Jacqui Watson,
Cocaine & Brandy Days
(Jip, 2005)

Americana from New Zealand may seem an unusual combination, but with Jacqui Watson the blend works very well. Maybe it's the wide-open spaces and driving herds, even if it is sheep rather than steers, that drew her soul to the genre.

Cocaine & Brandy Days deserves a listen if only for the wonderful title, but the 12 tracks on offer make it a must. Add to this the fact that all tracks come from Jacqui's pen and you realize you are hearing an artist who has a lot to say and great way of saying it.

The title track will waken memories of our youth, when a party was only a success if we could not remember it later. It will also remind us of when we started to realize we were getting too old for such fun.

As the title indicates, "I Do" is about marrying. The joy is that it is refreshingly candid and personal in its depiction of the proposal. Watson's humorous look at life continues with the beautifully written "Me & My Cardboard Man." This is a song that deserves to be heard.

"Eilleen" intrigues me -- it is a great story-song, but is it from her imagination or about a real person? Listen also to "Little Emma." Here is a very personal song that any parent could sing with a slight change of lyric.

Watson sings of the mundane things of life but she has the talent to give them a magical spark. She can sing about a dog on "Best Friend" but she avoids the maudlin of "Old Shep" and even makes this non-dog lover understand the connection. The album comes with a nice insert including lyrics and pictures of the performer.

by Nicky Rossiter
18 February 2006

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