Jackson Pines will release a five-song EP, “Gas Station Blues and Diamond Rings,” a follow-up and companion piece to last year’s EP, “Lost & Found.” The two EPs will be combined as an LP later this year.
It’s always fascinated me how American roots music has such a solid foundation in the great culture of country, blues, and folk, yet it’s often about rambling and recklessness. On their third release, the five-song EP, Gas Station Blues and Diamond Rings, Jackson Pines once again prove themselves to be one of New Jersey’s best examples of those kinds of sounds and stories.
The collection opens with the standout “Radio Kid,” a cross between Mississippi John Hurt-like country blues and Paul Simonesque folk-rock that tells of an estranged, deceased father and a time when media and life were simpler, slower and more meaningful. I love the line “sometimes the business is in the front and all the bullshit is in the rear,” as well as the one that inspired the EP’s title and the entire heartbreaking third verse.
The EP continues with “Bay Ridge,” which expands the duo of singer-songwriter-guitarist-harmonica player Joe Makoviecki and upright/electric bassist James Black with drummer Santo Rizzolo (Dana Fuchs, Tara Dente) and Erik Kase Romero, who plays a sweet, soulful Hammond B3 on this track and others. Romero also co-produced with Makoviecki and recorded and mixed at The Crib in Oceanport. “Bay Ridge” is a pretty ode to Jane Austen, Irish bloodlines and true love that features a nice country yodel near the end.
The country vibe continues with “Roll,” a hearty strum about roaming along the liberating but challenging home of the road. Makoviecki sings, “I was born with a star in my eye and a knack for the Irish goodbye.” I can so hear Kenny Chesney or Zack Brown doing this fun but meaningful romp. Jackson Pines should try to sell it to them.
Up next is the single, “Thinking About It,” a rhythmically spare, melodically simple ditty that balances hours wasted on a cell phone with those spent with loved ones. The closer is “Friends of Mine,” an awesome Woody Guthriesque modern-day folktale about what became of childhood friends. The cast of assorted misfits and outcasts includes an addict’s wife, a shunned lesbian, a suicidal jock and a woman whose sexual identity is misunderstood by friends.
Throughout Gas Station Blues & Diamond Rings, Makoviecki picking is first rate and compliments his rootsy croon like cream cheese on date nut bread. To be released Jan. 11, the new EP is a prequel to the previous one, Lost & Found. The two collections will be combined into an LP later this year. In the meantime, Jackson Pines will play Jan. 5 at Sofar Sounds, New York City; Jan. 18, Light of Day, The Asbury hotel, with The Burns, and Feb. 9, State Theater, Easton, Pa., with Honeysuckle and Pentley Holmes.