“I like my solo albums to reflect the time in which I’m recording them and any themes that feel relevant at that point in life’s journey.”
‘Gracious Wings,’ then is a brave album as it addresses issues both personal and communal which many will have sympathy with – including this writer. That Jackie Oates turns what at times can be frustrating and emotional, into something as positive as the tracks found here displays a rare talent. Like Maddy Prior, Miss Oates is one of those who seemingly hardly ever stands still, to be brief she’s raising two young children, studying for a Masters in Music Therapy, cared for her mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s and made this album, all recently and probably will carry on to tour as well. No small effort then.
Whilst it isn’t a product of lockdown some of the songs do relate to times when all you could do was stare out of the window, ‘ Robin Tells Of Winter,’ is a wistful thing which ends with a hint of merriment through a Morris melody, placed there I guess to foretell the coming of Spring. ‘La Llorna’ is a co write with Megan Henwood and both feature, the tune’s basically a waltz with sterling work from John Parker on double bass, it touches on women’s health in a tongue in cheek though relevant way. A pairing with Charlie Dore leads to a duo of contrasting covers with Dore and Ricky Ross penning ‘Looking For My Own Lone Ranger,’ and Tom Waits ‘Time Time, Time,’ the former is bittersweet underscored by a chiming mandolin whilst the latter is lyrically oblique yet holds some great harmonies from Tom Crook and Afro Celt Simon Emmerson. The driving ‘Roobarb & Custard,’ reference the children’s cartoon with a bounce and elasticity in the melodies, John Spires pops up with his melodeon for the Basque lace making ‘Iruten Ari Nuzu (I am Making Wool,) which gently weaves with Oates on viola to form a delicate web on which to float the soft vocal.
You’d be wrong to consider the airy elegance of ‘Gracious Wings’ as anything flimsy it delivers in an understated manner but holds much weight and meaning within eleven tracks. Album eight from Jackie Oates is as effective as it is attractive.