It doesn’t matter what you call Jack. He could be Lukeman, he could be the lock man or he could be plain old Jack Loughman from the garage in Athy. He could be Jack L, and there was a time when he might have been Jacques Brel, but despite his shape-shifting persona, Jack remains as constant as the seasons – a lifesaving beacon on a turbulent musical ocean.
He has a new thing going these days — or at least, new for me, because I drifted away from him a little over the years, for no good reason. When Jack was a regular on the stage at Dolans, camping it up with a feather boa, I was a regular in the audience, bouncing along with his bedsprings, being that sailor in the port of Amsterdam, chuckling along with Jackie, that demented old gigolo, and when Jack made his final bow of an evening, the men all cheered, while the women all murmured, Ne me quitte pas, cher Jack. Ne me quitte pas.
Jack had style when he was simply L, and he still has style now that he’s added ukeman to the initial.
What’s he doing these days, the dissolute old reprobate?
It’s this: he’s touring the 27 Club.
Do you need to ask what that is? No. Of course you didn’t. It’s Kurt Cobain. It’s Brian Jones. It’s Amy Winehouse, Robert Johnson, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix. There’s Alan Wilson and Pete Ham. There’s Pete de Freitas.
Jack covers them all but I have to say that the highlight of the evening for me was his simply staggering a capella version of Ol’ Man River in honour of Jesse Belvin. I’ve listened to everyone from Aretha Franklin to Bing Crosby sing this song, but I have never, ever heard anyone imbue it with the heart and soul that Jack gave it in Dolans Warehouse last night, turning it into a song that, for me, suddenly made sense after all these years. Jack L lifted this song out of the cabaret world and slammed it straight in the middle of Robert Johnson’s crossroads where it belongs.
And speaking of Robert Johnson, who’d have though that the old Jack would be singing Love in Vain with an intensity matched only by Mick Jagger on Let it Bleed and the devil-dealing bluesman himself? For all I know, Jack is no stranger to a spot of negotiation with the Dark One, since he seems immune to ageing and that handsome baritone voice simply grows rounder and richer with every passing year.
This is not to my credit but I’ll admit it anyway: I didn’t know Jack had such depth and breadth. I didn’t expect ever to hear him singing Smells Like Teen Spirit. I’d never have expected to hear him covering Canned Heat or the Rolling Stones. I certainly wouldn’t have expected to see him strap on an axe and play dirty angry rhythm on Jumpin Jack Flash, but that says more about my ignorance than it does about multi-faceted Jack Loughman.
Here’s a thing that surprised me: so many young(ish) people know all the words of songs like Ruby Tuesday, Mercedes Benz and Paint It Black. I was a babe in arms when these were in the charts, so how do twenty-somethings know them? But that’s a by-the-way.
Jack has his finger on the pulse. He retains that sardonic and slightly satanic glint, while never losing his South Kildare accent, for which I applaud him. No mid-Atlantic bullshit for Jack L.
If you can possibly get to see this show, off you go. Go out and buy this album, because Jack L / Lukeman / Loughman is a national resource.
Tellin’ ya now.