Release Date: Sep 1, 2017
Record label: Virgin EMI
Jake Bugg’s last album, On My One (2016),was an ill-advised bid to engage with a new crowd. The Nottingham singer’s fourth set, recorded in Nashville, abandons the rapping and Kasabian-friendly rock in favour of dusty country-folk. Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys contributes to three tracks and Miley Cyrus’s sister Noah duets on Waiting, but Bugg is most convincing when his guests take a back seat.
When he first made waves half a decade ago at 18, there was an air of novelty surrounding Jake Bugg, whose voice was stylishly worn-in without sounding as if he was a long-time chainsmoker. Bugg eventually broadened out his bluesy sound, even dabbling in Madchester-esque beats and poorly judged rap on his last album, On My One, backpedalling on comments he’d made rubbishing pop and hip-hop. Deviating from the formula didn’t do him any favours, however, and his third record was his lowest charting to date.
Ever since Jake Bugg cast aside his co-writers and asserted full control over his music, he’s struggled to find much to say with it. His 2012 debut might have had an assist from the bloke who wrote Snow Patrol’s ‘Run’, but its tales of council-estate drudgery and the longing to escape it felt real; fast-forward to last year’s ‘On My One’, however, and Bugg was grumbling about life on the road, the girls he left behind and making baffling excursions into hip-hop. At this stage in his career, having fulfilled every adolescent rock-star fantasy a po’ boy from Nottingham could harbour, ‘write what you know’ may not be the soundest songwriterly advice..
he credits for Jake Bugg’s fourth album Hearts That Strain talk a very good game. Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, with a large serving of Grammy-winning producers and backing musicians who worked with the likes of Elvis and Aretha Franklin, there’s a lot of expectation on this record, especially in terms of Bugg’s slowly declining record sales. However, the overriding impression of Hearts That Strain is very underwhelming. From a hope that Bugg might shake off the stereotypical Radio 2 artist niche he has come to settle in, it’s very quickly apparent that this is not to be.