Jack Broadbent’s Ride has a small, immediate sound, like someone waking up from a dream and trying to capture everything in a bedside journal before the images exit the mind. Except in Broadbent’s case, the final product is bluesy, slide-driven rock music and not a collection of vignettes about losing your teeth during a final for a class you never attended.
Broadbent is full of interesting contradictions. He’s known for his slide guitar and comes from a busking background, both of which might combine to create an album of loud, ripping guitar. But Ride features guitar-led music that only wants to bring the songs to fruition, with his slide guitar providing colors and textures that don’t scream for the spotlight, but instead enhance the larger sonic picture.
Ride has a classic blues sound. Broadbent’s electric guitar holds the songs together with a wrist-tiring strum, his rhythm section reinforcing his work but mostly giving Broadbent space to work. His voice is bluesy, but with a flatness that, when combined with the relentlessly driving guitar, gives Ride a faint Velvet Underground vibe, but an alternative history version where they sprang out of Mississippi and not New York City. It’s yet another compelling quirk as Broadbent is from Lincolnshire, England.
Despite the simplicity of the instrumentation, Broadbent is able to build lush melodies that feel pulled from classic pop, but routed through classic blues. So on a tune like “I Love Your Rock ‘n’ Roll,” the music provides a simple point of departure for a sweet vocal line, with Broadbent’s slide popping in to provide mood contrast, sounding almost like a beautiful bird sweetly crying against the melody.
“Baby Blue” is another lovely melody. The music is sparse, more groove than anything. Broadbent’s vocals snarl, but he also deploys a subtle falsetto, almost the vocal equivalent of his slide work. The actual slide comes in during the second half of the song, using short lyrical phrases to reboot the track before Broadbent reclaims the tune with his voice. “Baby Blue” is guitar, bass, drums, and voice, but even with the limited timbres, it feels like a much larger experience.
“Hard Livin’,” which clocks in at over five minutes, is slow, with lyrical slide guitar that at some points sounds like violins, but at others sounds almost like a sentient animal capable of sophisticated emotion, but not words. The guitar work, which dominates the track, isn’t jamming, but is more meditative, with themes and ideas appearing and disappearing, the emphasis on channeling the feelings of the moment and not on guitar heroics.
One of the many joys of Ride is how present Broadbent’s playing feels. He’s not trying to recreate the work of seminal slide guitarists like Duane Allman and Elmore James, but rather he applies a Zen-like focus to his songs, providing compelling accompaniment that’s rooted in sound and texture, not in riffs and licks. Broadbent’s songs are blues-based and familiar, but by stripping them down to their bare essence, he’s able to instill his personality within each of the tunes. By the end of Ride, you’re left with strong songs and an even stronger sense of who Broadbent is as an artist.