Front Porch Blues

John Jackson

Alligator Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The release of The Complete Recordings from Robert Johnson a few years ago seemed to rekindle interest not only in Johnson's music, but in old-fashioned Delta blues as well. Even so, I hadn't heard much of it recently - that is, until I got my hands on Front Porch Blues from John Jackson, a disc that could well be the best traditional blues album I have ever heard.

Jackson, a veteran of the blues world, reminds me a lot of Johnson. His fantastic guitar work often sounds like it's more than one guitar plucking the gentle melodies of his songs, while his voice - admittedly something that takes a little getting used to - spins the tales of generations past while making the sound fresh for the new millenium. In short, it's the perfect mix.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Jackson dips into the rich legacy of the music he grew up with, playing such traditional favorites as "C.C. Rider" (forget every single rock version you've heard of this song, and listen to the song performed the right way) and "Death Don't Have No Mercy", as well as one or two great gospel-tinged blues numbers like "When He Calls Me" and "The Devil He Wore A Hickory Shoe". I swear, more performances like this, and I'll end up listening to a lot more gospel music in the future.

Jackson proves that his skills as a songwriter are nothing to be taken lightly. The wonderful instrumental "Fairfax Station Rag" sounds like something that might have been written at the turn of the century, during the popularity of ragtime. Jackson makes his guitar come alive on this all-too-brief song, making me wish not only that he had expanded this particular track, but also that he had done more songs in this vein on Front Porch Blues. After hearing other wonders like "Chesterfield" and "Rappahannock Blues," I honestly wish that Jackson had included more originals on this disc.

Truth be told, there is not a single bad moment on Front Porch Blues. It's an interesting change from the full-band blues I've been listening to for so many years, and brings back memories of such artists as Leadbelly and Johnson, who relied only on their voices and talents to create the mood. This album leaves no doubt that Jackson is a master at his craft.

Front Porch Blues could well be the best album I will listen to all year, and is easily one of the best - if not the best - blues album I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. If Jackson isn't revered as a living blues legend, he will be very soon.

Rating: A

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Alligator Records, and is used for informational purposes only.