CD Review of Promise of Summer by Jackopierce
Recommended if you like
Toad the Wet Sprocket, Vertical Horizon, Del Amitri
Promise of Summer

Reviewed by Jeff Giles


he Internet isn’t just a great place to find free porn – it’s also become a boon for singer/songwriters, who have spent the last decade mastering Web networking (and taking advantage of the plummeting costs of recording and distribution) to dig themselves out of the grave that James Taylor and Jackson Browne dug for the genre in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Aside from a few oddball hits, radio has remained indifferent to the new crop of sensitive dudes with guitars, but who needs radio when you’re touring like a mofo and steadily building a mailing list of devoted fans?

Jackopierce is a fine example of this phenomenon – even if they never cracked mainstream playlists the way peers like Vertical Horizon or Nine Days did, they still managed to move half a million discs in the ‘90s, and they’ve retained a loyal fanbase despite having been broken up for over a decade. Throw in the extreme probability that most of those discs were sold before and after the band’s brief major-label tenure – somewhere, there is an entire generation of A&M publicists permanently scarred by the giggles of program directors who asked “You want me to play Jacko-what?” – and these feats are even more impressive.

So maybe you’ve never heard of Jackopierce, and chances are you had no idea they’d reunited, or released a new album. They don’t need you to know, either; they’ve established their audience, and they know how to reach it. But if you have a thing for mid-tempo, acoustic-based love songs with catchy melodies and plenty of harmonies, you’ll want to make the band’s acquaintance anyway – and as it happens, Promise of Summer is a dandy place to start.

The band’s ranks have swollen and shrunk over the years, but at its core, Jackopierce is singer/songwriters Jack O’Neill and Cary Pierce, and Promise of Summer finds them both picking up essentially where they left off with their respective solo careers. The nicest surprise in these 11 tracks is how finely age and experience have seasoned the duo’s material; where previous efforts often found them mired in a same-sounding rut, this album offers an engaging blend of mild rockers and heart-on-sleeve ballads, all tastefully arranged with the usual genre accoutrements: acoustic and electric guitars, pianos, mandolins, subtle synths, and achingly sensitive vocals. It should go without saying that fans of Glen Phillips or Vertical Horizon will gobble it up – but the time off has lent a little extra weight to Jackopierce’s sound, giving some of Promise of Summer’s tracks a surprisingly Del Amitri-ish sound.

There’s obviously nothing here you haven’t heard before, especially if you’re a fan of this stuff – but that’s just as obviously not the point. This is comfort music, pleasurable as much for its familiarity as for anything new it brings to the table, and Promise of Summer is as comfortable a record as you’re likely to hear this year – in the best sense of the word. Only time will tell where O’Neill and Pierce’s reunion goes from here, but if nothing else, they’ve managed to add a satisfying coda to an already impressive career.

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