Dark of Heartness by Jamie McDonald and The Number Nein (review)

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“What you claim not to know is merely what you’ve denied. You’ve recaptured your vagrant memories, what are you doing with them?” — The Queen of Hearts to Alice

It’s that time of the year again, folks! The time for exchanging gifts and kindness more than any other time of the year.
Here is a special gift for all of us: fresh new album coming out from Jamie Mcdonald and The Number Nein!

Perhaps you thought that he is resting on his laurels because the last album feels like not so long ago, huh? Well, I told you already – Jamie is the kind of guy that never stops.

The thing is, he made a new album and for what is worth, I think it’s better than the previous.

Maladies of Country and Soul are healed; get ready for the Dark of Heartness!

I got the privilege of digging into this album first and that’s exactly why I can confidently make a step up and tell you about his obvious and hidden gems.

Of course, everyone is looking for different things in the music they like, and we usually have a predisposition to like some kind of music more than other.

But if you care to know MY opinion, and to compare to what extent it covers your taste, here is what I found.

Here is the list of the songs and I am going to look into each and one of them, as usual:

1. Big Bass Drum
Sincere and brave as always, Jamie opens and pours his heart again without any hesitation. The Number Nein musicians work well together and they know what they are doing, but don’t get me wrong: this is not some pleasant background noise for your evening drink. You need to be engaged, to listen actively if you want to get what they give. The blend of Ivan Alexiev’s bass and the sax of Damien Mc Donnell will make this song echoing not only in your ears, but in your heart. There is even a Big Bass Drum’s reprise at the end of the album, just to frame and wrapped it nicely. :-)

2. Lie To Me
That’s a good song about the agony we face when we love but the feeling is not mutual. Jamie admits that at times he is obsessed with the idea of love being more real and romantic when we are honest and I agree with this.
But his character in the song is on the fence: he clearly knows it’s a lie, but he is desperate for love and he wants to be deceived. It’s a song with the potential to be even better live. Shows well the intensity and power of Jamie’s voice.

3. Catfish
Catfish is a very intriguing song. It puts me in kinda “Twin Peaks” mood – and it feels like it could work well in some movie's soundtrack. I would definitely be happy with a whole album of songs like this one, for it transports me somewhere else where I very much like to roam. :-)

4. Crazy (The Way You Drive Me)
That’s a solid song about strong, real, but mature love:

“I need you so, I need you so, that’s why I gotta let you go
I hope you find all you need and all you might
Despite those arms wrapped around you a little too tight”

Unconditional love… love without strings attached… being accepted with all your flaws, is this not what we all need and want?

5. Blood In The Water
At first you might feel confused that this is abruptly “breaking” the overall feeling for this album, somehow upsetting the “feeling good” vibe. Now, I admit that this song sounds like a mood changer… with all its rage and this mad, unhinged sax this is certainly not an easy piece to swallow. But after certain amount of time and listening I grew very fond of it – it works amazingly well when you see how it adds just another bright color on this strong palette of emotions that the album has been weaved of… So no matter if you jump at it at first, I’ll give it the credit it deserves. Just don’t cook while listening, for you might spill something. :-)

6. Roll Another, Johanna
There you have a song in stark contrast with the previous one. What can I say about a tender song like this one? You can hear Ekaterina Nenkova adding the shade of colour with her warm backing vocals and the song has this nice, easy harmony between Jamie’s powerful voice and hers that gives you the hint: it’s a delicate and passionate song, almost a duet.

7. Bambo’s Blues
When I asked Jamie about Bambo’s Blues, he said that it was a nice studio moment, a passing jam. It’s a nice break and a sincere, playful way to invite the listener to peek into this special place where music is created – from the magic that happens when good musicians are having random fun together. Unsurprisingly, Jamie is playing skillfully with our expectations and he knows what he’s doing: pushing and pulling at his ropes while also having a lot of fun.

8. A Love That Hurts When It Hits
Don't say you've never been hit by love. This is pure realism, never boring. It says all there is to say about love being true and hard, not all roses and pearls. It doesn’t cut any corners and it hits right in the feels. :-)

9. Love, Approximately
Ever felt confused in a relationship? I see everyone’s hand drawn up now. Love is never not easy. Every album has a song that’s the instant favorite and I believe this is the one here. Leave what you’re doing and let this song take you on a happy ride. Radiating pure joy with its melodic, nice riffs and catchy rhythm, with the lovely sax and whatnot, it’s just a song you won’t be able to stop humming all day. :-) But make not mistake, the sense of contrast that is so typically Irish is here again – hidden in plain sight between the deceptive lightness of the melody and the words that are not so light… at all.

10. Ain’t No Moonshine When She’s Gone
Very hard to review a song that I love from the first note. Beautiful, haunting melody and dreamy, sweet sadness reeking out of it. Love the “conversation” between the leading and the backing vocals here and the inimitable voice of the sax. Billyana Todorova is surely helping to make this track more balanced.

When I asked Jamie, he said the songs were written over many years - some new and some old... finally finding a home together. And now you have it - all aspects of love, thoroughly covered by these talented musicians, lead by Jamie, who is always steering his albums towards his strongest emotions and influences.

I like the fact that he is not easily satisfied with his strong points only and that he is never shy to challenge – himself and the audience.

You can also explore his DARK OF HEARTNESS – the album will be released on 12th January 2019 at Dada Bar, Sofia.

Now it’s your turn. Buy, listen and then don’t forget to share in the comments what grabs you and what doesn’t.

You know, our culture and world perception are shaped by the things we consume. So choose your treats wisely and when you have a chance, don’t miss these guys’ gigs – I promise, you will enjoy massively the live experience! :-)

The Number Nein are:
JAMIE MC DONALD - guitar, vocals, songwriting
ILKO BIROV – drums & percussion
DAMIEN MC DONNELL - drums, bass, percussion, occasional sax
IVAN ALEXIEV - bass, string arrangements

If you want to explore the lyrics, here they are:

“I know you believe you understand what you think I said... I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” Love, Approximately

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