Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Laird Jackson: Touched

Just as it would be sinful to mar the stark beauty of a Modigliani by encumbering it with an ornate frame, it seems unjust to imprison Laird Jackson’s gorgeous voice in the sort of fussily overripe orchestrations that dominate Touched (CAP). To steal a line from Jerry Herman, they’re all too lush and loud, fighting Jackson every step of the way. Bill Withers’ wistful “I Want to Spend the Night” is reworked to sound like what can only be described as a Mongolian samba, making it impossible for Jackson to compete with the cacophony that surrounds her. “Tin Angel,” one of Joni Mitchell’s most hauntingly beautiful compositions, is likewise scuppered by a lushly overpowering setting (this time complete with corny sound effects), and Donovan Leitch’s feather-light “Catch the Wind” is rendered almost unrecognizable thanks to a reinterpretation so forceful it borders on strident. Fortunately, Jackson the songwriter helps rescue Jackson the entrapped vocalist on at least three occasions. “Yet Still,” sung a cappella, provides the first appropriate showcase for her voice’s raw resplendence. “You Are Near” is equally effective, and the stark magnificence of the title track provides audible proof that Jackson’s vocal artistry is best displayed in the simplest of arrangements.

Originally Published