I immediately shook my head as I listened to the 4 tracks on Jack Sledge’s EP Notes of a Drifter – (Independent-Drops April 3) because the songs are good. Yes, they’re energetic, driving & Sledge has a wonderfully gritty rootsy rock voice, but…
What’s up with the production? Why so muddy? Where’s the clarity? Where’s the producer? No separation of instruments? It sounds mono. Maybe that’s what they wanted?
Why am I so critical? Because these songs are so likable. The tone of Sledge’s voice — it has spirit, with a street-wise delivery for a young man. The band sounds like they have plenty of endurance. But the drummer sounds like he has towels on his drumheads & (Sam Shahin) is a competent drummer. I hear it.
The New Orleans-based Sledge tackles some heavy-duty subjects & his Brooklyn upbringing with Oklahoma parents is quite a diversified influence.
Track one “Ain’t Dead Yet,” smokes. There’s a Tom Petty quality with a Steve Earle twist. That’s actually a mean feat & the young Jack Sledge does it admirably. He even sounds as if he would be exciting in concert. Jack plays guitar & is joined by Travers Geoffray (piano & organ), Smitti Supab (bass), & Sam on drums.
“Drifter,” is an old-fashioned finger-snapping ballad melodically solid. Jack understands how to sing lyrics with a little angst without being wimpy. He sings with authority & this track could be quite emotionally rich especially if his oohs are replaced by a choir of backup singers. Think Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds,” studio take especially toward the conclusion. That’s how you add drama to a recording.
With a retro 60s garage rock drive “King With Wings” is a typical tune. No new ground but pleasant. As simplistic as it is Sledge manages to add vocal sparks & that’s what keeps it interesting. Drums add fuel to the fire, but they still sound as if they had towels on the heads. They need a snap, with just a little thud. Listen to Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones & this song could soar.
With “Right Hand Man,” Sledge liberally draws from the well of Tom Petty but suffuses it with more bite to his vocal. Something similar to earlier evocative singers like Jimmie Mack (“On the Ice”), Eddie Rice (Eddie & the Tide) or John Cafferty (Eddie & The Cruisers movie soundtrack). On this the Travers Geoffray New Orleans piano sweeps & should’ve been recorded a little hotter. The excitement quotient would’ve been higher.
Tweak production & Jack Sledge will be heard & perceived the way he deserves to be.
The nearly 15-minute EP is available on Jack’s website. http://jacksledgemusic.com/