“Bounty from the Seas”, the latest single from Box of Moxie’s 2019 full length release Salt Water Magic, is a highlight from singer/songwriter Stephen Jacques’ collaboration with musician and producer Alan Weatherhead. The new single has an orchestral slant dominating much of the track, but Jacques opts for stripping back the strings during many of the verses. The patient bearing of the song’s musical character is clear; the song’s slow unwind has a steady pace from beginning to end. The lush qualities of the arrangement and sound tie disparate threads of into a single vivid tapestry. It is impossible to miss how well the guitars, electric and acoustic, complement the strings, measured drums, and Jacques’ voice.
He matches the instrumental pacing with an attentive and relaxed performance of his own. His phrasing strives to make each line clear for listeners and succeeds without ever sounding overwrought, but his voice has a drier quality than some may expect and its subtle emotive notes emerge after repeated listens. His lyric talents are unquestionable. There is a suggestion of environmental concerns, yes, but Jacques frames them in a fashion far from dogmatic and rife with potent flashes of plain-spoken poetry. There isn’t, however, any discernible fat in his writing and the lean economy of the musical arrangement benefits the text as well.
There is obvious focus defining the recording. “Bounty from the Seas” runs three and a half minutes long and it plays at an ideal length to these ears. Jacques and Weatherhead fill that brief interval with a virtual world. Every component of the song locks into place with others and there isn’t a second of wasted motion as the track unravels towards its inevitable conclusion. The creative partnership Jacques and Weatherhead enjoy with this release extends to the album as well and strikes me as being one of those rare instances where two artists are simpatico in their understanding of one another’s vision and talents.
Box of Moxie and Jacques’ music has often born the label “folk” or “folk music” and it is true there is a strong traditional influence running through this song and his other work. It is, in the end, an over-simplification. “Bounty from the Seas” boasts a bevy of musical identities – it has folk influences, for sure, and likely began life with Jacques composing on an acoustic guitar. It is a pop song, however, and even has a little rock bite with the electric guitar solo during the song’s second half.
“Bounty from the Seas” is an excellent representation of Box of Moxie’s Salt Water Magic. Stephen Jacques has developed and refined his art over the course of a few albums now and the obvious advancements he makes with each successive release reflect his commitment to growth. This is top shelf musical art and an undoubted standout on an already exemplary effort. No one can underplay the positive effect Alan Weatherhead’s touch has on the music, but the single and album alike are as pure a distillation of Box of Moxie’s heart and concerns as we have heard thus far.
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