Precocious is a description that one might easily apply to Jake Bugg. Before even reaching 20 years of age the Nottingham native already had two albums to his name: 2012’s self-titled effort, which got him shortlisted for the coveted Mercury Prize, and 2013’s Shangri La, which was nominated for a Brit Award. After the rapid turnaround of his first two albums, and the success that followed, Bugg made the deliberate decision to dedicate a year to the writing of his third record. Besides allowing himself an extended period of time to work on his music, he also took the decision to approach the album – the writing, performance, and production – as a largely solo affair.
Tackling an album alone can prove to be folly for a seasoned veteran of the music industry, so what hope does a young man, barely out of his teens, have of successfully doing it? A snowballs chance in hell would probably have been my answer, but in the case of Bugg I would have been wrong. With On My One – which is a Nottingham idiom for the more usual ‘on my own’ – Bugg has delivered a diverse and captivating record. That is not to say that On My One doesn’t misstep, with one needing look no further than Gimmie The Love’s electro-pop vibe – catchy and bland all at once – which jars with the surrounding tracks,and several of the songs, particularly towards the back end of the album, while competent, are a little on the uninteresting side.
Love, Hope and Misery, with its touch of soul coupled with Bugg’s predilection for blues acts as a good update on the mid-20th century pop sound, and in feeling a little long it bridges the gap between Bugg’s lows and his satisfying highs. Opening track, On My One, is a confident 2 minute burst of acoustic blues, and The Love We’re Hoping For feels like Bugg is channelling early Neil Young, with a dash of America’s A Horse With No Name thrown in, to perform a pleasing folky tune. Bitter Salt’s power-pop is enjoyable, with its slightly dancey chorus stopping short of taking on the electro vibe that weaken Gimmie The Love, while the half-rap of Ain’t No Rhyme is surprisingly effective, set against blues-rock guitar and a solid drumbeat.
Throughout On My One’s course Bugg also ventures into country and Americana territory with Put Out The Fire sounding like early Elvis, while Livin’ Up Country is a thoroughly modern country tune. Bugg has demonstrated that, while not virtuosic, he is capable of skipping across genre’s with remarkable ease, however he is clearly most at home when his music is infused with blues and, to a lesser extent, folk. On My Own is eclectic, bordering on a little too so, but Bugg makes it clear that he is a talent to be watched, especially if his future works are more focused affairs.