Jade Jackson Returns with Her Blend of Country and Punk on 'Wilderness'

Photo: Matt Bizer / Anti- Records

California country artist Jade Jackson is back with Wilderness, her second collaboration with punk legend Mike Ness.

Jade Jackson


28 June 2019

Jade Jackson first came on the scene in 2017 with her debut LP Gilded which saw her team with producer, and frontman of the legendary southern California punk group Social Distortion, Mike Ness. That first record introduced Jackson as a singer with a soulful voice backed by a country sound that had Ness' fingerprints all over it. The feel came off more akin to Ness' brilliant, understated solo records Cheating at Solitaire and Under the Influences than the electric force of Social Distortion. Jackson showed a talent for telling stories and creating characters to steer the narratives of her songs. The result was so successful that Jackson was tapped by many outlets as "the next big thing" in country music.

Jackson and Ness have now released Wilderness, their second collaboration. Although the sound is similar to Gilded the difference comes in the maturation of Jackson's writing. Her gift for storytelling is still present but this time out she turns inward for the stories. Wilderness is a far more personal record than its predecessor and that glimpse into Jackson as a person is what pushes these songs and grabs the listener's attention.

Though still in her 20s Jackson has a story of survival and perseverance that would rival those twice her age. After suffering a catastrophic injury, she found her way through addiction, depression, and an eating disorder to rediscover her voice in music. When writing for this record, she turned inward and began to tell her story through her songs. While tracks such as "Loneliness" deal with depression, "Wilderness" talks of being lost while trying to find your way out whatever darkness you find yourself in, and "Now or Never" explores a failing relationship, the record isn't all bleak. Each song contains the ray of hope that you will get through whatever you're facing.

Tracks like the opener, "Bottle It Up", get the listener moving and singing along as they begin to draw you into Jackson's story. Musically, Ness helps Jackson create the perfect canvass for her words. Jackson is backed by a three-piece band featuring Jake Vukovich, Tyler Miller, and Andrew Rebel on guitar. The sound is unmistakably California. Every track begins with a country rhythm but is layered with Rebel’s guitar work that adds flavors of the cowboy punk sound that defines work by people like John Doe and Dave Alvin. It is that sound that keeps your foot tapping and humming along to songs like "City Lights" that sees Jackson address her accident to a driving rhythm that belies the seriousness of the lyric.

If there is a downside to the record, it would be the lack of diversity in song style. The experiments and adventure are in Jackson's lyrics while the music tends to have a sameness throughout. Seeing the success achieved when she opened herself up and took a chance lyrically, it will be fascinating to see what happens as Jade Jackson begins to grow and takes a few chances with the instrumentation behind those lyrics.


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