Album Review: Jack M. Senff – ‘Low Spirit’

Posted: by The Editor

Jack Senff has had a roller coaster of a musical career: starting off as William Bonney, then as a member of Knola, for a while under the moniker of Boy Rex, and now in his final form as just Jack M. Senff. As his namesake, Jack has released several fantastic Americana albums, like his debut, Good to Know You, and the follow up EP, These Northwood Blues. Now Jack is back with the stellar follow-up LP, Low Spirit.

All of these previous albums have had a great balance of solo acoustic stylings and full band grooves. Low Spirit is no different, as Jack flexes his strength in the growing popularity of story-telling with songwriting. He often uses the appropriate instrumentation and tension for each track, choosing to highlight the lyrics with subtle touches only when
necessary. The slide guitar leads on the opening, titular track soar at the perfect moments, only to tuck back into the mix to highlight Jack’s hardest hitting lines: “I smell the shame, the anger we share.” One of the strongest moments of this blending balance is in the song “Thunder Roll On.” The tension in the silence of the choruses is the perfect accompaniment to the mood he’s portraying.

Besides a strong grasp on musical tone, Jack is highly skilled with his vocal deliveries. Songs like “Mick & Kieth” have especially stirring lyrics that are conveyed perfectly with the defeated, low whispers that underline the deepest sentiments: “Gone now awhile, but there ain’t no bond like blood. Please, I just need my kids. Doesn’t matter what you think I did.” The mood of the story always informs the composition. This is also evident in Jack’s protest song, “The Way it Was,” where the energy is constant and feels communal with the addition of stacked voices across the end. We’re all in it together, and that’s exactly what it sounds like.

Jack is also extremely talented at finding the stories hiding in the smallest moments. His discography is cohesive in the way it expands on seemingly mundane experiences. The song “Early Zeppelin” from Good to Know You is a good example, as the song describes the experience of being called on to participate in a magic show, only to find that “This is what it means to disappear.” This is a very Dylan/Joel-esque style of songwriting, which even better defines “Book on Wild Horses” from Low Spirit. The song tells of a woman reading a book on wild horses at the park, when a man approaches trying to get to know her. She brushes him off, and goes back to reading the book. It’s a small interaction that feels like it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme, but sometimes those insignificant moments mean everything to us at the time.

With the right level of intensity for the many diverse moments, Low Spirit is a carefully constructed performance by a master songwriter who takes the time to sculpt the score. It’s the field of dried out grass you sit in to enjoy a brief and beautiful sunset with someone you love; maybe the world surrounds you with hardships and darkness that keep eating away at the wonder, but there’s a lot of beauty to be found in the small moments you can share with others. Low Spirit lifts you up, even if just for a short time, so everyone gets a chance to fly high.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Luciano Ferrara | @LucianoRFerrara

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