Jackson C. Frank – self-titled (vinyl reissue)

Jackson C. Frank - self-titled

Jackson C. Frank – self-titled

With a career bookended by personal traumas, a slim discography in and out of print for years and a host of endorsements from peers and disciples (often in the form of cover versions), it’s been hard to appreciate Jackson C. Frank’s body of work in isolation.  Now appears a vinyl reissue of his sole official album from 1965, on the newly-established Earth Recordings. Shorn of previously-affixed extras – aside from an enclosed CD of the same ten tracks – Frank’s key recordings reappear the way they were originally intended, facilitating a fresh focus on his slender but enduring songbook.

Produced with unvarnished but somewhat otherworldly intimacy by Paul Simon, the ten gathered songs capture Frank’s keening voice backed only by his adroit acoustic guitar playing, allowing the songs to breathe candidly in all their discomfort and allure.

The wistful opening “Blues Run The Game” (covered by everyone from Nick Drake to Laura Marling) is Frank’s most defining piece of heartbreak, shot through with a philosophical resignation that just about pulls you through his darkness.  However, there are other great songs to be found in its wake.  The rousing politically-slanted “Don’t Look Back” nods brilliantly to onetime contemporary – and similarly troubled – folk orator Phil Ochs; the sublime “Kimbie” and “Milk And Honey” dig similarly lonesome depths as the introductory track; the bluesy picking strut of “Here Comes The Blues” channels Bert Jansch in rambling troubadour mode; “My Name Is Carnival” taps into an eerie haunted dreaminess; and the rueful “You Never Wanted Me” closes the collection with a bitterness and yearning that feels strangely uplifting.

With such beauty in his sadness, it’s all the more tragic that Jackson C. Frank never got the rewards he deserved.  These ten tender and tense songs clearly merited more affection than they received at the time.  We can though, with this simple but effective reissue, honour his talents by airing them once again in true analogue warm.

Earth Recordings