CD review by Jane Bower
Jack Mancor is a singer songwriter from Melbourne that everyone with an interest in social justice folk music should know about.
He has released two CDs of his own songs, ‘Looking for Something’ and ‘Black Top Blues’
This review is a retrospective of ‘Looking for Something’.
A review of ‘Black Top Blues’, written by Chris Brady, can be found in the Trad and Now website CD catalogue.
Jack Mancor is a self-taught musician who uses his talents playing acoustic and steel guitar, mandolin and mouth harp to accompany his folk roots and blues compositions.
His lyrics are mostly contemporary, but his style is grounded in traditional folk ballads and North American folk blues.
Woodie Guthrie amongst others is clearly a huge influence.
That Jack has been chosen as a recipient of the Declan Affley ‘Award for Excellence in a Young Performer’ at the National Folk Festival is indisputable evidence of his talent.
There are twelve tracks in all.
The first track on ‘Looking for Something’, ’Passing Through’, is pleasant enough but doesn’t hint at much more interesting tracks to come.
The second track, ‘Spanner in the Works’, is the first of songs which had me sitting up and listening.
This track was chosen to be included on Get Up’s album ‘Stand up and Shout- Hard hitting songs for social change and a new Australia’.
In Jack’s words, it is ‘a modern-day call to arms for the workers of the world to unite and agitate to regain what is rightfully ours – the profits of our labour, a peaceful planet and a future worth having’.
No ambiguity there.
‘Buckley’s Chance’, expertly presented in the style of a traditional ballad, is the historical retelling of the adventures of William Buckley (DOB 1780).
Buckley was a convict who escaped and survived against the odds with the support of the First Nation’s Wathaurong people and is the source of the expression ‘You’ve got Buckley’s Chance’.
‘The Fisherman’s Boy’ is a poignant letter written by a young Filipino sailor who is tragically doomed to drown when the boat he has been working on, overloaded by its greedy owners, is sinking.
It is just one of the songs Mancor has penned to expose injustice and call for change.
There is a delightful range of tempo and the track from which the album title comes, ‘Looking for Something’, is lively, fun and uplifting as is the heartfelt and quirky titled song, ‘Met you at Breakfast and Loved You by Noon’.
The instrumental accompaniment drives each track but never subverts the lyrics.
The mandolin and mouth harp complement the style of the songs.
Many can sing and play well, but few can write such meaningful lyrics questioning injustice and promoting social justice and peace while still sounding so uplifting: ‘If they are smart bombs they wouldn’t go off!’.
‘Looking for Something’ was recorded at Canadian Sound Concepts by Dennis Ferbey.
There are some great photos on the cover and with the notes, but unfortunately the lyrics, although included, are frustratingly often unreadable.
A little known fact is that Jack played the mandolin in the 2003 version of the film Ned Kelly though I doubt he was paid as much as Keith Ledger.
After listening to and reviewing ‘Looking for Something’, I am hoping for an opportunity to seeing something of Jack Mancor’s work performed live.
I can only praise and recommend Jack Mancor’s social conscience songwriting and musicianship and hope that he continues to create and perform more of his works in the future.