Marshall Crenshaw – Jaggedland

January 01, 1970

(429 Records)


Realizing that Marshall Crenshaw’s debut album is marking
its twenty-seventh birthday this year, I’m feeling old. But Crenshaw is just feeling older.


I never thought I’d celebrate a Crenshaw record whose
central themes are guilt, regret and reckoning, but I never thought Crenshaw
would write about those topics with such skill and ease. The tentative smile on
the album cover might hint at an impish moment, but it’s that gaze of
resolution on the back cover says it all.


Ultimately, life is what it is, and whether your past will titillate
or send shivers up your spine, it’s best to bite down and keep walking. Disappointment
like “There She Goes Again” used to be handled by getting a “Brand New Lover”.
But an older wiser Crenshaw knows better; “I’ve gotta let time do what it
will”, he says in “Eventually”. And while his vocal might sound upbeat in
“Sunday Blues”, but he’s seeing the cloud in the silver lining; ditto the
“Stormy River” where he “don’t want to be taught any more lessons”.  His happy memories here are either dreamscape
or delusion, but he’ll wallow if necessary. Life truly is a “jagged land”; you
need to tread carefully.


Although the album was recorded in locations from Brooklyn
to London, it sounds cohesive thanks to a stellar group of solid musicians like
Jim Keltner and Wayne Kramer, and especially multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz,
who plays David Lindley to Marshall’s Jackson Browne. The all-Crenshaw
“Gasoline Baby” isn’t a lyrical fit, but then again neither is the instrumental
title track, but they’re wisely placed as palate cleansers within the album
giving you the aural effect of a three act play. And if the last song is the
final act, at least Crenshaw leaves the window of hope cracked a little. “I’d
love to go back and undo a few things I have done”, he sings, “but we move on
trying to live and learn.”


A tip of the cap to whoever goaded the old guy to give us
another gift, an album of all original material fleshed out by a stellar group
of musicians and produced with loving care. Crenshaw’s playing and writing are inspired
and his voice is in top form. Jaggedland is easily his best work since Life’s Too
and a reaffirming statement from an artist who should have plenty
left in the tank.


Standout Tracks: “Eventually,” ‘Long Hard Road,” “Right on Time” BILL HOLMES


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