It s possible, but hardly common, for a singer-songwriter to sound echoes of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Gram Parsons, Elvis Costello and Paul Westerberg, all of which Jackie Greene does on his fifth album.
The hard part, which Greene seems to pull off so effortlessly, is triggering those echoes without sacrificing an authentic voice of his own. That may be one meaning of the album's title: Greene seems comfortable acknowledging the ghosts of pop music past, perhaps because he's in thrall to none of them.
In "Uphill Mountain" alone, he references colorfully named characters such as Peeping Tom and Madame Rose, name-checks Elmore James and John Henry and tosses off such bons mots as "You got to take just what you are given/'Cause luck only matters with the cards and the women," staking his claim as a peer, not a shadow.
The San Francisco-based musician opens the album advising the listener, "California is the place to be, but I should warn you about the things I've seen." He proceeds to reel off one fascinating, detail-rich tale or morality play after another. Somehow, as literate as his lyrics can read, they never sound academic, rarely self-conscious: "I don't pretend to make the world feel better / I don't live on the moon," he sings in "I Don't Live in a Dream." No brag, just fact.
He's a skilled multi-instrumentalist and has been a virtual one-man band on previous albums, but this time he's assembled a crack team of Americana/roots ...