Jack J Hutchinson — Battles (Self Released)

Has Jack J Hutchinson had enough?

Has one of British blues’ hottest prospects finally snapped?

And is it time we accept that our favourite blues brother’s transformation into a hard rock anti-hero is complete?

Battles, you see, is an angst-ridden blaze of creative glory.

It’s fast-paced, furious and fiercely unapologetic.

Far removed from Hutchinson’s early work, it’s a statement of brash, bullish intent.

Flame-grilled solos jostle for position with explosive riffs.

And the main man sounds like the world’s his enemy as he takes aim at just about anyone and everyone — including himself.

Battles is both introspective and incendiary. It’s an album that burns with emotion and bristles with regret.

But Hutchinson’s ordered the tracklist with typical care.

And come this remarkable record’s neat denouement there’s a sense of overriding optimism.

It’s almost as if Battles is the self-reflective release that’s been needed for years.

By the time Hutch roars into Don’t Let The Fuckers Get You Down it feels like he’s finally got it — whatever it is — out of his system. 

Who knows whether set closer Stay With Me is an order or a plea?

Whatever, we’ll be sticking with Gentleman Jack for the long haul. There’s no turning back now.

Manning the decks

There’s little doubt that Josiah J Manning has peeled away hitherto hidden layers of classic rock’s favourite slow burner.

Renowned for his reputation-cementing work with Kris Barras and Inglorious, the in-demand producer has co-written Battles with Hutchinson.

And it seems the partnership’s forced Jack the lad to emerge from his shell and leave everything out there.

From bone crunching opener Constellations to the aforementioned Don’t Let The Fuckers Get You Down, the axe work is consistently meaty.

At times Hutch veers towards Shinedown territory, such is the sonic boom of Battles’ heavier bursts.

And there’s more than a hint of Black Stone Cherry about the best of his Southern-influenced, hard rock belters.

Ironically, given Battles’ focus on the ferocious, the laid back Road To Hell and ‘power ballad’ Stay With Me are two of this revealing album’s surprise highlights.

The latter showcases Hutchinson’s diverse vocal tone — often lost on the casual listener when he’s rocking out and ripping forth. More of the same, please.

For a while now we suspected Hutchinson had a record like this somewhere within him.

Nevertheless, the NWOCR stalwart has surpassed all expectations.

Hutchinson’ fought hard to get this far. But Battles is his biggest triumph.