All eyes have been on musician and singer-songwriter Jake Bugg since he tweeted “2nd album done!” in early September.

When it was released last year, his debut “Jake Bugg” CD topped charts in England displacing Mumford & Sons, while this year in the U.S. it entered Billboard’s Folk Albums category at #7 and Rock Albums at #24. He’s lesser-known in the U.S., but seems intent on changing that, performing at Portland’s Wonder Ballroom just this past September.

All things considered, new release “Shangri-La” — named after the famous Malibu, Calif. studio in which it was recorded — offers up more rock n’ roll than the first go-round. The new release opens with a short dynamo of a song, “There’s a Beast and We All Feed It.” Terrifically witty and energetic, “Beast” is a song about psycho human behaviors and is reminiscent of some of the tracks on his debut.

Likewise, “Slumville Sunrise” is cast from the same gritty-rock genre we so loved on “Trouble Town,” while “Kingpin” is a rollicking, fun George Thorogood-like rocker destined to get fans out on the dance floor. You’re sure to love Bugg’s guitar solo here.

Once again, most tracks are co-written with other musicians, most notably Ireland’s Iain Archer (formerly Snow Patrol and more recently, Tired Pony) as well as Brendan Benson. One of the album’s finest tracks, however, is “Me and You,” written by Bugg alone. One wonders if perhaps he penned this one about his love interest — young English model Cara Delevingne — before their breakup earlier this year.

Lyric sample:

“All of these people want us to fail,
I won’t let that happen, no.
Just you believe me
I’ll hide you discreetly,
Discreetly from this cold world.”

We can’t help but think Cara should tune in and reconsider.

Me and You

New territory

There’s a new sound on Shangri La that’s a departure from Bugg’s debut, a kind of leisurely, meandering rock n’ roll voice on songs like “All Your Reasons” and the goodbye-my-love theme of “Kitchen Table.” Both songs were written solo by Bugg. The latter, particularly, offers an interesting, unhurried arrangement that beckons us in. With a similar flavor is the brooding “Simple Pleasures,” a rock collaboration that clocks in at over five minutes. Nice work.

In addition to “Me and You,” without a doubt an album high point is the last track, “Storm Passes Away,” co-written with Archer and Benson. We thought we’d heard all the different sides of this artist from Nottingham, England, on his debut. But “Storm” has a rockabilly flavor that gets oh-so-close to bluegrass or classic Hank Williams material and is perfectly performed by Bugg. “Storm” seems well-suited to a duet with a female voice; maybe Bugg can give that some thought for a live performance. Gillian Welch, Taylor Swift or Alison Krauss, perhaps?

Storm Passes Away

To sum up: Bugg is still compelling, and already has plans for what’s next

When Jake Bugg first emerged on the music scene, comparisons with Bob Dylan seemed inevitable. Given his electric guitar prowess, evident on songs like Slumville Sunrise and especially live in concert – maybe he’s more like a budding Eric Clapton. If you were lucky enough to catch him live at the Wonder Ballroom, you know what a modest, yet compelling showman he is.

Music fans already familiar with him know well his ability to belt out pitch-perfect, captivating vocals, especially on some of his ballads. Aside from “Pine Trees,” those who hunger for his quiet but sublime numbers won’t find a lot of stuff like “Country Song” or “Broken” here. As a whole – particularly coming on the heels of his first release – “Shangri La” hangs together well and doesn’t disappoint.

What’s next? Best guess, Bugg will likely be on the music scene for years to come. He said in a recent interview he wants to record an acoustic album with no other writers. His fans will undoubtedly like the sound of that, and we’ll look forward to it.

You say you haven’t gotten his music yet? Put him on your “get-acquainted” list soon.

You can find it on amazon or iTunes, or visit his website for music videos and upcoming Shangri La tour dates.

He plays Portland on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at the Crystal Ballroom.

Cynthia Orlando
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