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Album review: Jack Biilmann Streams

By Nathan Gubler - 10 February 2017 0

Jack Biilmann

Jack Biilmann is a Canberra based acoustic blues and roots artist heading on tour to promote his latest album Streams. Jack is playing at the UC Refectory on the 25th of February. Tickets available from Oztix.

Jack Biilmann is not one to tip-toe around melancholy; he wears his heart on his sleeve, as he sings so himself.

Perhaps that’s what was so striking about an admission he made to me on 2XX LocalNLive well over a year ago. He confided that he would be writing a song in tribute of Phil Hughes – the prodigious Australian batter who lost his life while standing at the crease – and would be seeking the permission from the Hughes’ to do so. I have more of a shoot-first-ask-questions-later creative process, so Biilmann’s careful approach to writing a track that would tackle such a heavy event is completely admirable. This results in the track Forever Unbeaten*, where underneath his tender tribute you can hear a genuine coming-to-terms with mortality.

Who knows what other sad tales lie behind the songs of Streams, Biilmann’s latest showcase of impeccable songcraft and enviable guitar chops. The title of the album derives from the initial track, contemplating the healing properties of water out of reach of the big cities. Perhaps the songs here are a result of washing the toxins out of some bad memories, but as I’ve learnt interviewing musicians over the years it’s best not to ask those questions.

It’s clear that Jack has every intention of busting open his inner, emotional world, which he implores others to do in Own Worst Enemy, his lead single (of which you can find the video here). The matching of a rugged, soaring masculine voice over a sore anthem about depression perhaps says something about his observations of men keeping cankerous and punishing thoughts to themselves. The Battler muses on something similar, with a man who tries to keep it together for the sake of being perceived as “a battler”. To lighten the load, Jack springs Don’t Complain on the listener, a rollicking, rhythmic banger with a huge chorus, urging listeners to take a step back from their woes and consider how good they have it.

A highlight for me can be found in Empty Bars, a despairing ballad which wrestles with feelings of resentment, towards unappreciative bar-dwellers and wealthy friends who reassure him of his coming success.

Make no mistake; the guitar is the centrepiece here. There are trills, licks and riffs abound, chockful of motifs with nods to country, blues and even reggae. If you want to hear how to cram expressive guitar lines into every corner of a tune, give this record an attentive spin. There are also some big drum sounds here, which cut in at dramatic moments for an earth-shattering effect.

With slick production and an eclectic dose of moods covered, Streams is a crowd-pleaser, though unafraid to dabble in some bluer emotions. If this record is anything to go by, Jack Biilmann live will be sensational. As it so happens, Jack will be touring Streams very soon, and will perform at the UC Refectory on the 25th of February with special guests Moaning Lisa and Sara Flint.

Jack Biilmann
Streams
Release Date: 25th February 2017

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