Jackie Bristow – Outsider: 13th Floor Album Review

Jackie Bristow takes us on a heartfelt journey through Americana drenched in a spirit of Blue-Eyed Soul. A seasoned songwriter and performer who is able to commune with the Heartland  in a similar fashion to long time People’s Bard, Springsteen.

On Outsider, her stories and super vocal performance touch the shoulders of another, earlier Jackie. Cult favourite and possibly under-appreciated Jackie DeShannon. Needles and Pins, When You Walk in The Room.

A captivating and super showcase of Country Soul from Jackie BristowShe deserves to be bigger than a cult favourite.

There is passion combined with inspired melodic hooks which lift all twelve tracks. Equally important is longtime musical collaborator Mark Punch who plays guitar and produces all songs but one.

Livin’ For Love is perfect Country-Soul which sounds more Memphis than Nashville. The drums are busy and the bass leads. The guitar adds some spare lines at just the right moments to the rhythm bed, in fine Steve Cropper at Stax fashion.

The musical relationship between Bristow and Punch seems to work in similar fashion to Cropper and Otis Redding. A few of the songs are co-written.

Shakin’ My Bones is a busy song with Bristow coming to the fore with a crystalline Folk vocal to which is added some Country cookin’. Norwegian sisters Tor Egil Kreken and Mari Kreken, from Darling West, add nice harmonies. A banjo clucks and then combines with a pedal steel. The guitar lets go a little with some Mark Knopfler-style note-bending.

Without You starts quietly and blossoms out into a perfect Pop melodrama with a string section. It really does sound like a Jackie DeShannon classic.

Always on the outside of the “In Crowd”/ Never on the inside with the “Hip Crowd”.

That’s title track Outsider and the wordplay is classic Smokey Robinson whilst being a perfect answer record to Dobie Gray’s The “In” Crowd from the mid-Sixties. A great Memphis Soul vocal reminiscent of Carla Thomas at Stax. R’n’B guitar phrasing gives it some nastiness.

Bristow grew up in Gore, the centre of New Zealand Country music. As an independent singer-songwriter following her muse she developed her craft in Australia and onwards to Austin Texas, Los Angeles and for many years in Nashville.

She has her Kiwi accent but her music is pure American Heartland.

It is natural then, for her to sing Tennessee as a standout Soul Blues. With added Memphis Stax horns.   

California has an acoustic guitar which centres it as a Folk tune. Generally, a peaceful reverie and with a reference to the Canyon, it feels like a healing spell. Praying for a miracle/ Praying for ya. The West Coast state with its political pandemic troubles and its wildfires. An electric guitar lays out a sensual riff at the close.

Surrender is a highlight and a vocal showcase of plaintive Country Pop. Float down the river/ Let me surrender. Themes of being lost in the wilderness and lost existentially. To float down a river on a path of salvation and redemption is as timeless as Mark Twain. Connects with Springsteen’s The River in spirit. This one produced by Viktor Krauss, brother of Alison Krauss, who plays all the music.

Rockin’ Chair is led by banjo rolls and is the one song which could be straight Bluegrass. Gentle peaceful feelings/ Give me some healing/ In my rockin’chair. The singer can sound a little like Dolly Parton. An older, pastoral, Appalachian sound.

Easy Road reflects on the path travelled by Bristow as do many of the others. I never took the easy road/ Begged, borrowed and stole. All Art is theft as Dylan knows well. She sings about the eternal quest for home. Think of the travellers as the Joker and the Thief.

A captivating and super showcase of Country Soul from Jackie Bristow.  She deserves to be bigger than a cult favourite.

Rev Orange Peel         


Jackie Bristow is hitting the road this year, coming to a town near you!

Jackie Bristow