“One Eye Open, One Eye Closed” – Jimmy Livingstone (by Klare Stephens)

3 stars (out of 5)

1

Jimmy Livingstone

Jimmy Livingstone

I came across Jimmy Livingstone when he supported Lucinda Williams at the Brighton Festival in May and was impressed enough with the live performance to buy his CD.  Then it was one man and his acoustic guitar, so I was pleasantly surprised to find the album has horns and strings (both competently arranged by Livingstone), keyboards and percussion to enhance his sound.

Jimmy has twangs of country, blues riffs and strums of folksiness to add to his essentially acoustic sound, yet his voice is almost Neil Diamond; his inspirations must therefore be pretty broad, though he never sounds derivative.  The CD kicks off with “Getting By”, a good way to introduce himself and his troubadour lifestyle, but track 2, “Desert Song”, his first single is more swinging.  Although he sings, “I’m crawling out of the wreckage at the bitter end of love” there are thankfully few clichés here about women or rock ‘n’ roll; he sings “I don’t need to blow my brains away, I’m not that rock ‘n’ roll”, but the track hits its stride well.  The torchier “The Waiting Room” sees him waiting for love and Doggen Foster lends some authentic bluesy electric guitar at the end.  Then it’s more upbeat again…

Track order is important on a recording and Jimmy has probably got it right here, although the part of me that likes my artists tortured would have liked the downbeat tracks to have been placed together.  I can understand the man wanting to keep precious creative control, but I wonder if he had relinquished production altogether (credits are to JL and Eric Liljestrand) he might have been pushed to explore his depths just a little more; instead it sounds like he decided to try to keep it reasonably upbeat-sounding.

If anything, Jimmy Livingstone sometimes tries to cram too many ideas into one song and occasionally they suffer from too much verse and not enough refrain to make a song immediately memorable but, I suspect, in his creative process the lyric comes first.

Useless Man” starts almost like the Rolling Stones with electric guitar and unique percussion and rocks with attitude; as a result his voice is stretched a little further.  This track should have been the single in my opinion, as he really speaks up for himself and sounds comfortable doing so but it is less representative of the collection as a whole.  “In Your Own Sweet Time” is a piano-led song of longing “I’ve gotta let you come to me, come to me, in your own sweet time, sweet sister of mine”.  It reminds me of Nick Cave’s “Into My Arms” and is the best of the ballads, although it’s a little unclear if the song is written to a soul-mate or sibling.

As a bonus the physical CD, as opposed to the download, includes a lyric book, although it needn’t have as Jimmy’s diction is crystal clear.  There is range here both musically and lyrically and this is an above average contribution to various genres.  It’s an album that sounds like it was a long time coming and I hope that future offerings have intentions and production values that allow for further exploration of both his wandering lifestyle and his musicality because, ultimately, he does not really take risks with this, his first disc.

And an extra half star to take it up to 3.5.