More than just a band name and album title, Jeker’s Cardboard Condo is an album which steps forward from within classic rock familiarity and assuming expectations to present one extremely captivating and enjoyable encounter. It is not going to rival others for best of lists come December but for honest and instinctive rock ‘n’ roll with an infectious voice and magnetic heart it stands side by side with most.
The story behind the name and release is the type of tale music and blues rock was created to soundtrack. The protagonist of the tale is Mark Jeker, a guitarist/vocalist/songwriter who decided to devote everything to his music amidst disillusion with life. The man in his bio states, “I left everything behind, my home, my family, myself respect and sometimes, my dignity.” Living in his pickup truck and playing with his cover band to raise any kind of funds, Jeker wrote and worked on his music, moving from parking lots to fields and gas stations in the truck as he continued to write and play guitar. The demise of his home/vehicle saw him travelling to NYC looking for inspiration in the streets and the people he met and money earned from street performing just about paying for his trips. As bar gigs in Jersey slowed in the summer he began sleeping on the streets and river banks with guitar and writing pad, with time also spent in subways and in line at soup kitchens. One rainy day in July 2010 he built his own cardboard shelter with refrigerator boxes, an old tarp and some duct tape. Decorated with whatever he could find and artwork from a graffiti painter friend, his home was christened Jekers Cardboard Condo. With visits from fellow shack dwellers building into Cardboard Condo parties things were as settled as the situated allowed, but of course never thankfully to be permanent. Gigs started picking up bringing some finance back into his days whilst a meeting with guitarist singer and song writer, Joe Fallon led to an invitation to records some songs. Further help and support from friends musically and in living and travelling aspects, continued an upswing in Jeker’s fortunes as did continuing shows which helped finance a place to live and recording equipment. Continually working on recording songs and creating the album through 2011 into 2012, Jeker’s Cardboard Condo was finally completed and released, the result an album with true spirit and a instinctive breath filled with easy to access rock passion.
Assisted by Fallon (guitar/bass/vocal), Mark Clese (guitar/bass/percussion), and Tony Morra (drums/percussion) across the songs making up the release, Jeker’s Cardboard Condo gets off to a very decent start with Cardboard Condo. From a fiery start the track settles into a strolling gait with flames of blues guitar and the distinct vocals of Jeker providing an openly honest narrative of the tale we tell above. It is a strong, if in hindsight underwhelming compared to what is to come, introduction which makes for a warm and energetic welcome to the artists and release.
The following Knock is another matter; it’s laid back but beckoning start doing enough to pull in stronger attention before the harmonies and melodic poise of the song rewards by taking senses and passions into the rocking heart of the encounter, its pop hooks and earthy vocals delivering the sealing persuasion for thoughts and appetite. Just hinted at on its predecessor, there is a strong whisper of Graham Parker to this track and the vocal delivery of Jeker which adds another potent dimension to things. Jagged riffs spark another rise in a hunger for the track especially as a Tom Petty essence also makes an appearance as the song rises to an infectious and lingering climax.
Mind’s Eye has a similar glaze to its presence as its predecessor, a Parker/Costelloesque lure irresistible once it wraps around the excellent bass temptation leading into the song at the start. As with all the tracks it is fair to say there is nothing staggeringly new being unveiled but equally there have not been many classic rock albums with such an endearing, uncluttered but imaginative, and convincing suasion to ignite the same level of pleasure either in recent months or so.
Deception is a song which took time to fully win over thoughts and emotions, but after numerous plays it emerged as an addictive little tease which secured strong ardour for itself, though the song always feels a little weak until it is into its stride where it just excels. Its presence is soon equalled and subsequently surpassed by the rock pop contagion of Sometimes, a song which defies you to resist joining in and have feet tapping without reticence, the again Graham Parker smelling Anyway, and the excellent That’s Life with its sizzling blues toned guitars and David Essex like touch, yep honestly.
The brief piano cascade of drama to welcome in Blue Diana, strikes up strong anticipation which is then left disappointed by the following stance of the song. The track is a pleasing and potent part ballad flame of passion and creative skill, a song which has little in flaws but after such a big trigger just does not match the hunger which was sparked, though the melancholic strings and throaty evocation to the tail of the track go some of the way. The same applies to My Reality, its eastern rhythmic invitation outstanding and a seed for lust which the weakest song on the release throws away. In saying that the track is still an easy to ride to make peace with just not one able to satisfy the thirst its entrance bred.
Closing with the impressive Angel in My Pocket and its emotional tonic, Jeker’s Cardboard Condo is a thrilling stomp of a release which does not try to be anything but honest and passionate, something it and its creator achieves with ease. Not your album of the year maybe but certainly able to become one of your favourite aural long term friends.
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