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Jill Jack riding momentum to Ark
27 April, 2006
Ann Arbor News - WILL STEWART

Jill Jack has felt the momentum build before. But this time, on the heels of her sixth album, the singer-songwriter and 12-time Detroit Music Awards winner believes she's on the brink of breaking through to audiences beyond Michigan.

"More and more, it feels like we're really building the right kind of momentum,'' said Jack, whose headlining gig at The Ark on Saturday is one sign that her career is on the right track. "I've played everywhere I can in Michigan. I'm ready to go nationwide.''

If nothing else, "Moon and the Morning After'' marks Jack's arrival as a songwriter and singer worthy of the kind of attention she feels she deserves after more than a dozen years spent as one of Detroit's best-kept secrets. Brimming with Jack's husky vocals, killer guitar parts courtesy of longtime collaborator Billy Brandt and a the lush production of Nolan Mendenhall, "Moon and the Morning After'' places Jack comfortably in the same company as Americana staples like Lucinda Williams or Sheryl Crow. "Or any other chick with a guitar,'' Jack joked.

The irony is that Jack's landmark album almost never came to be. Three years ago, disillusioned after too many dead-end gigs in smoky bars, Jack broke up her band, packed up her guitar and returned to the accounting job that had been her safety valve throughout her music career. Despite the inactivity, Jack continued to win Detroit Music Awards, then regrouped the band three years ago to record "Live and Unplugged'' in 2004.

Jack suddenly realized she wasn't done with music and spent the next nine months writing, eventually compiling more than 50 songs, from which the dozen tunes that constitute "Moon and the Morning After'' were culled. "It was like music was brand new again,'' she said of the period, during which she was also re-energized by Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi concerts she attended. "I guess I just needed to give my mind a rest.''

While her mind was resting, however, she was also losing the momentum she had gained over nearly a decade's worth of gigs and recordings. She knew it would take more than a new batch of songs to jump-start her career. After reading about another artist mortgaging her home to finance a project, Jack followed suit, refinancing her Oakland County home, starting her own label - Uphill Records - to record "Moon and the Morning After.''

Unlike previous albums, on which songs were recorded as soon as they were written, Jack took the 50-odd songs she'd written and solicited opinions from friends and colleagues, determined to release a record that cut across a wide swath of genres and that had universal appeal. The result isn't exactly country and not quite folk. It's too easy sounding to qualify as rock, yet doesn't shy away from booming drums and distorted guitars when they suit the songs. "I felt I had to raise the bar for myself if I was going to get where I want to go as an artist,'' she said. "The maturity of this record means I can take it anywhere - to different labels and different audiences.

"Let's hope it takes me further along my journey, too.''

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