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CD REVIEW

Just Jack: The Outer Marker

Rappers the Streets and Dizzee Rascal are being recognized as the latest in a long line of British musicians to crib influences and street cred from black American music and use them to craft their own personal tales of urban life on the edge. And now Jack Allsopp, a.k.a. Just Jack, gives the new British Invasion a sultry, R&B flavor, mixing crooned vocals drawn from his homeland's love of dance music, with spoken-word raps over beats that borrow from funk, hip-hop, and house. While his super-velvety pop vocals may put off some fans of tougher indie rap, and his dark lyrics probing mortality and personal isolation may be a bit heavy for those seeking soul grooves for dancing and romancing, his juxtaposition of poignant with pretty creates some truly fresh moments. Album opener "Let's Get Really Honest" is a hardened breakup song that builds slowly, as a lush soul chorus and gentle beat coax along Allsopp's thickly accented R&B vocals. "Paradise (Lost & Found)" shows off Allsopp's casually loping MC style before kicking into a calypso-tinged chorus, while "Heartburn" has a Rick Astley-worthy vocal hook. And the remix by Eddy Temple Morris of the album's first single, "Snowflakes" -- which enhances the dark moodiness of Allsopp's original with a perfect sample from the Cure's creeping waltz "Lullaby" -- epitomizes the smartly shadowed and eclectic mood that the album achieves at its best.

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