William Michael Smith
Jack Saunders, A Real Good Place To Start (White Cat): One of Houston's true roots-music icons, Jack Saunders can be described perfectly in one word: Integrity.
Saunders has been at this so long he cuts straight to the chase. This isn't some over-thought, let's-play-at-folk-rock schtick that numerous young bands have, this is a full-grown pro matching sounds and words -- "I say goodbye to gravity when you come around" -- with all the precision of someone who's been at his craft 40 years. This one is Houston proud. (Note to Montrose hipsters: Put down your Shovels and Rope and go see this local treasure. Hip yourself. There's a reason some guys last on the scene forever.)
Over the last 10 years, Jack has won multiple Houston Press Awards and nominations for Instrumentalist of the Year at the Kerrville Folk Festival.
INSIDE HOUSTON: The good writers are storytellers. They’ve got a good eye for detail and a gift for language. Any tunesmith would be proud to have written these songs. No doubt about it: this is a major league songwriter.
SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS: His gritty songs prove that Jack is set to confound the music biz, just like peers ranging from Jimmy LaFave to Joe Ely.
MUSIC CITY TEXAS …he’s come into his own with a crisp, convincing album.
SIDEWALK.COM: Jack Saunders is the king of the singer/songwriter hill in Houston. His voice and live performance skills are two strengths, though his most notable skill is songwriting, which remains the envy of many of his contemporaries.
HOUSTON PRESS: Lyrics that ring so true that it seems the songwriter has either been reading the listener’s mind.
Houston-based singer/songwriter/producer/sideman/studio owner Jack Saunders wears many hats. Yet he has a new set of songs despite having released a wonderful album, "A Real Good Place to Start," just last year. Saunders' new one is titled "Grit and Jangle," a phrase (that) nicely fits Saunders' music, thoughtful singer-songwriter fare sung in a rich, fluid voice with plenty of melodic lift.
This recording does indeed "jangle" from the progressive C&W, "Mustache on the Mona Lisa" to the Cajun "Acadian Angel"…Every song is carefully conceived and brilliantly executed with a clean but simple and direct production that delivers the lyrics to the listener's mind. "Raindrops" is one of those tunes best heard with your eyes closed, so that you feel every note.
This one is worth several listens just to crack the surface and worth a few more spins to get in deep.
Houston-based singer-songwriter Jack Saunders has recently released a particularly first-rate CD. "A Real Good Place to Start" is the name of the album, and if you don't already know the man, this is a very good way to get to know him and become acquainted with his music. He himself calls his music Folk Rock/Americana and we can find the best of the genre on this CD. The man is a super-gifted storyteller, has the unique talent to match his great lyrics with equally high quality music and a great voice. For this genre, today you'd be hard-pressed to find someone better.
On this release Jack has recorded ten songs that he penned, plus one cover, Tom T. Hall's "That's How I Got to Memphis," which all range from fascinating to catchy and sublime. Despite substantial experience as a producer with his own studio-and as a musician who performs solo, with his own band, and with other artists-Saunders seems rather modest. And this is also expressed in his music. Jack doesn't play guitar with "look at me!" arrogance, but even if you focus on his playing alone, you'll have a deep admiration for this artist.
Several have compared him to Bob Dylan. And although others may not hear the similarity, all agree that this man is very definitely an artist worthy of discovery. From his sublime performance on the lap steel and dobro, you get a taste, here and there, of country music. Though not mentioned in the notes, I want to credit his harmonica playing. Perhaps he's not a virtuoso on it, but he plays it well, with sensitivity. It is impossible to enumerate all the highlights on this CD. The album is constructed as a cohesive whole.
I would like to mention the longest track on this release, "Doors of Amsterdam," which features the sublime use of a lap steel. The catchy rhythm and beautiful story, based on his stay there, is a brilliant number. And you won't miss a lyrics insert because the bright vocals allow you to effortlessly follow along. Also listen carefully to "Elegant Grace," a song Jack wrote with movie star Grace Kelly in mind; it is a lovely song.
The sincerity of the man and his authenticity as an artist emanates from these songs. Clearly, my opinion of Jack Saunders is very high. This release is not to be missed by lovers of this genre.