Second solo project, from Nashville-based singer- songwriter, highlights the continuing growth of a major talent. Jack Sundrud has trodden a long, successful journey along the often precarious path known as ‘the music business.’ A respected Nashville songwriter and co-writer; former band-leader of early 1990s act Great Plains and some time partner of Craig Bickhardt in Idlewheel. Jack also retains the bassist, singer-songwriter berth within venerable country rockers Poco. Mr Sundrud also found time to release a riveting solo debut BY MY OWN HAND back in 2005. He’s repeated the trick here too, with CAGE.
This six-song EP fully demonstrates Sundrud’s enduring ability to delve into the human psyche with humility and a sense of humour. Opener Hollow Man, a co-write with Richard Wold, has a clockwork musical symmetry to match the subject matter. The tale of a character who strives to do his best, within a robotic working existence, faces stark facts upon losing his job; ‘Thirty years of sacrifice, he barely knows his kids and wife, looks at life like a stranger outside the door.’ The middle eight takes on a musically freer form, again matching the lyric, when the man is presented with a future with ‘endless possibilities.’
Jack has an appealing rasp to his voice, not dissimilar to Don Henley. Though his music has a country foundation, the material exhibits a contemporary feel. The title cut, Cage, is an innovative piece that begins with the sound of a scratched vinyl record: ‘Echoing your slipping grip.’ This piano led song again looks at the human condition, seeing the body as a ‘cage’ containing our human frailties; Jack tips his hat towards Shakespeare with the lyric: ‘Fretting out your hour on the stage.’ Musically it has a Beatles quality, never a bad thing! Here On Earth proves that Sundrud can rock too, with its humorous lyric: ‘Here on earth, where cars get rusty and body’s grow old…. So I’m gonna love every moment I can’. It’s a catchy groove song.
Even finer is The Key. A gorgeous melody, picked on acoustic guitar, the tune is matched by an intelligent lyric about a troubled relationship. The woman sees the hidden spare door key as a potential escape to another life though: ‘she’s still hanging on, she’s not going anywhere, but she feels better knowing it’s there.’ Ultimately ‘the key’ to redemption rests with her partner admitting he needs help; ‘It’s killing me slowly the way we’ve lost touch.’ It’s the kind of song Guy Clark would be pleased to have written; a hit song in waiting.
A small cast of players and helpers contribute to the success of this project. Bill Halverson and Michael Clute add expertise and sheen to Jack’s production and mixing while guitarist Russ Pahl and keyboardist Michael Webb add clout and colour where needed. If I have a criticism, it’s that I wish this was a full length CD, call me old fashioned. Perhaps Mr Sundrud is saving some of his other songs for the upcoming Poco release. Purchase with confidence!
John Brindle - Maverick Magazine
Thanks to Peter Holmstedt at HEMIFRAN