Sandgrown - Jack Cooper of Ultimate Painting’s first solo record - is nine concisely beautiful songs inspired by his hometown of Blackpool and his upbringing on England’s Fylde Coast.
“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.” Evoking the delicate but often widescreen musicality of Bill Fay and the abstract lyricism of the late 60s Scott Walker records, as well as the more experimental sounds of John Cale and Robert Wyatt, Sandgrown is a collection of tranquil ballads that evoke feelings of nostalgia and re-evaluation about where you come from, wherever that may be.
Jack spent the first 13 years of his life living in the rural village of Poulton-le- Fylde, about five miles outside Blackpool. On moving into town, he spent his summers as a deckchair attendant, soaking up the community of people who lived and worked around the seafront – lifeguards, carnival workers, donkey owners, skateboarders, transients and hippies. “There were just a lot of interesting people around all the time… weirdos who were drawn to the seaside in the summer. Winter would come and you had this huge community of people who didn’t really know what to do.”
By the time Jack was 15, Blackpool’s role as a holiday destination was dwindling due to the introduction of cheap air travel to Europe. Stacks of deckchairs were increasingly left unused, and in the winter months it became a place of drugs, seedy bars and people struggling to get by without the tourist trade. As the Blackpool he knew slipped away, 20-year- old Jack moved to Manchester where he began playing in bands and recording. Sandgrown is about those formative years and the creation of it – “I’ve been trying to do this record since I was about 18… I bought my first 4-track with the proceeds of a summer working on the promenade and I guess I got sidetracked along the way. I’ve been listening to Terry Allen’s ‘Lubbock (On Everything)’ a lot and I wanted to make something that painted a picture of a place as vividly as that. I love how Frank Sinatra’s ‘Watertown’ feels so cinematic.”
Uninhibited by band members for the first time was a freeing experience for Cooper. “Recording on my own liberated me to sing more like I actually sing. I think I‘ve spent a long time in loud bands singing in a way that can be heard through music,” Jack says. “The songs that I wrote for Sandgrown suit my voice more than anything I’ve done before.” Working within the confines of specific 4-track cassette machine (a Teac 144.), Jack has produced his most satisfying work to date. “I love the physicality of working on tape. I’ve always had a 4-track but I sought out a particular machine. I’m not a huge Bruce Springsteen fan but I love the sound of Nebraska… I needed that specific machine."
“Sandgrown” is released on CD, (black vinyl) LP, and also available via all digital music platforms.
RIYL: Ultimate Painting, Ryley Walker, Woods, Go-Betweens, Bill Fay, John Cale, Terry Allen