Shuffling, playlisting and cherry-picking your favourite songs is all well and good, but sometimes you can’t beat sitting down with an album and playing it from start to finish. For this album, Jake Bugg wanted something that felt like the albums that took pride of place in his own record collection. He’s certainly got his wish for Hearts That Strain. Bugg would write songs at home then fly out to Nashville to record them with some of the best players in the history of popular music.
As part of American Sound Studio’s legendary house band The Memphis Boys, Gene Chrisman and Bobby Woods provided the chops on such pivotal records as Dusty In Memphis, In The Ghetto, Suspicious Minds and Dark End Of The Street, cutting their teeth in sessions with Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick. Working with Grammy Award winning producers, David Ferguson and Matt Sweeney, Bugg’s time in Nashville proved to be incredibly productive. In just three week-long trips they’d finished the album.
One of the people he ended up just jamming with was The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, who collaborated with Bugg on breezy opener How Soon The Dawn, the shuffling rockabilly get-down I Can Burn Alone and In The Event Of My Demise. Another chance encounter provided a surprise collaboration. When Bugg was back in the UK writing, mulleted country rock superstar Billy Ray Cyrus stopped by the studio and was so taken that he suggested his daughter – younger sister of Miley and rising star in her own right – Noah Cyrus should sing on it.
Nashville, Billy Ray Cyrus, seasoned session pros… anyone for whom the idea of Jake Bugg in a Stetson and bootlace tie might cause unease can rest easy. Hearts That Strain is still very much the same voice and remarkably assured songwriter of Lightning Bolt and Slumville Sunrise. More importantly, it provides the threads that run through Hearts That Strain that make it feel like more than the sum of its parts. Rather than be an album to dip in and out of, it’s an organic whole that from the moment you press play you have to see it out to the final note.
“I like putting out records and I like listening to records,” reflect Bugg with characteristic understatement. “If you listen to a lot of those classic albums throughout, you can tell that all the tracks are recorded in the same place. It’s nice to have that consistency.”