After seeing Hailey Tuck’s debut album showcase I’ve been waiting in anticipation to get my hands on Junk, Tuck’s album released on May 4th with Sony Music. The texan born Jazz vocalist has teamed up with Grammy award winning producer Larry Klein to unveil this cover filled collection recorded at Sunset Sounds in LA. With songs from Leonard Cohen, Pulp and Joni Mitchell to name a few, Junk easily quenched my thirst for more from this new talent.
“I can’t think of a female jazz debut this exciting since Amy Winehouse’s Frank”
Tuck’s debut album is certainly a mellow one, her Austin roots inflecting the album with a backwater coolness that flows seamlessly. Her innocent voice is supported by subtle organ and easy rhythms, notable on the opening track That Don’t Make It Junk, a Leonard Cohen number that opens us up to Tuck’s unique sound. There’s little doubt that this is a jazz record yet it’s not perhaps what we would expect from a conventional jazz record. Junk has a tone that is simultaneously fresh whilst retaining a classic, vintage sound largely aided by Tuck’s individual vocals and song choices where exceptional variety can be found. Junk moves from classic rock covers to interpretations of musical theatre.
This is an album that, by the end of the first few songs, had me humming along. It’s so gentle and melodic that it feels like an album that I would very much like to be played in my head. Not only is there clear melody and structure to be found in Tuck’s work but her innocent vocality truly lends itself to a level of story telling which, when thinking about accessibility, makes this a breeze to listen to. Similarly, jazz covers of musical theatre numbers can often be showy and brash yet Hailey Tuck takes John Kander’s I Don’t Care Much from Cabaret and revels in its narrative and melancholy rather than the source’s origins; it’s a surefire highlight.
Looking at the album art for Junk, it’s clear Tuck is going for the 1920s flapper look and feel. While some might find it cliché, her album has such an ability to both play up the stereotype and subvert it mere moments later. In Alcohol, originally by The Kinks, Tuck breathes new life into the song with it’s Gatsby-esque opening and sultry tone. This is where it works to play with the conventions of jazz stereotypes. Thankfully, Tuck and Klein haven’t made the mistake of opting for more traditional standards which is hugely important in this being a debut. Where other female vocalists have opted for the Nelson Riddle standards of the 50s-60s, Tuck manages to set herself apart not only through her vocals but also through some intelligent strategy.
“There is no hiding the fact that Junk has a very clear identity”
My only small criticism, which is flawed, is that Junk does have the capacity to drag. There is no hiding the fact that Junk has a very clear identity and there are no tracks here that are built for radio. Songs on Junk might feel similar and by the fifth or sixth track, you might feel that you have the jist. That’s why I say this criticism is flawed, it’s a double edged sword. Whilst personally I would have enjoyed a few more upbeat numbers that I could Charleston around my kitchen to, that’s just not Tuck’s style. It’s a saving grace that nothing on the album feels forced. Such clear identity, intricate construction of songs that move from the contemporary jazz standard sound with sax lines that cut through the mid range in Some Other Time to numbers that reflect Tuck’s roots in The South.
I can’t think of a female jazz debut this exciting since Amy Winehouse’s Frank. Tuck isn’t suitable for a direct comparison to the late Winehouse because they’re just so different especially in terms of sound and tone. However, I would go as far as to say that with such an impeccably strong sense of her sound, image and audience that I wait in further anticipation for how Hailey Tuck grows. Despite the title, this album is obviously not Junk.