Don’t you just love it when a new CD grabs you from the very first chord? Jessicas Ghost’s debut album The Winning Hand does just that. The opening track He Said She Said is a happy, upbeat song which perfectly showcases the one of the band’s finest qualities – the musicians. Sarah Bloor’s cello and Martin Gratton’s mandolin combine wonderfully with Moxy’s bass. Once we’ve added Emma Longworth’s superb vocals into the equation, along with Martin’s complimentary backing vocals, we end up with the distinctive Jessicas Ghost sound – and it really is one to savour.
However, good musicians and singers are wasted if their songs aren’t up to much. So you’ll be glad to know that the songs on this CD are top class. I’ve already mentioned the opening He Said She Said. The catchy refrain – ‘All I want is to see you smiling’ – had me singing along after just the second verse and certainly had me smiling! This song, and others on this CD, are well written observations on life and relationships. Ship Of Fools continues in this vein, with the story of two people in a relationship that many of us will recognise as a reflection of either ourselves or our friends. Breaks uses the old ‘life is a journey on a road’ metaphor to good effect, and is followed by Rain Down. Sebastian Bielski plays drums, percussion and accordion on Mr Maddison, a song with a great melody.
Those of you who are fans of Jessicas Ghost will recognise the next track, New Shoes, as the B-Side of their 2008 single Breakdown. It’s about the break up of a relationship, and features Martin on keyboards giving it a good ballad feel. The relationship breakdown theme is continued with the upbeat single of the same name. Summertime opens with keyboards before launching into a song packed full of happy summer images, including spending it with the person you love. Stand Alone starts with a thumping bass line that hooks you into one of the stand-out tracks on the album. Once again, the catchy chorus had me singing along as I listened to it in the car. Perhaps the ultimate accolade came from my partner who thought I was listening to the radio and asked which pop group it was! Work It Out comes next, followed by Leaving Town with its cowboy harmonica. The parred down Bring Me Down finishes off the CD perfectly with just intricate acoustic guitar, bass, and Emma’s sweet vocals, joined by a beautiful cello accompaniment.
The Winning Hand was recorded by Richard JL Smith at The Wall in Wrexham over several weekends in 2008, and was produced by Richard and the band, and is a real labour of love.
There’s been much already written about Jessicas Ghost’s previous EP releases, and often the question is asked ‘Is it folk or pop?’ At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter when the music is this good. So forget Kirsty McColl and The Pretenders. Forget The Coors. If it’s catchy folk-tinged, acoustic pop you’re after then look no further than The Winning Hand by Jessicas Ghost.
Graham Holland is the owner and editor of the Liverpool Acoustic website, and runs Liverpool Acoustic’s award-winning live music events with local musician Stuart Todd. In real life he’s a Web Development Officer, has been producing podcasts on a regular basis since July 2006, and runs a number of websites for other organisations. He lives in Wavertree with his husband and their cat Xiao Hei.