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with Jesus

By David Werther.

Jake Bugg, Shangri La (Jake Bugg, Island, 2013)

           Shangri La brings to mind images of paradise: youthful, beautiful bodies in a state of bliss. Forget all that. The young ones Bugg sings about on Shangri La are impoverished kids on the street, selling their bodies and drugs (cf. “Messed Up Kids” and “Kingpin”). In “Storm Passes,” Jake pleads for the darkness to end and laments his premature world-weariness. His jaded outlook does not befit his nineteen years; nor do his influences: Nick Drake, Don McLean, Johnny Cash, et al.

           Bugg cut demos for “Pine Trees” and “There’s A Beast And We All Feed It” at Sun Studios where Cash began his career singing “Folsom Prison Blues” for Sam Phillips. Rick Rubin, who forged a friendship with Cash and produced his celebrated American Recordings, handles production on Bugg’s Shangri La, which is also the name of Rubin’s recording studio in Malibou.

           The back cover of the Shangri La CD package features a dark silhouette of Bugg against a muted yellow and orange background. This is fitting; Jake’s songs are not all gloom (e.g. the beautiful “You And Me”), but darkness is his focal point: the beast that consumes all beauty (“There’s A Beast And We All Feed It”).

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