'Gabriel' is Jack Nolan’s fifth solo album, and the first album he's yielded to someone he trusted enough to produce.
This is an album that mines its own carefully sculpted acoustic world with a profoundly atmospheric sense of place, and a depth of self-knowledge that speaks of arrival after a lifetime of sometimes hard, sometimes tender experience.
Jack Nolan is a singer songwriter based in Sydney who’s s been performing and releasing music and albums since the mid 90’s. Along with a five-album solo catalogue Jack also fronted The Kelly Gang, with Rick Grossman, bassist for The Divinyls and Hoodoo Gurus along with Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst and guitar player Martin Rotsey. Their 2004 album Looking for the Sun was critically adored along with their energetic live shows of the time.
Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.
Within Nolan’s music, mysterious and shimmering chords unite his sound with that of the Americana genre, once quaintly described as ‘Darlinghurst Country’, uniting elements of folk, country, rock ‘n’ roll and ambient atmospheres fusing Nolan’s passion for intensely charged electric guitar and finger-picked acoustic guitar.
With three children entering their teens, it was post these releases that family and fatherhood took centre stage. Playing, performing and writing as much as possible, along with getting a ‘real’ job, Jack’s intention was to get back to the music. So it was that Jack finally assembled his band again, and took to Electric Avenue Studios in Sydney for the initial sessions of what was to become his next album.
When listening to the playbacks mid recording, a manager friend listening along was impressed and made a chance comment, ‘why not take this to the States to finish and mix it there?’ It was the spark that eventuated in Jack hunting down a favourite Nashville native Mike Poole, an American producer engineer renowned for his work with artists like Robert Plant, Patty Griffin’s and Buddy Miller. With tracking and mixing completed with Mike, the album ‘Our Waverley Star’ was released in 2018.
“We were on the road, from heaving LA freeways and into Death Valley, a most peculiar place, an unknown place,” Nolan says about the album’s eponymous lead single.
“When your mind is elsewhere, irretrievable, like mine at the time, the valley’s a parallel universe, perdition. We were in the midst of a three-day dream. I fell upon a crossroad, landing eighty-six metres below sea level in the Californian Desert at a place, Badwater Basin, where an androgynous guardian appears, Gabriel, kind, gentle yet hard-lived and furrowed, who gave and left me with hope that all would be well.
“The original version, the demo, had that magic, which I thought about releasing it as it was, having gone into the old Damien Gerrard studio in Sydney, to bang down some ideas. I played everything, guitars, shakers, lead, the vocal and I also sang the harmonies. It worked, but my belief in the song told me to give it the environment it deserved. Arriving in Nashville I briefed producer Justin Weaver, who went about recreating the demo perfectly from the ground up.
“I still handled the guitars, the lead vocal and all harmonies but was smart enough to hand off the rest to the boys.”
Turn your inbox up to 11. Sign up to Beat’s newsletter and you’ll be served fresh music, arts, food and culture stories.
Having caught the Tennessee bug while finishing his 2018 album ‘Our Waverley Star’, Jack returned to Nashville in February 2020 for two weeks of recording and mixing with his friend and multi-instrumentalist Justin Weaver, known best as the Dixie Chicks’ guitarist. After the most intense and enjoyable fortnight possible, Jack headed home in March 2020, a day before a hurricane wiped out Nashville, and less than a week before the world changed forever, if the word Wuhan rings a bell.
And so it is, Jacks latest album, Gabriel, set for release October 2021, keeps the wheels moving on the meaningful passion of this writer and performer. The genesis, Gabriel came to Jack a few years ago, sat at his side on a long desert drive that he wasn’t sure he’d come back from. The title track, in its own unhurried and roundabout way, eventually found itself in Nashville, USA, on an album completed just before COVID-19 wrought its havoc on the world.
Produced by Justin Weaver and captured on two-inch tape in the aptly named ‘Welcome to 1979’ Studios by engineer Chris Mara, the assembled band included drummer Jimmy Paxson, bassist Chris Autry, keys player Phil Towns and pedal steel player David Spires who were joined by backup singers Terri Lynn Weaver & Siobhan Maher Kennedy. Justin himself applied the deeply textured lead and electric guitars.
Atonement is upfront in titles like ‘The Hopeless Son’ and ‘Restitution Song’. Others — ‘Tomorrow Came’, ‘Faster Than the Speed of Change’, ‘A Fool Would Follow Me’ — are deeper stocktakes, songs from life’s rear view mirror.
Ghosts of people and places and other, maybe darker things, receding for sure, but too close to ignore.
For all the Jack Nolan info you could desire, head to his website here.