Alabama is a state in the USA rich with history in Jazz and Blues music. Likely most notable would be the legendary Nat King Cole, but also many more just as important and influential artists such as the “Father of Blues” W.C. Handy and “Big Momma” Thornton. For Jackson Watson of Montgomery, that eclectic musical prowess was adopted at an early age. Today, his appreciation has grown into being inspired by more modern acts such as Harry Styles, Twenty One Pilots, and Michael Jackson. Going as far as actually winning an award from the local news for “Best Video” of his Michael Jackson impersonation in 2015. The sound his music encompasses has elements of many things. You can hear that fundamental passion for blues and jazz, rooted in a modernized Indie-Pop, R&B package. A stellar and talented young man, his debut album was released on his 18th birthday just last year in May of 2021. The pre-order for his sophomore full-length album, “Numb,” is available now on Bandcamp:
Initially listening to the new album, I certainly did pick up on some recurring themes and concepts. My first round through via casual listening, I didn’t realize just how deeply conceptual the work was at the time. Perhaps because I was vibing, moving, and taking in all that R&B and funky ear candy made for consumption. However, according to Watson:
“Numb” is about what it’s like to find yourself into someone and feeling that you’ll never love yourself that much. Through the first half of the album, you can hear me ‘fall in love’ with this person and get completely infatuated by them. However, by track 9 and onward, I take a step back to realize who I am and how to love myself.Jackson Watson on the new album “Numb”
How exciting. I love a concept album. It’s like music theatre. Upon reading that, I put away the dance shoes and prepared to sit at my desk, listening intently to pick out all of the story. Won’t you join me? I get to hear it in advance due to my super awesome blogger privileges (neener neener).
The opening track of the album is “Let’s Surf,” and my goodness is this track an excellent way to open up an album. It hypes like an 80’s montage, dynamic and uplifting. Watson’s voice is invigorating, clearly this is the beginning of the love story. It always starts out that way doesn’t it? You feel invincible.
The next track is “Eye Candy,” one of the tracks you can preview in the pre-order on Bandcamp as well as on Spotify. As the name would imply this is the period of infatuation in new love. Watson notices everything, the eyes, the hair, the atmosphere. The song is certainly funky. Sporadic synths emit a “magical” atmosphere throughout parts of the track. It reminds me a bit of Bruno Mars with some disco vibes in there as well.
The next track is one we should all be familiar with, we covered “Feels Like Yesterday” on #LT1KF before. Also available for preview and on Spotify, the track resonates the feel of a Motown song, which c’mon, is some of the best music on the planet. Back to our story, this song lyrically expresses some uncertainty, but maintains a sense of optimism. It seems like the “love” has matured at this stage of the concept. Such a soulful vocal delivery. However, somber foreshadowing appears to be present with lyrics like, “If you need to go about your way / Nothing will feel as good as yesterday.”
We hit our first snag in the love story with “Running in the Dark.” It kind of sounds like a slow-dance prom song. Watson’s vocal performance is venerable and emotional. At this point something has clearly gone wrong in the story, with lyrics like “never thought we’d grow this far apart,” the storyteller is left to wonder “what the hell they did” to make the other person pretend like the storyteller “doesn’t exist.” Musically, it reminds me of a modern J Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers.
“Sweet Talk” begins with a strummed acoustic guitar, beginning like a folk song but ultimately transitions into a pop-infused café style song. The lyrics make mention a “first time being out in a while.” Watson describes validated feelings of inclusion and other personal sentiments, hold on man, are you falling back in love again? It seems as though he’s getting swayed by a new attention or maybe it’s a rekindling of the first love? The track emits a heavy bassline, making it super danceable. But what about the story? Is Watson hooked again? The sound definitely encompasses what it feels like to be sweet talked.
“Dragonfruit” – ah nothing quite like a summer to bloom romance. The theme is to have fun and “try not to behave.” Watson is getting caught in the moment, making promises. The song is the epitome of Pop sounding, with references to several summer elements that distract his senses.
“Things we can Do” – Watson finds himself once again in the height of infatuation. A fixation if you will. Oh boy you’re in deep now again. Jackson, Jackson, Jackson. Will you ever learn? Still on the fence about whether this is a rekindling or a rebound. Some lyrics leave me wondering of some foreshadowing? For example, not being the “first” to be under the lover’s “spell.” That west coast sounding synth that sounds like a Minimoog voyager adds a nice vibe and touch to the beat.
“All Your Love” sounds like a doo wop song. At this point in the album I feel like whenever Watson does this, it’s a set up! (*laughs*) Again, the vocal delivery reminds me of Motown and in this case, some Prince. All of a sudden Watson drops a “need you back” lyrically. What happened now?!! Oh the emotional rollercoaster. Interesting guitar work gives this track a modern feel.
Okay, we have reached “Chameleon.” Based on the roadmap provided, this is the turning point. It certainly feels so musically. It is a funky tune, with electric piano at the foundation, and horn arrangements that make it interesting. I can see this as a bit of a “bounce back” type of song. There’s an air of confidence on this track. The vocal performance between head voice and chest voice is impressive. Can hear that Queen influence at work here.
On the road now to healing, “Get Better” is thematically a refusal to “suffer any longer.” Themes of being stronger recur lyrically. Organ synths harmonize in the background and chants of “get better” build intensity within the song. Watson is more stand offish in this track with lyrics like “keep your distance” imply a setting of boundaries.
“Blood of the Summer” begs me to question or wonder if we are at a full circle moment. Once again we are approaching, or actually in the summer season, but this time, it would seem, without a significant other. Once again, I have to comment on how impressive the vocal delivery is. The arrangement also makes me wonder if Watson is a guitar player or perhaps writes out some of these songs on guitar first. In regards to the story, this summer seems a bit darker for some reason. Curious.
“Silver” is a piano finale. In my mind, I envision a spotlight on a solo pianist for the first iteration. Oh no is this a sad ending?! The song dangerously started sounding like an old-school doo-wop song again. (*laughs*) Watson leaves the audience wondering just how okay he is, even though just two songs ago confidence, bouncing back, and boundaries were indicating rebound. Lyrically, he resolves the story searching for the “right way” to “hurt himself,” which could be taken in a multitude of ways, but for me, my interpretation of that is a longing to be loved. And love hurts based on the storyteller’s past experiences. Vocally Watson ends with a soulful crescendo to wrap. I almost envision him taking a bow at the end. Which he totally should. Bravo.
Don’t forget to support this project and to follow on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and Spotify. You can also visit his official website. If you enjoy this music and are able to provide monetary support, you might consider downloading it on Bandcamp.
It also helps to stream and share his music; you can obviously find it in the following Playlists: Less Than 1,000 Followers, Fresh Singles, Indie Only, Alterindie State Of Mind, 12 New Songs This Week, Chill Folk Acoustic, and Unknown But Essentials!
Remember that you can always find me here AMS Radio for all my social media and collaborations.
P.S. If you enjoy discovering new artists and fresh new music you can subscribe to this blog Less Than 1,000 Followers and follow the Playlist with all the artists that we have presented here!
This coverage was created via Musosoup #sustainablecurator