Gabriel is Jack Nolan’s fifth solo album, and the first album he’s yielded to someone he trusted enough to produce: This is an album that mines its own carefully sculpted acoustic world with a profoundly atmospheric sense of place, and a depth of self-knowledge that speaks of arrival after a lifetime of sometimes hard, sometimes tender experience.
The genesis, Gabriel came to Jack a few years ago, sat at his side on a long desert drive that he wasn’t sure he’d come back from. The title track, in its own unhurried and roundabout way, eventually found itself in Nashville, USA, on an album completed just before COVID-19 wrought its havoc on the world.
Atonement is upfront in titles like The Hopeless Son and Restitution Song. Others — Tomorrow Came, Faster Than the Speed of Change, A Fool Would Follow Me — are deeper stocktakes, songs from life’s rear view mirror. Ghosts of people and places and other, maybe darker things, receding for sure, but too close to ignore.
Produced by Justin Weaver and captured on two-inch tape in the aptly named ‘Welcome to 1979’ Studios by engineer Chris Mara, the assembled band included drummer Jimmy Paxson, bassist Chris Autry, keys player Phil Towns and pedal steel player David Spires who were joined by backup singers Terri Lynn Weaver & Siobhan Maher Kennedy. Justin himself applied the deeply textured lead and electric guitars.
Gabriel, is a CD offering up evocative, ethereal stories, perhaps best signalled on the album’s title track, with Nolan singing “Endless lanes /endless cars // In the absence /of stars” reminding us of this new world, turned on its axis in 2020/21.
CD review by Tony Smith
This 2021 album is the fifth solo album for Sydney singer songwriter, Jack Nolan.
He has also fronted the Kelly Gang with some very experienced musicians.
While someone dubbed his music ‘Darlinghurst Country’, these ten tracks, covering 40 minutes, are much more readily characterised as very laid back blues.
There is a touch of Dire Straits in the opening track ‘Tomorrow Came’, which is really a warning that relationships do not necessarily last forever.
‘Faster Than the Speed of Change’ is a yearning kind of song.
The title track ‘Gabriel’ seems to be a turning point in Nolan’s life.
The banjo is a nice touch here.
City dwellers are sure to be homesick when they hear ‘The Sweet Sun Sets Over Sydney’ with its steel guitar riffs.
For the best song here it is difficult to pick between three: ‘Blue’ is extremely laid back, ‘A Fool Would Follow Me’ has some really melodious harmony and ‘Hold Your Horses’ is philosophical.
This last advises that you stand by your choices and never compromise.
‘The Hopeless Son’ sounds quite distant.
It seems to emerge from shadows and has almost a psychedelic quality.
‘Restitution Song’ and ‘Chit Chatter’ make up the set.
Production of this album was by Justin Weaver with engineering and mastering by Chris Mara and Ryan Smith.
Nolan sings and plays guitar, Justin Weaver is there too with guitars, banjo, synth and backing vocals, Jimmy Paxson with drums and percussion, Chris Autry bass guitar and synth, Phil Towns with keys and David Spires on pedal steel.
Terri Lynn Weaver and Siobhan Maher Kennedy provide the all important backing vocals.
Cactus Moser provides more drums and Jimmy Olander is there with guitar.
At times, Jack Nolan expresses his feelings with a kind of slow drawl.
However, his voice never takes on that dreary country whine adopted by too many singers.
He has certainly learnt one lesson that so many songwriters never learn.
His lyrics show that less is more should be a guiding principle for any songwriter.
This album, with its ‘angelic’ cover, rewards careful listening.