Rare is the artist that truly flies without a safety net. Think Bob Dylan, Blood On The Tracks; Joni Mitchell, Blue; or Rumours-era Stevie Nicks. For her second album, One For Jackie, Rett Madison looks to such landmark records such as these and uses them as touchstones for her own soul-baring songwriting. But whereas those works can regularly be found in lists of the best breakup albums, One For Jackie is an altogether different beast. Yes, it deals with loss, but loss of the unbearable sort that it has taken Madison four years to be able to address in her art, and which will remain with her for a lifetime more.
Yet with her own music as a salve, Madison has found her way through the darkness while also giving listeners a roadmap for their own grief. As she sings on closing track Kiki, her voice twining with that of guest vocalist Iron & Wine, “You’ve been stronger than you realise.” In reckoning with her mother’s death by suicide – and a subsequent chain of events including the discovery of abuse and its impact on her mother’s struggles with addiction and mental-health issues – Madison delivers strength in spades.
Listen to ‘One For Jackie’ here.
“Learning my mom was a survivor after her death changed things”
From opener Jacqueline, named after her mother, Madison sets out the album’s stall: “I’m just pissed off/Bitter/I couldn’t save my mother,” she sings with arresting frankness, cushioned by supporting vocals that float in as if from the ether. And it’s the liminal spaces that One For Jackie occupies so confidently, whether Madison is channelling her mother’s spirit on Kiki (“’Cause I hear you talk to me/When you think you’re on your own/But you’re not alone”), pulling up the roots of inherited trauma on Death Don’t Make A Bitch An Angel (“Can we save ourselves from each other?/Mother like father like daughter”) or, in One For Jackie, One For Crystal – a revenge fantasy that plays like an out-of-body-experience – imagining killing the man who, Madison found out after her mother’s funeral, had abused Jacqueline as a child (“I don’t got the proof to put him in a prison/But I can shoot, I can kill him”). “Learning my mom was a survivor after her death changed things,” Madison has said. “I wished I could’ve protected her.”