Jayson Norris – Freedom Twenty Eight (Loop/Border) CD REVIEW

The world is full of journeymen musicians. They’re the people who play in subways, on street corners, at community festivals. Sometimes, they even develop a fanbase, because they know how to “put out” to a crowd, and they work hard for their money.

There’s nothing wrong with journeymen musicians, but generally, they don’t make good “album artists”.

Jayson Norris is no exception. He’s a New Zealand musician who apparently, through talent and diligence, has developed something of a circuit for himself in the UK. Now he’s made an album of home-baked songs. It’s adept but unremarkable.

‘Freedom To Live’, for instance, boasts a pleasing chord sequence, but the sound is as amorphous and unhip as late-period Pink Floyd, infused with a little smidgen of singer-songwriter boredom. ‘Questions’ is mellow and rootsy, and while it’s just as wet as the Moody Blues song of the same name, it lacks both the finesse and the urgency of that classic track. ‘Song’ shows his versatility, as a multi-instrumentalist with the ability to hit a pure falsetto, but this breezy love song makes me think of some of those endless echoey singer-songwriter performances at WOMAD festivals. Ditto ‘Window’, a happy crowd-pleaser that comes out hollow in a lounge. ‘Magic Words’ conjures up the unthinkable: Thom Yorke merging with Luke Hurley on an overly earnest ballad. ‘Save Me’, on the other hand, has Norris trying on his best Jeff Buckley impression.

I’m sure Jayson Norris has a fanbase, and having attended the gigs, they will enjoy Twenty Eight as a souvenir to cherish. But as an album, in its own right, it’s a miss. Norris is clearly a professional performer, but brings little to the studio in the sense of definable musical character, or compositions that demand to be heard a second or third time. Sure, it’s well crafted, and well recorded. But that’s all. GARY STEEL

Music = 2.5

Sound = 3.5

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