"CAGE" REVIEWS:

****
Maverick Magazine

by John Brindle

Second solo project, from Nashville-based singer-
songwriter, highlights the continuing growth of a major talent.


Jack Sundrud has trodden a long, successful journey along the often precarious path known as ‘the music business.’ A respected Nashville songwriter and co-writer; former band-leader of
early 1990s act Great Plains and some time partner of Craig Bickhardt in Idlewheel. Jack also retains the bassist, singer-songwriter berth within venerable country rockers Poco. Mr Sundrud also found time to release a riveting solo debut BY MY OWN HAND back in 2005. He’s repeated the trick here too, with CAGE.

This six-song EP fully demonstrates Sundrud’s enduring ability to delve into the
human psyche with humility and a sense of humour. Opener Hollow Man, a co-write
with Richard Wold, has a clockwork musical symmetry to match the subject matter.
The tale of a character who strives to do his best, within a robotic working existence,
faces stark facts upon losing his job; ‘Thirty years of sacrifice, he barely knows his
kids and wife, looks at life like a stranger outside the door.’ The middle eight takes on
a musically freer form, again matching the lyric, when the man is presented with a
future with ‘endless possibilities.’

Jack has an appealing rasp to his voice, not dissimilar to Don Henley. Though
his music has a country foundation, the material exhibits a contemporary feel. The
title cut, Cage, is an innovative piece that begins with the sound of a scratched vinyl
record: ‘Echoing your slipping grip.’ This piano led song again looks at the human
condition, seeing the body as a ‘cage’ containing our human frailties; Jack tips his hat
towards Shakespeare with the lyric: ‘Fretting out your hour on the stage.’ Musically it
has a Beatles quality, never a bad thing! Here On Earth proves that Sundrud can rock
too, with its humorous lyric: ‘Here on earth, where cars get rusty and body’s grow
old…. So I’m gonna love every moment I can’. It’s a catchy groove song.

Even finer is The Key. A gorgeous melody, picked on acoustic guitar, the tune
is matched by an intelligent lyric about a troubled relationship. The woman sees
the hidden spare door key as a potential escape to another life though: ‘she’s still
hanging on, she’s not going anywhere, but she feels better knowing it’s there.’
Ultimately ‘the key’ to redemption rests with her partner admitting he needs help;
‘It’s killing me slowly the way we’ve lost touch.’ It’s the kind of song Guy Clark would
be pleased to have written; a hit song in waiting.

A small cast of players and helpers contribute to the success of this project. Bill Halverson and Michael Clute add expertise and sheen to Jack’s production and mixing while guitarist Russ Pahl and keyboardist Michael Webb add clout and colour where needed. If I have a criticism,
it’s that I wish this was a full length CD, call me old fashioned. Perhaps Mr Sundrud is saving some of his other songs for the upcoming Poco release. Purchase with confidence!
- John Brindle

****1/2
Soundwaves Magazine
- Mark Gould

Whoever first said that great things come in, relatively, small packages must have heard this remarkable six-song EP collection from Nashville singer-songwriter Jack Sundrud. Sundrud’s had a pretty incredible career, writing or co-writing a number of Nashville-based hits for other artists; leading his own band, the late and lamented “Great Plains;” writing, recording and playing the occasional gig with songwriter contemporary Craig Bickhardt as “Idlewheel;’ and, of course, his best-known “day job” as bassist, singer and songwriter in the legendary country-rock band Poco. In that context, “Cage” is another in a long line of successes for the Minnesota native.

Remarkably, it’s only his second solo work, and it follows the equally impressive “By My Own Hand,” a full-length recording Sundrud released a few years ago.Recorded at the Spare Room outside of Nashville, “Cage” elegantly and eloquently showcases Sundrud’s emotional, passionate singing voice, which, even with, well, “spare” studio accompaniment, often just an acoustic guitar, never fails to capture the emotion, care and detail of his songs.

Cage” continues Sundrud’s musical legacy of consistently excellent songwriting, singing and playing and makes a listener yearn for many more than its six outstanding, unique songs. Here’s hoping that he gives us more, soon.

"F***in' - A! Just F***in' - A!"
- My friend Bruce
"BY MY OWN HAND" REVIEWS:
Performing Songwriter Magazine
By Lee Zimmerman

After helming country-rock combo Great Plains in the mid-'90s, Jack Sundrud's musical stature was elevated by an invitation to helm Poco alongside mainstays Rusty Young and Paul Cotton. Now comes the moving, memorable By My Own Hand, a solo sojourn that finds him revisiting his roots.

Heartfelt back-porch ballads like "Hard Country," "Father's Day," "Heartland Train" and "Modern Day Blacksmith" celebrate homespun virtues. The Eagles-like "Soul Searchin'" and a wistful, reflective "Living My Dream" (in which Sundrud dreams he's running lights for the Beatles) reinforce the humanity and humility. Young and Cotton make cameos, but it's evocative melodies and emotional reads that put a lump in the throat.

*****
Sound Waves Magazine
By Mark T. Gould 

In Nashville, where you can't swing your arm without hitting a self-proclaimed 'songwriter,' the magnificently talented Jack Sundrud has released a solo album that virtually stands head and shoulders, and, yes, hands, above just about everything anyone is writing and recording in Music City these days.
 
Currently working as the bassist in the long-running Poco, Sundrud has a storied history of writing terrific songs that have turned into hits for many other artists. One of the founders of the highly underrated band Great Plains, Sundrud, along with the equally talented Craig Bickhardt, co-wrote "It Must Be Love," which country star Ty Herndon took to number one on the country charts. Now, he's turned his eye back toward his interpretations of his own work, and the results are incredible.
 
Aided by a virtual who's who of Nashville talent, including fellow Poco members Rusty Young and Paul Cotton, the magnificent singers Helen Darling and Michael Kelsh, the multi-talented writer, arranger and player Bickhardt and a host of others, Sundrud has crafted a beautiful, emotional song cycle.

And, despite his obvious talents as a songwriter and arranger, Sundrud's secret weapon is clearly his voice. He's got that unique sound and delivery that immediately brings a lump to the throat and emotion to the heart of every listener. Very, very few singers have that, and he does, in spades. If there's any question about that, just have a listen to the remarkable "Father's Day," which he occasionally plays in acoustic settings with Poco, "Modern Day Blacksmith," "Heartland Train," and "Hard Country," just a few of the great songs on this album.
 
You want deep, heartfelt music, played and sung from the soul? Then, run out and buy this outstanding release.

****
Maverick Magazine
By John Brindle

Superior solo debut, from award winning songwriter, hits the spot with intelligent lyrics and gritty, memorable melodies. Jack Sundrud has paid his dues as one of Nashville's most respected tunesmiths and working musicians. His writing abilities have previously garnered him success with songs like "Homeland" (named Farm Song of the year 1996 by The Farm Journal). He also scored a number one country hit when Ty Herndon released a version of "It Must Be Love", a co-write with Craig Bickhardt back in 1998. Jack currently holds down the bass, harmony vocals and songwriting role within the venerable Poco, though he previously cut his teeth with a pair of albums for nineties outfit Great Plains.
What strikes me most about "By My Own Hand" is how much Sundrud has grown as a songwriter and performer, allied with his technical and production abilities. His gritty, though tuneful voice isn't dissimilar to Don Henley's and he has a gift for conveying his lyrics in a wholly believable fashion.
Opening number, "Hard Country", with it's pleasant acoustic guitar, surprising organ fills and plaintive vocals is a knockout and lays out the farmers dilemma; love for the land versus the need to make a living: "The price of fuel went up, corn went down and I don't think we'll be seein' Bobby again". "Father's Day", co-written with friends Craig Bickhardt and Helen Darling also hits the spot. A touching tale about an annual visit to celebrate the "finest man I've ever known". He avoids sentimentality but hits the mark: "I bought a tie he won't wear, a silly card to make him laugh'.
Other highlights include the Poco styled mandolin driven "Taste for Life", with Rusty Young's fine dobro, while "Soul Searching" and "Noonday Sun" reveal the rocking side of Sundrud's writing. "Modern Day Blacksmith" examines the loss of traditional crafts and harks back to a more innocent time with Jack playing some very tasteful acoustic guitar.
The title song, "By My Own Hand", with its contemporary feel suggests this music could appeal to mainstream music buyers besides a more niche country-rock format. Every musician has influences and bands they admire. Jack Sundrud is no different; in his case it is clearly the Beatles. The closing "Living My Dream" is a really moving tribute to the 'Fab Four' and how he was inspired to make his life in music: "I had a dream the other night, I was out front running lights for the Beatles".
Jack Sundrud is characteristically modest about his music, as he says in the liner notes: "This thing is a gift to myself, really, to mark the fact that I've somehow managed to stay afloat with music ". HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

Music Row Magazine
By Robert K. Oermann

JACK SUNDRUD/Hard Country
Writer: Jack Sundrud/Bruce Miller; Producer: Russ Pahl; Publisher: Red Quill/Magnasong/Curb Magnatone/Fame, BMI; Dogpile (track)

You'll recall Sundrud as the lead singer of Great Plains in the '90s. For that matter, producer Pahl was also a member. Anyway, the singing is super soulful on this lead-off track to a CD titled By My Own Hand. The song has a melody-drenched chorus with a hard-times lyric that is impossible not to love. Toward the end, Helen Darling turns up with some dandy backup vocalizing. Other notable guests on the CD include Craig Bickhardt, John Mock, Billy Livesy and Poco's Rusty Young and Paul Cotton.

Kweevak.com
By Laura Turner Lynch

JACK SUNDRUD - BY MY OWN HAND: Jack Sundrud is a musician, producer, singer and an award winning songwriter. Jack has worked with a variety of artists but is perhaps best known as the bass player for the legendary band Poco. Sundrud currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee and had access to many talented players who perform on his solo release, including long time collaborator Craig Bickhardt. By My Own Hand is an eleven-track work of art featuring colorful instrumentation and vibrant, visual lyrics. The CD production is crisp and clean allowing the variety of instruments featured to stand out adding to the texture and tone of each song. Jack is a strong vocalist who sings from the heart. 'Hard Country' is the compelling, opening track. It is a potent song about the problems facing farmers. Jack sings the song with emotion conveying both the joys and sorrows of living in this 'Hard Country'. The instrumentation is subtle yet plump with Sundrud handling guitars and bass. It is followed by 'Father's Day' another beautifully written song with a touching tribute to Jack's father. Rusty Young of Poco contributes banjo and more guitars, vocals and a concertina add to the soundscape. The song has a mid-tempo pace that is relaxed yet spirited. 'Living My Dream' closes the CD with a thank you to The Beatles who inspired Sundrud to "make his living writing songs and playing in bands." The track features harmonies and sounds reminiscent of The Fab Four. By My Own Hand a great CD by the multi-talented Jack Sundrud!


IDLEWHEEL REVIEWS:
****
Maverick Magazine
By John Brindle

Nashville based staff-writers pool their co-writes
for an album that oozes potential and class.

Idlewheel consists of two Nashville based tunesmiths, Craig Bickhardt and Jack Sundrud. Between them these writing friends have acquired a wealth of experience; Bickhardt as a member of respected Nashville outfit SKB, a solo artist and writer of scores of songs cut by people as diverse as B. B. King through to Tricia Yearwood. He's also enjoyed a number 1 hit with the Judd's version of Turn It Loose.
Jack Sundrud has also tasted success as a staff writer and founder/leader of Great Plains. Presently he holds down a creative role within Poco, though he found time to release a fine solo CD, By My Own Hand last year.
Sundrud assesses the project thus; "A collection of songs Craig and I wrote and produced while working as staff writers in Music City. The tunes fit together so well that we've started a virtual band and may get a virtual bus."
The twelve songs are all co-written by Jack and Craig while Alison Mellon adds her name to three co-writes too. Bickhardt has a pure, smooth romantic vocal style while Sundrud's gritty emotive timbre provides an appealing contrast, together they blend convincingly. There is a knowing, rough-hewn wisdom to much of these songs. They convey believable real life experiences rather than slickly produced, though emotionally bereft material one often associates with Nashville.
Mona Lisa's Frown is a superior 'put down' song using grandiose metaphors: "If Michelangelo could make a work of art he'd carve your statue with a small black marble heart, then you'd know just how it feels inside when somebody chips away your pride". Dust Of This Town tackles the changing face of a childhood town, "Didn't know good things could end with a wrecking ball"; the authors recalling childhood aspirations lost in the dust. The melody is a winner with sprightly mandolin playing from Sundrud.
Craig Bichardt is particularly effective on the more sensitive material like Sweet Sadness, examining the evolving relationship between a father and daughter while When I Tell You That I Love You is a classic love song with lovely steel, acoustic guitar and a totally convincing vocal.
The material is uniformly strong with Sundrud excelling on country rocker Twisted, Tied And Tangled, the catchy Little Red Reminders and the knockout Cool Drink Of Water. A word of credit must go to the unnamed fiddle player. The set is concluded with a strong rocker; Howl Like A Lonesome Wind.
Idlewheel is surprisingly cohesive considering its "virtual" birthing process. The production is uncluttered allowing the songs to breathe. On this evidence the two principles may wish to consider trading in the "virtual bus" for a real one. I'm sure this material would sound good in a live concert setting.