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.

It’s been a while since Lucinda has graced the UK with her presence and tonight she fitted in a Festival appearance as part of her north European tour.  ‘An Intimate Evening With…’ is a chance to showcase her last album, 2011’s “Blessed”, probably her best offering since “West” in 2006.  But she does not take to merely promoting her most recent work, instead preferring to cherrypick songs from over three decades for the festival crowd.  But make no mistake, this is no greatest hits package as defined by sales but, thankfully, carefully selected songs from a vintage singer/song-writer.   A few technical issues of sound and dry ice distract initially (“We’re not Whitesnake, y’know, I feel like I’m playing in a smoky bar!”)

She kicks off with “Passionate Kisses”, the Grammy-winning track she wrote for Mary Chapin Carpenter.  The concert continues her themes of heartbreak and loss, but it takes a specialist to dissect the human heart without merely going over the same ground and Lucinda succeeds.   Although repetition is a strong feature of her writing style in terms of turning some of her songs into drawling incantations of powerful lines, there’s not enough of this for me tonight as her song choices on the whole avoid such relentless intimacy.  Writing prowess aside, an artist like Lucinda was born to tell her tales live and she certainly is a powerful performer and effective communicator; she also plays a mean acoustic guitar backed only by bass and lead guitar.

Lucinda is “so in the moment” that she forgets her set list and instead works her way through the ballads in her folder, before upping the tempo slightly.  Williams’ voice attracts every Bourbon-soaked cliché but let’s just say she really sounds like she’s been there, and probably on more than one occasion, but at 60 years she still walks with her vulnerability; tonight we hear more of the songwriter and less of the singer.  First person experiences form the bulk of her canon, which ranges from ballad to blues to rock edge which makes Lucinda an exciting live ticket. Long regarded as a competent live artist, Lucinda delivers those contrasts in tempo well, building the energy of the set that peaks at the much requested “Drunken Angel” and angry anthem, “Joy”.  The audience are Lucinda’s contemporaries age-wise and sadly there are very few younger converts in evidence here and mostly festival goers taking a punt on a recommendation, but a core of fans enthusiastically make themselves known between songs.

Most of her albums were represented here including “Jackson” from “West”, the album that did the best, chart-wise in the UK and she showcased 2 new songs including “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, hopefully from a forthcoming disc as she admits that she is longing to get back into the studio.

The encore was an acoustic rendition of Nick Drake’s “Riverman” followed by the gratitude anthem, “Blessed” and it was all over after an impressive set of over 100 minutes.  A quick mention is deserved for Jimmy Livingstone, support act who had his moments also on a singer/song-writer ticket.