When I reviewed Jimmy Livingstone’s previous release ONE EYE OPEN/ONE EYE CLOSED I described it as ‘being a big sound on a small budget’ and here the budget involved in the recording appears bigger; but the sound he creates hasn’t been compromised one little bit; and if anything gives a more ‘complete’ feel and probably replicates the sounds he hears in his head in a more coherent manner.
AIRPLANE MODE opens with the delightful Taking The Long Way Home; with Livingstone’s weather beaten voice atop of a red hot band on a Road Song about a man returning to his home town after too many years away, with superb lines like “I’ve been digging holes/When I should have been building bridges” and “I’m a slow lane Joe/but it’s good to know/I’m taking the long way home.”
That theme continues on the next track Walking Down Kingsland, when the singer walks around the streets of his home-town like a stranger in a strange land; but people he hasn’t seen for years pass him with a nod and a “Say, how you doing man?” As if he’s never been away. I have similar tales of returning to my home village for weddings and funerals 30 years after first leaving. Classic songwriting that will appeal to most people who have left home.
There’s a thematic sadness that links a lot of songs here; but the way Livingstone concocts a snappy tune to accompany his melancholy words on Encouraging The Sun, Half-Written Love Song and She Made My Heart Her Home deflect from the cracked melancholy of his razor sharp words.
If one song sums up this album, it’s King of the Middle of the Road which will make many other songwriters smile ruefully as it details his struggles to ‘make it’ in a world full of “younger, better, fitter men” but describing the lifelong struggle for a ‘hit’ ….. “In a twisted kinda way it turns me on.”
I love Livingstone’s tongue in cheek and often rye sense of humour that comes from age, wisdom and actually having a real life before finally becoming a full time musician, which really comes to the fore on the finale Play My Songs When I’m Dead and Gone.
Not all of the songs here are so autobiographical; as two of the best are observational songs; Plain Sailing is another pretty tune hiding a dark message and It’s Hard Being a Whore is a beautiful story about a taboo subject.
Which brings me to my ‘favourite track’ …….the slow Texicana Waltz of The Great You is a slow burning tale of unrequited love; and includes such intimate detail like “Lets drink a last tequila to the sunrise/Glen Campbell on the Jukebox singing Gentle on my Mind/And I’m hypnotised.” Your heart will bleed every time you hear this wickedly beautiful song.
If you’ve not heard of Jimmy Livingstone before it’s difficult to explain where he fits in……an Americana Crooner? A commercial Nick Cave? Scott Walker with a Bigsby on his Telecaster? He Rocks when he wants to; but more likely he will break your heart when you were least expecting it.
Grown up music for grown ups like me and you.
Released January 26th 2018
First published on Rocking Magpie website https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/