Whether or not it was recorded subsequent to or simultaneous with its predecessor, The Modern Lives Vol. 2 is much superior. Otherwise fully complementary to Vol. 1 right down to the cover graphics, Jackie Greene’s second of two EP’s within roughly a year reaffirms the wisdom of his declaration of independence as a recording artist.
As with the best of other such self-played and recorded projects, his informality works in his favor because he sounds so sure of what he’s doing. “Crazy Comes Easy” may well be the best track of this bunch and the last: the crisp electric piano is the ideal foil for the topsy-turvy electric slide guitar, while a touch of harmonica lends an extra dollop of whimsy to the alternately bemused, bewildered vocal. Sidestepping the bane of such purely solo recordings, Jackie never sounds too careful here, during the more abandoned “Good Old Bad Times” or anywhere else on Vol. 2 for that matter.
That latter arrangement, again including prominent harmonica, continues the folksy feel Greene amplifies further through the addition of vocal harmonies and, on “Women And The Rain,” the prominence of dobro. Here, the singer/songwriter sings ascends to a higher vocal register he rarely uses that’s also effective during “Victim of the Crime:” it’s an approach that dampens the philosophical musings running through the lyrics to some tunes, thereby allowing high-spirits to permeate most of The Modern Lives Vol. 2.
Emotions turn tender, however, on “Fragile And Waiting” where Jackie uses the acoustic piano to imbues the track with a gospel feel that remains even when some orchestral crescendos appear late in the cut: they’re demonstrably restrained, thereby rendering this a demonstration of influences as authentic as Greene’s other such gestures here. The modified bluesy shuffle of the sly “That Ain’t Love, That’s Sugar” thus becomes the perfectly appropriate closer to this six-cut collection.
A logical sequencing of the tracks doesn’t become readily apparent til this point, a signal of how astute is David Simon Baker’s editing. Equally crucial, if not more so however as the mixing of Michael H. Brauer and mastering of Joe Laporta: the clarity of sound offers further proof of Jackie Greene’s justifiable pride in his work on The Modern Lives project.