Made up of a group Cumbrian singer songwriters and musicians coming together to form a collective of sorts, The Jar Family centres around six core members with a larger family coming and going for their live shows. They bring together blues, folk and country with a streamlined 70s classic rock drive. As good as that sounds, for the most part their second album Jarmalade is a by the numbers affair. A pub rock band in style and substance.
It isn't to say its all bad though. Moya Moya is a fun tune you can imagine having a drunken jig to in a bar, the lyrics are performed with a suitably strained delivery as a bunch alcoholic drinks are name checked as it stumbles along, held up by its ramshackle country blues rhythm. Tell Me Baby keeps the scruffy rhythms going and the track's back and forth lyrics sound reminiscent of The Libertines more together moments, its jaunty beat surrounded by duelling harmonica and guitars in its final moments. But unfortunately it all gets worse from there.
Where Do You Come From Babe? sounds like Bob Dylan's It Ain't Me Babe crossed with Don't Think Twice, It's All Right, that is if he'd run out of good lines from his scrapbook. It gets a little more interesting when a female voice enters but unfortunately the lyrics don't improve. In fact there's no lyrical flair on display here, there are no metaphors or symbolism, everything is just literal, with any attempts at soul searching end up being about as deep as a puddle. On top of that, the record is filled with distracting studio trickery, including an over reliance on EQ'd backing vocals, a cheesy and overused technique that doesn't fit in at all with the bands sound.
Despite trying, I couldn't get the idea that Waiting There For You sounded like Flight of the Conchords' Ladies of the World out of my head as the line 'You're a beautiful lady/Picking petals of a daisy' repeated, and its just as cheesy though, I assume, that was not intent. Elsewhere, Tears We Cried sounds like the kind of ballad that Axl Rose could've written when Guns 'n' Roses were at their most bloated and overblown.
Is God My Witness examines religion with all the bite of Christian rock and might be the albums low point, but its not the only offender for poorly thought out lyrics. The band mostly stick to obvious rhyme schemes, leading to some absolutely awful lyrics, by far the worst element in this group. From Paint Me a Picture's poorly thought out social commentary or the perils of social networking on You'll Never Know, its not so much a scathing criticism as much as obvious pot shots.
We need more bands that a rough round the edges, just as at home playing in a small bar as they are larger venues, but I don't know if this band is up to the task. Its all just harmless pub rock, and there is plenty of competent musicianship at hand and a great range of vocals. Maybe if I was in a small crowded pub in an inebriated state my opinion would change, but on record The Jar Family are just a bit bland.
Originally posted on figure8magazine.co.uk