Reviews

The Shortest Day

In this program of original and traditional pieces we get an intimate look at Kenny Jackson, the fiddler, composer, banjo picker, and singer. Aided by Bobb Head on banjo, Carl Jones on mandolin and exceptional guitar, Erynn Marshall on fiddle, and by his wife Rochelle Moser on harmony vocals, Jackson lays bare his soul for all to hear and absorb. Of primary interest here is the fiddling, which is exceptional. Originals like “Broke Down Barn” and “The Ninth of October” stand well with a tune from the late John “Dick” Summers, “Grand Spy.” His adaptation of an old hymn, “Feather Dove,” and “Scotland Man,” reveal the depth of his music. There is something lonesome and strong in the soul of an old time musician; the last two tunes, “Old No. 2” and “The Wind on Crow Hill,” exemplify these traits beautifully. This long-awaited project exceeds expectations and is essential listening. The true vine continues through Jackson.  Fiddler Magazine

***

“I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed an album so much (it might have been the Allman Brothers “Live At Fillmore East,” which would be quite a ways back). I didn’t think I’d ever hear a waltz as beautiful as “Life’s Fortune” or “Madison County Waltz,” but I think “Ohio Waltz” is a wonderful work, and I really like “Set The Log Alight.” I felt it was the best CD I’ve heard in a long time. It makes me feel that traditional American music is thriving. This CD is a terrific mix of original and traditional material, and it shows that a lot of originality remains within this genre. After listening to it multiple times, I feel like I still learn something when I play the CD.”  Kyle Peters (a fan)

***

Jackson has been a longtime member of the old-time music scene. Starting out playing guitar with Brad Leftwich and Linda Higginbotham, he was a member of Big Medicine. On this, his second solo effort, he’s joined from time to time by his current bandmates from the Bow Benders. They are Carl Jones, Erynn Marshall, and Bobb Head.

Some of the most outstanding music here are the fiddle guitar duets with Carl Jones on guitar. The interplay between Jackson and Jones on “Echoes Of The Ozarks” and “Grand Spy” is textbook perfect. There are two great original fiddle tunes, “Broke Down Barn” and “Old No. 2,” with Jackson and Bobb Head on gut-string banjo. Erynn Marshall joins him on three tunes for some sweet harmonies. Two exceptional cuts are the ballads with old-time banjo accompaniment—“Wild Bill Jones” and “Scotland Man.” The duet with his wife Rochelle on “Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still” is eerie, conjuring misty mountains, haints, and all that is supernatural in those high places.

Jackson wrote nine of the tunes here. They are compelling and complex like the man who made them. This recording is rich and varied and well worth your time if you like old-time fiddle tunes and those achingly haunting ballads of days gone by. Don’t miss this fine effort.  Bluegrass Unlimited

***

Over the Mountain

An excellent selection is paired with superb talent from fiddler Kenny Jackson and friends on a dozen and a half old-time songs and tunes. A versatile musician and vocalist, Jackson switches to banjo or guitar on five cuts. Joining him in duo and trio configurations are long-time colleagues Paula Bradley (vocals, guitar, banjo-uke), Whitt Mead (banjo), and Rayna Gellert (vocals, fiddle). Jackson goes it solo on four tracks.

The ensemble beautifully brings to life such cuts as the title song, culled from an Uncle Dave Macon reissue where he was backed by the harmony vocals of the Delmore Brothers. Jackson tips his bow to Marcus Martin on the thoughtfully played medley “Wake Robin/Boatsman” as well as on the lively “Nubbin Ridge.” We are treated to the very traditional version of “Eighth Day of January,” based on that offered by Kentuckian Jim Bowles, whose expressive style is much admired by Jackson.

Another nugget is the inspired treatment Jackson gives “Little Birdie,” on which he pays tribute to the two-finger playing banjo technique of Morgan Sexton of southeastern Kentucky. Gellert’s understated harmonies are perfect complement. The two-finger playing style of Hayes Shephard, also from Kentucky, is attributed on “The Peddler and His Wife.”

Among the three Jackson originals on the album, “America Baily” is but one example of traditional music being brought to life anew by studious and faithful incorporation of those components that give oldtime music its spirit. Jackson turns to the dance floor with his “Little Devil Waltz,” which he twin-fiddles with Gellert.

“Tomahawk” stands out with its fiery fiddle playing, while “Henry Lee” is another highlight with its engaging, right on vocal pairing (Jackson and Bradley).

Over the Mountain is a clean, thoughtfully paced album that demonstrates a seasoned and practiced knowledge of both craft and genre. Sing Out!