Consisting of nine delicate yet cinematic songs, Sandgrown is Jack Cooper’s (of Ultimate Painting and Mazes) first solo record. Inspired by his upbringing on England’s Fylde Coast, and specifically his hometown of Blackpool, Sandgrown is a beautifully nostalgic record. Clearly influenced by the late sixties sound and with a widescreen musicality, the donkeys, sandcastles and sticks of rock are all present. But there’s also that sense of seaside transience, of seeking new shores. The eclectic and eccentric mix of people who seem drawn to the British coast. The ‘faded seaside glamour’ as The Delays put it.
“Everyone’s from somewhere,” says Jack. “I don’t think it’s particularly important people know this album is about Blackpool, but I think everyone can empathize with the themes on the record.” Really the theme isn’t Blackpool, or even the seaside, but identity and re-evaluating what history and roots means.
‘North of Anywhere’ is about protest and politics and the divisions that it can cause. Evoking that idea of an every town that is forgotten. ‘I’m trying to shout’ he sings over a long and wistful tonal melody. ‘Gynn Square’ gets geographically and temporally, if not thematically, more specific. A yawning, boring Monday morning, feeling ill at ease is a recognizable situation, but the sea always knows what to do: “the sea will raise another wave.” Similarly, we’ve all been ‘On A Pier In The Wind’ but few of us have expressed it like this. ‘Memphis, Lancashire’ deals with the tussle between where are we from and where we are destined for, with ‘Stranded Fleetwood Blues’ offering another nod to bigger musical things. ‘A Net’ has a glorious looping quality that captures the listener within whilst ‘Sandgrown Part 1’ and ‘Sandgrown Part 2’ are instrumental lilts with a laconic feel. ‘Estuary’ opens with scratchy rhythms and speaks to that feeling of wanting to explore, an open port of possibility being present.
Fans of Bill Fay, Scott Walker, John Cale and Robert Wyatt will find plenty to engage with here. Like a reaction to modern life, it’s filled with lilting and stripped back melodies that suggest easier times. There’s no clutter in here at all. The first time he hasn’t been supported by band members, his voice is heard clearly and powerfully. Recorded on a 4-track, every shift and shake is clear and necessary, and the effect airy and wavy. It’s like listening to a breath of fresh air or a quiet moment. There’s nothing unnecessary or overly dramatic here. It’s a gentle meandering dance with the past, the present and future, the sea and the land, the inner and the outer. A dance with life.
Sandgrown is released on 25th August through Trouble In Mind.