Following support slots for the likes of Jake Bugg, Alabama 3 and Babyshambles, Hartlepool seven-piece, The Jar Family, are certainly not your average band. Labelling themselves ‘Industrial Folk’, their roots bring the meaning of ‘folk’ back to its truest form, no nampy-pampy Mumford and Sons types here… Whilst most of them have been homeless, or nearly homeless, at some point, The Jar Family was formed as a group of northern souls sharing a guitar and creating music together under economic hardship – using a ‘jar’ to collect donations and share between them. Luckily for us, they were discovered by their current manager last year, and with the help of Keith Wilkinson (former bassist of Squeeze and the Jools Holland Big Band), were able to bring their wonderfully unique sound to the masses.
And the name ‘Jar Family’ does indeed seem very apt upon seeing this group of men in eccentric hats performing live. They really do seem like one big happy family, making music and enjoying themselves together. As a gentleman donning a rather floral hat, and bearing an incredible likeness to Oliver’s Artful Dodger, plays a guitar labelled ‘This is my meal ticket’, I can’t help but think that if he continues to make such wonderful music, he’ll never go hungry again. The sense of community that was started with the jar and guitar really is evident as they play together now, and it is nothing short of heartwarming as well as simply a lot of fun.
As they power through energy-filled song after energy-filled song, each member of The Jar Family are able to showcase their extreme talent – constantly swapping roles and taking turns to take the lead, every one of them appears to be an awe inspiring multi-talented, multi- instrumentalist – and I have never seen a tambourine played with such charisma and gusto! Their eclectic range of songs is impressive, and portrays the band’s versatility and ability to combine a whole range of different genres into one wonderful album – ranging from harmonica-infused ditties such as ‘Tell Me Baby’ or ‘Is God My Witness?’ to other songs with a distinctly rocky feel; ‘You’ll Never Know Me’, for example, is filled with Liam Gallagher-esque vocals and tinged with stimulating electric guitar alongside repeated folky chants. The anthemic ‘Machine’ is another Brit-Pop inspired song, reminiscent of early Kasabian and fellow northern legends, Oasis – and is pumped out with vigour and raucous enthusiasm (I can see why it has been become one of the top 5 tracks played in football stadia across the country…)
It is not just the brilliantly diverse range of high quality songs that makes The Jar Family’s performance so engrossing and enjoyable to watch, however; the eclectic range of seemingly eccentric personalities on stage together appears to match the phenomenal uniqueness of the music being created. In keeping with the folk tradition, great stories are told of dead goldfish and real ale, as we are treated to a range of witty banter and joviality. Whilst the new album, ‘Jarmalade’, really is a wonderful amalgamation of genres, an extremely listenable journey through musical history, that showcases the extreme talent and versatility of each and every member of the band, it seems that where The Jar Family excel is in their live shows. I therefore feel very privileged to have been a part of this memorable album launch – the enthused, energy-filled performance was much more than your average gig: the seven members of this friendly family succeeded in putting on a real show, filled with vigour, charisma, dancing and – most importantly – some darn good music.