / you can get it here for free”.
You can’t get this refreshing debut album from Jawbone for free but we promise that it’s worth every penny you’ll spend for it, so make sure you add this one to your collection!
Here’s the official video for “Leave No Traces” to help hold you over until the album’s release tomorrow: