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Stephen Jacques releases new album titled 'Groove Atlantic-O'

Stephen Jacques’ long and winding musical career has brought the

Virginia-based singer/songwriter and musician fulsome praise. It’s

well-deserved. Jacques has a little over ten albums to his credit thus

far and the newest collection Groove Atlantic-O, produced and engineered

by famed sound merchant Steve Albini, doesn’t betray any signs of

slowing creativity.

It opens with the largely acoustic “Dreams on Fire”. The weathered gait

of Jacques’ voice gives his already fine lyrics added gravitas and an

emotive edge. Gerald Dowd’s straightforward drumming helps further

punctuate the writing without ever threatening to dominate the song’s

sonic terrain. What initially promises to be a near-folkie affair,

however, breaks out into dissonance by the song’s end and the fiery

promise of the song’s title reaches fruition.

“Women Under Sun” moves the album in a different direction. The up-tempo

rocker has faint echoes of Lou Reed’s influence running through the

performance, but Jacques is a far better traditional singer than Reed

ever was. Scattered electric guitar flourishes serve as musical

exclamation points placed throughout the arrangement and the song’s

propulsive charge carries you away. Jacques ladens “Weird Iceland Hotel

Dinner” with an abundance of specific lyrical details that elevates the

track. His sense of place rivals a fine short story writer and the

song’s sketched-out narrative gains dramatic flavor from his delivery.

Perhaps it’s one of the album’s sleeper tracks but nevertheless an

outstanding example of his songwriting art in full bloom.

The laconic and relaxed “Syracuse Lawn Chair” is another illustration of

his unique artistry. Jacques foregoes a pronounced electric guitar

presence during this song save several biting fills along the way and

returns, instead, to the near-folk terrain of the album opener. His

vocal delivery is, once again, key and breathes deeper life into an

already great lyric. Chris Siebold’s lap steel supplies an invaluable

contribution to “Queen Bee Gone”. It’s a song steeped in melancholy and

loss. Vijay Tellis-Nayak’s keyboards drop flashes of color, as well,

into the composition that further accentuates the mood. It’s an intimate

and thoughtful performance among an album brimming with such standout


The penultimate track “Dining with Horses” continues to utilize

Siebold’s lap steel to memorable effect. Melancholy pervades again, but

there’s a dollop more energy pushing this song forward thanks to Gerald

Dowd’s spot-on drumming. Jacques’ lyrical acumen excels at every turn

during Groove Atlantic-O but particularly shines here. His evocative use

of language, coupling the universal with concrete personal imagery,

brings these songs to life.

The finale “Dusty Italian Bike” continues emphasizing the intimacy

that’s defined the work. These songs come across as near-chamber pieces

and his vocals, placed front and center during each song, give the

lyrics the spotlight they deserve. The lead guitar for the closer is

especially potent and helps strengthen the sense of finality enveloping

this track. Stephen Jacques’ Groove Atlantic-O stands up well against

his previous releases and showcases a musical artist who continues

developing his art rather than lying fallow. It’s essential listening

for anyone who values such qualities.


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