Up Above My Head by Steven Jackson

CD REVIEW
STEVEN JACKSON
UP ABOVE MY HEAD
Indie
2008

3.0 stars

Music appreciation is a very subjective thing. One man’s Springsteen is another man’s Strummer and one woman’s Baez is another’s Mitchell. Kingston, Ontario’s Steven Jackson has been a musician for many years and has recorded 12 tracks of respectable indie folk, slow to mid-tempo, mainly acoustic ballads on Up Above My Head. This is unadulterated Canadian folk music by an über-nasally singer whose voice reverberates like those classic folk singers you remember from the 60s. Jackson’s voice is an acquired taste but I have found that the more I listen to Up Above My Head, the more I enjoy it.

Influenced by The Beatles, Peter Gabriel, Cat Stevens, John Hiatt, and Joni Mitchell among others, Steven Jackson’s mature, opinionated lyrics are written with conviction while the singer searches for context and meaning in life by asking for answers to questions that many of us ask. Why is the world in the state it’s in? (Please Tell Me Why) Why do some people choose to kill in the name of God? (My God) Why do the elderly have to fight to maintain relevance in today’s culture? (You Are Done) Why do so many people live in isolation in their homes? (We’re Alone) He asks the questions but he doesn’t give us any answers here, he simply makes us think about them ourselves.

From the title track:

Up above my head there is blue sky
Below my feet there is dark
Somewhere in the middle there is me
Lost in thought.
Trying to make sense of a crazy world
When nothing makes sense to me at all
We’re all just looking for the answers
Hoping for more.
Is this all there is?
What happens when we die?
Do the bad souls descend to Hell?
While the good souls rise to the sky…..ah Heaven.
Are we just Pawns on a giant chess board?
Being moved by some power above
Are we just actors on a stage looking for love?
Walking blindly nowhere to go
Watching ourselves as we age and grow
Staring in the mirror
Staring at the sky
Waiting to die.

Jackson reflects considerably on death:

“Death is a theme I find very interesting in life, I have been obsessed with death even as a child. Probably because so many loved-ones close to me have passed away. You cannot help but be affected by it. Death is a constant in my life. As you grow older the reality of death grows closer, I hate the idea of aging and dying but again it is something you have no control over. That isn’t to say I am not going to fight it, I will try, but the idea of death haunts me night and day, and it seems that for me there is no escaping it.”

Fear not though, this isn’t all morose retrospection. He writes and sings about the loves of his life, from his best friend (My Best Friend, which includes a beautiful guitar solo) to his wife (I Just Want To Tell You Something) and expresses gratitude for those who have made life worth living.

The piano in And The Wind Will Take You There is a welcome addition, reminiscent of Bruce Hornsby, and arrives after the half way point in the album. It’s one of my favourite tracks along with Upon The Sea but to be honest with you this isn’t a CD that will stay in my player for very long because I am not in love with his voice.

Jackson has a musical collaborator in David Barton who contributes lead guitar, bass, keyboards and drums and also served as producer. Up Above My Head is a stronger collection for his involvement and this album is a fine legacy for Jackson to leave to his children.

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