I remember being quite impressed simply by the 100x100 pixel JPEG image that presented itself within the promotional email I received for Red Jacket Mine's new album, 'Someone Else's Cake.' Immediately it brought to mind the cut-n-paste artwork often found with Guided By Voices or Pavement records. I couldn't wait to hold the 12inch version of this meticulously involved collage.
This was my first experience with Fin Records, a name I can now tell you is significantly associated with quality. To start, the record bags they use are not your standard polyethylene bags that most companies use. I could be wrong, but I believe Fin Records might be using a museum grade archival polyester / mylar record bag. Whatever it is, the minute you grab their records, you know someone cares dearly for the contents within and they want to ensure their records are past on from generation to generation.
Another standard that quickly impressed me with Fin Records was their embossed logo you always find within the packaging. It's a stamp of approval confirming that they ensure you won't be disappointed, and you won't.
The inner sleeve for 'Someone Else's Cake' resembles Space Age Bachelor Pad musicians like Esquivel and labels like Command Records (one of our absolute favorites of all time for design and packaging); vibrant in color and geometric design. The exquisitely pressed stark white vinyl pulls it all together. Shawn Wolfe, who regularly breaks the barrier of the x-axis, is credited for the design. He is also responsible for Red Jacket Mine's two like composed 7inches singles from this album, "Listen Up (If the World is Going to Hell)" and "Bellar & Bawl." Wolfe's style visually expands Red Jacket Mine's sound in the same way producer Johnny Sangster does in the studio.
The album starts off strong with "Amy," but I'd be lying if I didn't tell you I wasn't taken aback by singer / songwriter, Lincoln Barr's, Ted-Leo-doing-an-impression-of-Jon-Bon-Jovi-like vocal style, predominantly with this track. The mature nature of "Nickel & Dime" and "Ron Nasty" instantly satisfied my pallet, loaded with thought provoking lyrics, pop hooks and harmonies at every corner reminiscent of classics spanning the past fifty years, then topped by Red Jacket Mine's studio performance of sheer perfection. By the way, don't take that Ted Leo / Jon Bon Jovi comment as a diss; it's meant to describe Barr's tasty vocal tone and texture.
"Engineer," packed with fuzzy guitar leads and a ballsy (again with the balls) brass section, showcases Barr's blues influence from St. Louis, MO, where he attended college. But it wasn't until "Skint City" that a limelight clearly illuminated Red Jacket Mine's vision of soul fusion. It was only a hint of what was to come, as I was forced to get up from my chair to flip the record over and settle in for a very enjoyable ride through side-b.
I know this is going to sound crazy, but "Listen Up (If the World is Going to Hell)" sounds like Steely Dan doing a cover of a Curtis Mayfield song, and I love it (FYI: I am a freak Steely and Curtis fan). Everything about this track: the guitar tones, the chord changes, the organ drones, the crescendos, the fills, ...I just love this track. Followed by "Novelty's Gone," with Andrew Salzman's confident and enthralling drumming, side-b really begins to define the power behind Red Jacket Mine. Barr's use of back up singers on this chorus, along with the commanding delivery of his words, are as refreshing as Neil Halstead's similar deliverance with Mojave 3's sophomore surprise, 'Out of Tune.'
The title track is pure, solid, fun, well executed rock and roll, separating Red Jacket Mine from being just any bar band and putting them in a class of Elvis Costello, Young Mothers, and (again) Ted Leo (continuing with that Jon Bon Jovi twang). Speaking of twang, Barr throws us a curve ball just before he wraps up this collection of first-rate ditties. "Have You Got a Permit to Preach on This Corner?" is Red Jacket Mine's nod-to-Nashville, and somewhat of a protest song; or perhaps a song to protest against protests. The boys wrap things up back at the local watering hole with their second single, "Bellar & Bawl." Matthew Cunningham's urging bass lines grab a hold of Salzman's beats and never look back, while guest pianist, Ty Bailie, twinkles the ivories with enthusiasm. Barr's compelling address enthralls the drunken blokes for a brief moment while they sing along, just as the band closes out 'last call,' and the men fall victim to the feminine touch he warned them about.
Red Jacket Mine, Fin Records, Johnny Sangster, and Shawn Wolfe really hit a grand slam with 'Someone Else's Cake.' They are playing in a league of their own, unlike anything you would expect from Seattle, WA. They are the local band that done good for themselves. Their music is classic, timeless, and alive. Learn more about Red Jacket Mine via Fin Records.