At turns rustic and sensual, Jack Savoretti's Written in Scars proves his most lustrous effort.
Singer-songwriter Jack Savoretti has been working the music scene since 2007, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that he truly began to make any strides in the industry. His debut, Between the Minds, was pleasant enough folk-pop, but it failed to catch on with audiences. Returning in 2009 with Harder Than Easy, Savoretti stripped back the pop-leanings and focused more intently on the folk elements, widening the perimeters of his songcraft slightly to experiment with blues-based rock. Despite being a far more developed work than his debut, the album was received with even less attention and Savoretti toyed with the idea of throwing in the towel.
Pulling a last ditch effort, Savoretti came up a winner with the blues-soaked melodrama of his third album, 2012’s Before the Storm. It was the album that finally awarded the singer success and captured audiences’ attention across the European continent. Shedding much of the previous pop influences of his prior work, Before the Storm explored the rootsier ends of rock, dipping generously into Americana and Piedmont blues. Having at last hit his stride, Savoretti toured extensively in support of the album and became a live favourite.
Seeing as how the singer’s experiments with the admittedly unfashionable roots music has served him so well, it’s a little surprising to find him return to the more pop-oriented efforts of his first two releases on Written in Scars. Savoretti’s latest still retains the rustic folk elements he’s been refining throughout his career, but those elements are now housed in pop structures that are at once familiar and wonderfully imaginative. An invention of pure drama, Written in Scars is a work of simple, clean and utterly delectable pop that has the panoramic sweep of cinema.
Opening with the gentle swing of “Back to Me”, Savoretti betrays what has become his singular trademark: a chocolate-liquored rasp that glazes over sweetly and thick. A fairly innocuous opening number, the track is undoubtedly the best introduction to Savoretti’s voice, which unfolds its many shades and textures over the course of the album. Single “Home” offers a luxuriously windswept romance of galloping drums and the mist of airy synths; it’s the sound of cowboys going lush in the wine-soaked blaze of a prairie ride. Later, the singer submits to a seduction in groove even stronger on “The Other Side of Love”, a boxy metronomic shuffle of sheer gorgeous pop, working a rhythm both sensuous and muscular; it’s a most palatial entry in a catalogue of work that has expanded over time with beautifully crisp and deeply-observed songwriting. Many of these songs find an amative counterpoint to the rustic blues-folk musings; often, the romantic overspills threaten teasingly toward concupiscence and the singer skilfully manages a thrilling escape, leaving behind the impressionable sentiments of his storied loves.
Turning impressive corners on the flamenco-flushed title-track, Savoretti is again rewarded with a number full of cinematic splendour, evocative of the scuffed, sepia-toned self-portrait that graces the album’s cover. In its rickety swing of countryside parlance, there is a song here of revolution and myth. More pop magic is to be found on the slow, thick rush of “The Hunger”, ringing with the memorable hooks of which much the album is constructed with. When things simmer down on the more pensive numbers like the faithful cover of Bob Dylan’s “Nobody ‘Cept You” and the spectral folk-pop of “Wasted”, we are referred to a moment of deliberation and command, a songwriter’s craft of noble restraint. Many songwriters work this circuit, parlaying their strengths into concepts grander than their own abilities. Here, Savoretti plays to his strengths and turns up what is his most satisfying and lustrous effort.