Just the beats, ma'am

Singer-poet-rapper Just Jack mixes sounds

Just Jack

*** 1/2

The Outer Market (RG Records/TVT Records) Rock Just Jack (Jack Allsopp) rises from his Camden, North London, roots with his debut album "The Outer Marker."

As a singer, songwriter, poet, rapper and producer, Just Jack uses melodic songs in combination with a rap-based trip-hop soul. "The Outer Marker" serves as a self-reflection of Jack's experiences and his opinions and observations of social life. The simple beats and brief electronic samplings and effects create an emotional, somewhat placid optimism.

The opening track, "Let's Get Really Honest," builds nicely with digitally manipulated vocals and a hip clap beat. The song also features fitting backup vocals during the chorus about a former girlfriend and a sample from the 1995 song "I'm Not in Love" by 10CC.

"Paradise (Lost & Found)" exposes Just Jack's British accent during a revealing rap; the chorus and piano make the song enjoyable with backup vocals by Roz James.

"Lesson One" will either come across as original and moving or completely weak and empty. The vocal section by Jack does, however, sound genuine, matching the mood of the saxophone by Graham Lyons.

The first single, "Snowflakes," is dark with a horror-like theme on the piano and a cautious refrain with backup vocals by Roz James. A remix featuring a sample of The Cure's "Lullaby" closes the album with heavier percussion. "Heartburn" is a melancholy tune with a subtle echoing of Just Jack's voice, soft electronic sounds, drum cymbals and Guy Pratt on a somewhat hidden but structural bass.

Sam Durbin's rap on "Eye to Eye" takes on the verses with a relaxed approach and Just Jack and James' voices pick up during a light and uplifting chorus. A theatrical-sounding "Contradictions" squeaks and thumps with funk and an addicting '70s-band sound. Colin McCann and Guy Pratt rock again on a multi-percussion section and guitar and bass.

"Snapshot Memories" appears to be an audio montage with electronic sounds, camera shots, video games and a soulful lyric section backed with a relaxing piano run. "Ain't Too Sad," if simplified could be a folk song, with its relatable lyrics and a gentle guitar and marching drums.

It is difficult to label Just Jack's sound to one genre since he mixes melodic soul with hip-hop beats and electronic sounds.

Perhaps the best explanation of this misleading artist's name is the following: "I never had heroes and never wanted to be like other musicians," Jack said in a press release. "I have no affiliations to anyone, I'm not part of a gang, I'm not part of a scene and I don't have a sound that's obviously part of a scene. I'm just Jack."

"The Outer Marker" will be released in the United States on March 2. For more information visit www.justjack.co.uk.

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