Jack-E McAuley

Fretwork (RGFCD032)

Album CoverRecord labels have many reasons for releasing albums, and profit (or at least avoiding huge losses) is paramount to any label wishing to survive. Road Goes On Forever Records is no different in this respect - survival with a clear conscience seems to us to be more important than releasing yet another uninspired waste of time which cost infinitely more than it is worth.

Neither Jack-E McAuley nor Road Goes On Forever expect that 'Fretwork', an hour-long compilation of the cream of two of his albums from the earlier 1990s, will go multiple platinum, although if it does, we'll all be pretty chuffed. The reason for the release of 'Fretwork' is that it is obviously a wonderful and world-class album, and anyone who thinks otherwise is to be pitied, not criticised.

McAuley's chequered past involves many very famous musicians (see the sleeve note) but he is very definitely not seeking fame by association, especially after a career exceeding 30 years. Fame is probably an afterthought on his priority list; nevertheless, as a guitarist he is the equal of any - ANY - other in the rock era, and as a singer/songwriter, rarely puts a foot wrong, as 'Fretwork' undoubtedly proves.

The album comprises tracks from two original albums. The Poor-Mouth was launched as a group in 1987, initially by McAuley and two other musicians. 'The Poor-Mouth' is also the title of a book by Flann O'Brien which McAuley regards as a work of genius. He explained that a poor-mouth was an Irish expression denoting a person who made excuses rather than repay debts - make of that what you will... Poor-Mouth (the group) soon became a vehicle for McAuley - without apology and with no false pride, he says that he is the leader of the band, and other members tend to be friends with whom he feels on equal terms musically. At various times, these cohorts have included drummer Clive Bunker (an original Jethro Tull member), who was replaced by Howard Tibble (ex-Hank Wangford), bass players Rod Demick (of The Strawbs, etc.) and John Gustafson (Bryan Ferry), saxophonist/flautist Nick Payn (previously with Q-Tips, fronted by Paul Young, and Gary Moore's band), keyboard players Chris Parren (another Strawb) and Don Airey (Ritchie Blackmore), and others. Not famous names, but musicians known to enthusiasts and students of sleeve notes.

In 1990, an independent album was released by McAuley under the name of The Poor-Mouth: 'Gael Force' was his second album (nearly 20 years after his first), and appeared on his own label, Breaking Records, and was mainly available at Poor-Mouth gigs. With contributions from many of the names mentioned above, and featuring all original material, it was state of the art Celtic R&B, fronted by McAuley mainly on guitar, but also as lead vocalist, keyboard player, composer and producer. The album was later released on CD by an early incarnation of Road Goes On Forever Records but is long deleted.

In the spring of 1996, the idea of re-issuing this magnificent masterpiece was discussed. Coincidentally, Jack-E was playing a gig at North Finchley's prime music pub, 'The Torrington', soon afterwards, where he handed over a copy of 'Headspin', a CD he had released in 1993, which was never widely distributed in record shops but mostly sold on gigs. 'Headspin' is also an excellent album, so the original idea changed to releasing a 'Best Of' incorporating tracks from both 'Gael Force' and 'Headspin' (which Jack-E calls "his solo album").

The result is 'Fretwork', over an hour of breathtaking Celtic R&B music which deserves to be heard and admired by many more than the 6,000 or so fans who already cherish one (or both) of the original albums. Road Goes On Forever Records is very proud to release what, by any standards, is an incredible album.

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