Jack Law is a bit of an unsung veteran of Scots music. Way back in the 70’s he was a member of Greenmantle, a band who shared a stage (including the infamous Green’s Playhouse, later The Apollo) with the likes of Billy Connolly, Gallagher and Lyle, Donovan and even Wishbone Ash. Greenmantle ended in 1976 but Law retained his interest in music and began recording again with a reformed Greenmantle and a new outfit, Raging Twilight, in the 2010’s, accompanied by a successful return to the stage.
Like many of his peers, Law wrote his songs through a prism of American music – Dylan and late 60’s LA Canyon especially – while basing many of his later recordings on his own trips to the States. He describes himself as a storyteller but, with the onset of Corona virus and the resultant lockdown, he found that he was drawn to writing about more inner journeys. As he says of the pandemic, “Small things became larger… our past has become the focus of our attention, remodelling and reshaping our understanding.”
Recording at home, Law has embarked on a series of more personal and introspective songs which he plans to release in instalments over the coming months. Shock Of The Blue is the first of these offerings, a three song EP which, to our mind, contains his best songs to date. Playing guitars and bass, with keyboards on one song by Duncan Sloan, Law comes across as a seasoned and wise troubadour, wandering through his thoughts and his past.
Lonesome Avenue trickles out – bedecked with piano, organ and some sly guitar licks – for all the world like a mournful Rolling Stones ballad from their glory days, while Law’s wearied voice comes across in a similar manner to that of grizzled rock’n’roll veteran, Ian Hunter. It’s quite wonderful, poignant and full of regret. Down From The Hill finds Law utilising his home studio set up to great effect. A rudimentary percussive backing (which is somewhat wayward at times) is appealingly naive and sits wonderfully behind Law’s labyrinthine thickets of guitars and sound effects which give the song a slight psychedelic edge, an edge amplified by the vocal effects which recall the whimsy of Syd Barrett.
There’s a definite whiff of nostalgia in both of those songs and the final number, Love, Lies, Bleeding is no different. Here, Law returns to his original roots in the 60’s when he and his peers were picking up on the mantle of Dylan and the folk revival. Part talking blues, part poetic, the song manages to accomplish the difficult task of sounding as if it could have been performed by the original Incredible String Band or Rab Noakes, had they been given a very advanced copy of Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks. It does portray its origins, but it’s performed magnificently and is a fine closer to a grand little release and we look forward to hearing the next instalment.