The next instalment is a bit more grassroots but no less important. Saint Jude are a band I have seen as regularly as I can since I first saw them in 2008. Their blend of classic rock and soul from the late 60s and early 70s was always going to sit well with me as I was raised on all the classics from an early age. The likes of The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Faces, Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Free, Aerosmith, and Rare Earth, along with the soul legends Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield, etc, were a constant soundtrack in my youth. Despite the indie leanings in my first couple of blogs, it is this type of music I have always been the most passionate about. While in recent years the rock world has only really churned out poor imitations of the real deal, some have been decent, but nothing that has stopped me in my tracks and made me go “Wow!”, until I saw this lot.
The band made up of Lynne Jackaman (Vocals), Adam Green (Guitars), Lee Cook (Drums), Joe Glossop (Keys), and Scott Wiber (Bass) manage to sound like a classic band already. In Jackaman I firmly believe they have one of the finest female vocalists in the country. Their sound of Janis Joplin fronting The Black Crowes whilst having a party with The Faces I don’t think does enough justice to Jackaman’s vocal power. While she shares Joplin’s passionate delivery and tone, particularly in the higher registers, the range and soul she possesses in her voice appear effortless, and elevates the music to an entirely different level.
When I first encountered the band it was back in 2008 when I went to The Red Lion in Twickenham with my brother to see a few local bands play. Saint Jude were the headliners that evening and as soon as lead singer Lynne Jackaman opened her mouth to sing I was transfixed. Her voiced filled the room and I think I can safely say that everyone was mesmerized not only by the powerful lead vocals, but by the songs too. They had the songs to back up the exceptional musicianship which again is so rare these days. So often you see bands that are brilliant musicians but the song craft just doesn’t scale the same heights. Jackaman liked to make eye contact and hold it, captivating you, holding your gaze while she sang the lines towards you, her intensity reeled you in making you feel like you were the most important person in the room at that moment. I left the gig that night knowing I had seen something very special indeed.
Unfortunately that gig was one of their last in London for around 8 months due to a couple of the band members returning to America. I kept my eyes and ears peeled for more news on them and hoped that this one fleeting moment would not be the last I saw of them. I consoled myself with the tracks they had on their Myspace page, a lot of which made the album Diary Of A Soul Fiend, and in the summer of 2009 they started to spring back into action with gigs dotted around between London and Holland.
Luckily the first edition of ‘Diary Of A Soul Fiend’ had been released on itunes by this point and surpassed all my expectations of what I wanted from their album.
‘Soul On Fire’ leaps into life with a Black Crowes groove reminiscent of their track Sting Me, and showcases Jackaman’s vocal ability flawlessly. Bluesy guitars, melodic piano work, and great horn section made this an obvious single, and has been an entry point for so many people that I have managed to introduce the band to.
‘Little Queen’, another obvious single, is an upbeat soul rocker with a chorus that is so good it is hard to imagine that it has never been written before. ‘Down This Road’ and ‘Down & Out’ show the more laid back acoustic sound the band are able to do so well. The spirit of The Black Crowes more acoustic side is channelled beautifully into those tracks with lovely backing vocals on both the songs’ chorus, complimenting Jackaman’s voice perfectly. ‘Pleased To Meet You’ is the centre piece of the album with a fantastic blues-stomp groove and fabulous Hammond organ playing.
‘Parallel Life’ carrying a potent, heavy riff with a funk edge, a huge chorus, and a great breakdown in the mid section that jams around a sleazy riff, before gloriously bringing the chorus back again. ‘Sweet Melody’ follows the same vein with great interplay between the band with a blues riff, harp, and piano all jostling for position while Jackaman lets fly in her higher register before a seductive chorus cascades around you. The jam section towards the end of the song grooves with flurries of piano and guitar leading into a scorching guitar solo with uplifting Hammond organ accompaniment and freestyling high end bass playing, before the return of that funky breakdown riff and brilliant chorus again.
Southern Belle’s up tempo blues rocking groove and enormous chorus, is another firm favourite in the live environment with exceptional guitar playing by Adam Green, with Jackaman’s vocals being allowed to excel during the mid section.
The album is flawless from start to finish without a single weak track, successfully catering to fans of rock n roll from a golden time, but sounding completely fresh and interesting enough for a new younger generation to discover and get into.
I think what set’s them apart from the current retro rock pack is a number of points. The first is the sheer vocal prowess of Jackaman, whose vocal delivery spellbinds. No matter what music you are into, it would be very hard to find anything constructive to criticise about her voice. The next is the sheer natural brilliance of the musicianship with the quality of each instrument shining through on each track without being “Showy”. A difficult balance to get right, but the band gets it spot on. Lastly (and I think most importantly) the melodic sensibility to the song writing. The songs are so well crafted, holding your attention with melodic peaks as well as low end power. None of the songs ever feel bloated, contrived, or outstay their welcome and any person who has a love of rock n roll from 1968-1975 will definitely find something they love on this record many times over.
Eventually I was able to see them again in 2010 supporting The Union at the Islington Academy after a wait that felt like forever. Subsequently I have been able to see them at one of their 100 Club residency shows, as well as Bush Hall and more recently at my favourite London club venue, The Halfmoon in Putney. In late 2010 Adam Green left the band and was replaced by the exceptional Ivor Sims on guitar. Marcus Bonfanti also joined the band on a full time basis after increasingly regular guest appearances. Their gig at The Halfmoon was the first chance I had to see the new line up and was suitably blown away by the added depth an extra guitar player brought to the party.
All these gigs I have attended I have brought along new people who have never heard them before, and every single one has left completely converted with quotes such as “They have restored my faith in British music again” and “What a phenomenal band!” being fairly standard responses when asked what they thought afterwards. They also have a celebrity fan in the form of the legendary Ronnie Wood from the Rolling Stones who has frequently got up on stage with them to perform when he has attended their shows.
All the while over the last year their profile has been raised, the album re-launched, more and more press coverage, shows selling out as standard, high profile gigs at The Isle Of Wight Festival and this years High Voltage Festival, and a general buzz around them that appears to be gathering momentum. So, I would urge anyone who has not already seen them to get down to a gig as soon as possible, as the way things are going, the days of playing small club gigs will be a thing of the past, and I for one could not happier for them if they pull it off.