An out of the blue message from Steven Jackson earlier this year alerted me to his emergence from artistic hibernation with Before We Land, his first album in a half-dozen years. Jackson used to be a semi-regular performer throughout the southeastern United States, but he’s been busy raising a family–according to his website he also had some serious stage fright issues that kept him from picking up a guitar for five years.
Released under the band name Brighter Things, the new disc picks right up where Jackson’s previous work left off, however. Possessed of a giant voice that’s as expressive whispering as it is wailing, he uses it to add emotional heft to songs such as “Bigger, Brighter,” one of many here referencing the life changes of his past several years.
The rest of the band has a pretty impressive history, having worked with Dave Matthews, John Mayer, and others, and steel guitar whiz Eric Heywood also appears on a few tunes, coloring the proceedings and making this far from just another singer-songwriter album; perhaps that’s why Jackson felt the need to put a band name on it instead of just his own.
Jackson’s imagery is a heady mixture of nature and nurture, with a little obsessive creepiness thrown in. “Hide With Me” takes a beach metaphor to the extreme, invoking sudden coastal storms as a fill-in for the kind of forces that buffet a relationship. On “Not a Bird” he imagines that if he were a bird he’d “hide out in the bushes, wait for you to cry for me,” and this sentiment extends for the entire tune, a classic unrequited love song that’s ultimately more sweet than stalker-ish.
As intense as Jackson’s songs are at times, that could sum him up as well–sweet emotions trumping the darker side of love and life, expressed in music.
for more on Steven and the album, check out his website:
Brighter Things Website
Here’s a brand new video of one of the songs on the album: