Albury born, Gippsland reared and now Melbourne based singer/songwriter Bill Jackson has had a big couple of years. His last full length release 'Steel & Bone' was awarded Folk Alliance Australia 'Radio Presenters Album of the Year' in 2008 and he was invited to tour the US alt country hotspots later that same year with his Acoustic Orchestra - Peter Fidler (Dobro/Mandolin/Guitar/Vocals) and Ruth Hazleton (Clawhammer Banjo/Guitar/Vocals)). Many of his songs are co-written with his brother Ross and have been described as engaging, plainspoken and articulate - songs about Hank, Morphine, High Country Lovers and our shared common experiences. Jackson was invited back to showcase at the International Folk Alliance Convention in Memphis (Feb 2010) and to play gigs at selected venues like The Bluebird Café in Nashville. He returned home to support internationals Eleanor McEvoy and Chris Smither as part of the Brunswick Music Festival and to work the EP he recorded in Nashville with Peter Fidler and their Nashville friends - 'The Nashville Session'. Jackson was nominated for an APRA Professional Development Award (Songwriting) in February 2011 and has just returned from a third tour to the US where he recorded a full length album ‘Jerilderie’ which was released in September 2011 on Stuart Coupes seminal label - Laughing Outlaw Records.
‘…Take a chance and listen to some roots music that cuts across borders….’ (Keith Glass)
Recent Performances include:
'Jerilderie' Album Launch - The Caravan Music Club
The National Folk Festival (Canberra, Australia)
Roberts (Broadway - Nashville, 2011) with Will Kimborough & Otis Gibbs
The Bluebird Cafe - In the Round with David Olney / Eric Brace / Danny Schmidt (2011)
Blue Plate Special - Knoxville (2011)
Memphis (International Folk Alliance 2010/2011)
Moonlight on the Mountain - Birmingham AL (2011)
5Spot - Nashville (2011)
The Family Wash - Nashville (2011)
Browns Diner - Nashville (2011)
Norms River Roadhouse (Nashville 2010)
'In the Round' with David Olney & Irene Kelley (Nashville 2010)
The Brunswick Music Festival (2010)
The Troubadour Weekend (2009)
National Folk Festival (2009)
US Tour Sept 2008 (LA, Austin & AMA Conference / Gigs in Nashville)
Port Fairy Festival - Victoria, AUSTRALIA (2008)
National Folk Fest - Canberra, , AUSTRALIA (2008)
Tamworth Country Music Festival - NSW, AUSTRALIA (2008)
Cygnet Festival - Tasmania, AUSTRALIA (2008)
Mossvale Festival - Victoria, AUSTRALIA (2007)
Meeniyan Hall - Victoria, AUSTRALIA (2007)
Peter Fidler - Dobro/Mandolin/Guitar
Ruth Hazleton - Clawhammer Banjo/Guitar
Bill Jackson: JERILDERIE (2011) Laughing Outlaw Records
Bill Jackson:THE NASHVILLE SESSION (2010) Soundvault Records
Bill Jackson: STEEL + BONE (2008) Soundvault Records
Bill Jackson: DIGGIN' THE ROOTS (2006) Soundvault Records
Bill Jackson/Mark McSherry: THE HURTING SESSIONS (2003)
Urban Nomads: LONG WAY FROM WATER (2002) Double Diamond
Urban Nomads: INVISIBLE (1999) Double Diamond
Urban Nomads: THE CIRCLE OF LEAST CONFUSION (1995) Double Diamond
Something in Blue
Auld Lang Syne
Three Sheets to the Wind
Along For the Ride
Long Way From Water
Bring 'Em On Home
Tex (Steel & Bone)
Red Sandy Bed
Jerilderie - Bill Jackson (Laughing Outlaw)
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‘What the Critics Have Said’ re Bill Jackson’s ‘JERILDERIE’ Album An album of brilliant musicians...‘What the Critics Have Said’ re Bill Jackson’s ‘JERILDERIE’ Album
An album of brilliant musicianship and engaging narrative….. (Denise Hylands – 3RRR’s Twang / JB HiFi Magazine)
Bill Jackson’s ‘Jerilderie’ …’you love where you are, miss where you've been, and look forward to the next place… (Jeff Glorfeld – The Age EG)
‘Jackson’s slightly craggy voice is comfortable as a well-worn shirt as he convincingly relates tales like the Vietnam vet-themed “Bitter and Twisted” and ruminative title track’…(Bliss Bowen – Pasadena Weekly)
‘An organic oasis of songs rooted in the Australian bush…’(Dave Dawson – Country Update Magazine)
‘There is a dust on these songs which comes not from the crumbling of dirt clods between the fingers but from the earthiness of the music…. John Stewart would love what Jackson is doing. He would love the music and like the man, there is no doubt in my mind. I wish I could hand him a copy of ‘Jerilderie’ and hear what he would have thought….(Frank Gutch – AcousticMusic.com)
‘The feeling that pervades is one of loving dedication to songcraft… Think Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle, then add to that pristine production… there’s a higher authenticity and honesty here that can only enrich Australian country-folk music…’(Unpaved.com.au)
‘…it’s his relationship to the land and people in his life that shines through in these songs…this is another beautiful country folk album from a man who should be a household name…’ (Tom Burke – SLOW Magazine)
‘…the excellent lyrical content and melody lines engage you from the very first track…’ (Rob Foenander – The Melbourne Observer)
‘…an undeniably robust collection of impressive songs…’ (Andrew Watt – Rhythms Magazine’
Jerilderie - Bill Jackson (The Age)
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Bill Jackson (Laughing Outlaw) YOU could be sitting in your Camry, stuck on the Western Ring Road,...Bill Jackson (Laughing Outlaw)
YOU could be sitting in your Camry, stuck on the Western Ring Road, but pop Bill Jackson's latest into the CD player and you could be cruising the open road with nothing but time and nowhere particular to be. Gippsland bloke Jackson spends a lot of time working in the US - these songs were recorded for the most part in Nashville, Tennessee - and there's country twang aplenty courtesy of Pete Fidler's excellent Dobro and mandolin, and a bit of banjo from Ruth Hazleton and fiddle from Kat Mear, without indulging in any big-hat self-indulgence. The writing is shared between Bill and his brother Ross and their sense of home is evident, starting with the title track and its Kelly-country companion piece, Joe Byrne. Their appreciation of things American is seen in the delicious Eggs Over Easy, a tribute to the breakfasts of Austin, Texas, but the song is also something of a wanderer's blues, as is much of the material here - you love where you are, miss where you've been, and look forward to the next place.
Jerilderie (The Pasadena Weekly)
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Aussie singer-songwriter Jackson’s knack for melodic storytelling and lyrical detail is handsomely s...Aussie singer-songwriter Jackson’s knack for melodic storytelling and lyrical detail is handsomely showcased on this 10-track collection. Recorded with veteran Nashville sidemen including David Olney guitarist Sergio Webb, the album resonates with Dobro-fired warmth and the influence of personal icons Bob Dylan, Hank Williams and notorious outlaw Ned Kelly. Jackson’s slightly craggy voice is comfortable as a well-worn shirt as he convincingly relates tales like the Vietnam vet-themed “Bitter and Twisted” and ruminative title track. Other highlights: “Something in Blue,” “Eggs Over Easy,” “Big Rivers.”
Jerilderie - Bill Jackson (JB HiFi - Stack Magazine)
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Bill Jackson is a Melbourne-based singer/songwriter, recognised and awarded for his talents. Toge...
Bill Jackson is a Melbourne-based singer/songwriter, recognised and awarded for his talents. Together with musical companions, the incredibly talented Pete Fidler (dobro/mandolin) and a great bunch of Nashville pickers, they recorded this album live at Silvertone Recording Service in Nashville early 2011.
These musicians carry the stories, with true and traditional country Americana resonance. Co-written with his brother Ross, Jackson sings of the road Texan and Australian, Ned Kelly and Hank Williams. Back home, additional fiddle, banjo and vocals from Ruth Hazelton, Suzie Dickinson and Kat Mears complement and complete the songs.
An album of brilliant musicianship and engaging narrative.
Jerilderie - Bill Jackson (unpaved.com.au) 'Evoking Powerful Spirits'
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No figure from Australia’s past looms in the popular imagination like Ned Kelly. For or against, eve...No figure from Australia’s past looms in the popular imagination like Ned Kelly. For or against, everyone has an opinion on him. The gentle and meandering title track of Bill Jackson’s new album doesn’t seek to make a case either way, but it’s a testament to how much the Kelly story is absorbed into the atmosphere in this part of the world – and the yearnings of Kelly and his comrades in arms still resonate for many. The outlaw’s story is revisited later in the album with the song Joe Byrne about the gang’s most literate and poetic members. A great choice of subject given that Joe himself wrote bush ballads while the gang were on the run, after all, and he’s widely assumed to have penned the Jerilderie letter.
You don’t have to be a Kelly fanatic to enjoy this album, though. The feeling that pervades is one of loving dedication to songcraft, especially in the Texas tradition, where story rather than vocal perfection is primary. Think Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle, then add to that pristine production, with most of the recording being done in Nashville.
Time spent on the trail of his State-side musical heroes in places like Austin is well documented in Eggs Over Easy which describes an immersion in a wonderfully experience, but also an inescapbale longing for home.
Big Rivers is a standout, with a chorus singing up the magnificence of rivers from the Thompson, the Kimberely to the Mississippi. The addition of Pete Fidler’s dobro playing adds delicious musicality. Some critics may complain of Jackson’s adoption of a vernacular American accent on words like “po-leece”, but there’s a higher authenticity and honesty here that can only enrich Australian country-folk music.
Jerilderie - Bill Jackson (Frank Gutch Jnr - Acousticmusic.Com)
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I've known Bill Jackson and his music for only a short time now, maybe between a year and two years....I've known Bill Jackson and his music for only a short time now, maybe between a year and two years. He's an Aussie, one of those storyteller singer/songwriters with a foot in folk and a foot in lore. To listen to his music, you might think he was from Austin or Nashville but for the constant references to things Australian--- places, names, folklore. His music has that certain dust on it that songwriters like Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt bring/brought to their songs, but there has been something nagging at me since I first heard him, something that was on the tip of my mind but remained elusive until this very morning. Not two hours ago I was working on my second cup of coffee and listening to Jerilderie, Jackson's brand spanking new release, when I had this epiphany. Something about Jackson had always brought something to the back of my mind and it all of a sudden became so clear. Bill Jackson reminds me of the late John Stewart and not in his music as much as what he brings to his music. I cannot think of any way to say it but that it is pure dirt. Like a farmer works with his soil, Jackson works with his stories, weaving a kind of truth. I can hear it but more than that I can feel it.
It is Jackson's approach. A simple, straightforward way of presenting his songs, and I say “his” reluctantly. Jackson and brother Ross Jackson may have written the actual songs, but--- like Stewart--- they are not really his. When they are done, they are “in the wind” as Stewart told me once. They belonged to everyone. And there is something in that attitude which makes the music special. And, like I said, I can feel it.
I suppose you could describe Jackson as a folkie. Jackson carts around an acoustic guitar and Pete Fidler, who accompanies him much of the time, carries a mandolin and a dobro. Fidler's been with Bill for about five years now and there is a reason. They share much beyond the music. They are joined at the clef. They are brothers on the battlefield as much as they are just musicians. They are brothers. It is that simple.
I have struggled to write about Bill and his music in the past and I think it was that elusive John Stewart picture, out of focus in the back of my mind until now, which was the problem. I will go back and listen to his last two releases, the eye-opening Steel + Bone and the live EP (well, recorded live in the studio) titled The Nashville Session, probably with new ears and new understanding. I shake my head. It goes to show me that good music is never done.
About the live EP--- it was on that release that I gained knowledge of Australia's involvement in our Civil War through a song about the CSS Shenandoah in a song titled, oddly enough, CSS Shenandoah, an historical look at a pirate ship which sailed for the Confederacy but was licensed out of Oz. It is a fascinating tale of Australians ready to give up their lives for a cause which was not even theirs except for idealism. Read my review here.
So now Bill has put out a new album. I would tell you about it but the liner notes tell it better. About brother Ross--- “My brother Ross and I started writing the songs on this record around the middle of 2008 and a lot of musical adventures have taken place since then to get in the way of finally putting them down. Time has helped the older ones mature through 'live' performance and given the newer ones a pony to ride on. Ross and I have developed a really special relationship as brothers through writing together and alone--- rhythm in the rhyme, vice versa, truth in lies, lies in truth, war and hell, the bush, family stories, country music, Texas, folklore, fact and fiction etc etc... the beat goes on. Some days we can never get enough of it because it's so damn exciting and then there are long periods where we settle back into waiting for the next lot to come to us and the beautiful thing is that they always do.” They do. The songs on this album are proof. The songs on this album are the results of the above quote. There is a dust on these songs which comes not from the crumbling of dirt clods between the fingers but from the earthiness of the music.
I talked with John Stewart a handful of times in earlier days and I say that not to drop a name but to pay a respect to a man who was as committed to music as any I've ever known. The first time, he was brought by a store I worked at to say hello during a radio station tour to support one of his many fine albums and we found enough in common to keep in touch. To my knowledge, he never came back to Seattle without stopping by to say hello. I was always working but he would stand off to the side while I perused catalogs or priced records and we would talk. Didn't matter what about. When he died, I was crushed. Though we hardly knew one another, I knew him as a fine, fine man and felt the loss deeply. He was the first musician I knew to tell the labels that if they wouldn't treat his music with respect, he would do it himself, something I have myself since taken to heart.
'Live' Review of the 'Jerilderie' Album Launch (Michael Hansen)
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'Live' Review: Bill Jackson — “Jerilderie” CD Launch Posted on March 13, 2012 by unpaved Oakleigh,...'Live' Review: Bill Jackson — “Jerilderie” CD Launch
Posted on March 13, 2012 by unpaved
Jerilderie CD Launch — Bill Jackson
Supported by Suzie Dickinson, Dan Lethbridge, Tracy McNeil and Luke Sinclair
Caravan Music Club, 18 February 2012
Reviewed by Michael D. Hansen
Left to right: Nick Charles, Pete Fidler, Liz Frencham and Bill Jackson.
Sitting at the back of the room at the Caravan Music Club for Bill Jackson’s Jerilderie CD launch it is not difficult to imagine being in Nashville. The Belcourt Theatre perhaps, or even (at a stretch) the venerable Ryman Auditorium. The ambience is all there; candle-lit tables, an attentive listening audience, Jackson and his stellar band dressed to the nines in their country finery and an unmistakably Nashville sound resonating through the beautiful room.
All this is of course is no co-incidence. Bill Jackson, song-writing partner and brother Ross and dobro ace Pete Fidler have made Tennessee a second home in recent years. The basic tracks for the album were recorded at Nashville’s Silvertone Studios with Music City all-stars Sergio Webb on guitars, Dan Seymour on bass and drummer Justin Amral, but despite all this Jackson is no slavish imitator. While his close alliance with Nashville’s alternative underbelly informs his songs they are inescapably Australian, drawing deeply from our history, our idiom and our vast landscape.
And so it was as we were regaled with tales of outlaws, of Vietnam veterans and of big rivers, all propelled out of the ordinary by Jackson’s warm, heartfelt vocal delivery and the instrumental brilliance of Fidler’s dobro, Ruth Hazleton’s banjo, and Nick Charles’ guitar, all anchored by the righteous rhythm section of bassist Liz Frencham and drummer Steve Vella. Standout tunes from Jerilderie included the sombre Something In Blue, the charmingly nostalgic Eggs Over Easy and Nothing Left in which a swinging mandolin driven melody stands in contrast to the bittersweet narrative. Interspersed with carefully chosen older songs including the chilling You Evil Bitch Morphine, the set was an unqualified triumph, a showcase of fine songs from a generous and gracious performer at the top of his game.
Songwriters in the round: Suzie Dickinson, Dan Lethbridge, Tracy McNeil and Luke Sinclair.
The launch was opened by singer/songwriters Suzie Dickinson, Tracy McNeil, Luke Sinclair and Dan Lethbridge in the round. They collectively delivered a delightful introduction to what was to follow, with high points including Dickinson’s bluesy 19 Steps and McNeil and Sinclair’s duet on the lovely This Old Road To You.
The Big Rivers finale.
A fitting finale to the night saw Jackson assemble all ten players for a joyous, rousing version of Big Rivers and it seemed that the only people in Melbourne having more fun than those on stage were those of us fortunate enough to be in the audience.
The video below includes a live recording of Eggs Over Easy from the launch.
Interview with Bill Jackson re 'Jerilderie' (Les Thomas (unpaved.com.au))
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Coming from the Thompson Plain in Gippsland, what kinds of songs and stories did you grow up with? ...Coming from the Thompson Plain in Gippsland, what kinds of songs and stories did you grow up with?
Well, Les, I was given a really cheap steel string when I was about 11. Think it was my sister’s. It was folk music revival time and I had a mate who showed me a few chords – enough to deal with some early Dylan, Tom Paxton, Peter, Paul and Mary. I remember these records we had lying around - Johnny Horton, Red Foley, Ernest Tubb, Slim Dusty, Buddy Williams. I think that’s when I first got a feel for ‘country’ music. It was a few years later that I first heard Like a Rolling Stone and after that opening snare crack I don’t think my life was ever the same again.
I grew up very working class, surrounded by hard drinking, hard working, hard gambling and hard living men. The bullshit and stories ran thick through my formative years as a result. I have always had a keen sense of the past – love history and love extraordinary stories about ordinary people.
I write a lot with my brother Ross now and he has given me the basis and structure for all of the songs on the last two releases - The Nashville Session and Jerilderie. Sometimes it’s an idea I rework and sometimes he sends me something just perfect. Honeymoon Gully and CSS Shenandoah are two songs we’re very proud of. They are little-known folklore and we are pleased to have preserved them in some small way.
My partner Ruth Hazleton is also a research folklorist and this has taken me even deeper into this territory. I naturally gravitated to writers like Kristofferson, Townes, Guy Clark, Willis Alan Ramsay. They had something to say in a beautiful economic way which spoke to me.
You’ve spent a lot of time playing in places like Nashville and Austin. How would you compare playing to audiences in places like that to playing back home? Is there a different kind of appreciation?
It varies, Les, but on the whole the gigs we’ve done in the US have been at venues where the song is respected above everything. There are just more of those kinds of venues in the US – and literally hundreds of troubadors criss-crossing the country 12 months of the year to play them. Some are extreme and held to be sacred like The Bluebird Cafe – a non-descript little shop front – but once you get in there and feel and see its history, it’s scary. Audience members who talk in there during a performance are in serious trouble. Ha! The nicest thing about this is that you can play on condenser mics most of the time which is what we like to do.
How did that time overseas change you as a songwriter?
Well … in a couple of ways. First up it gave us the basis for some of the songs on the last few albums – story songs and road songs. It also made us ‘raise the bar’ while trying to stay true to what we do. There are so many great songwriters in Nashville and Austin. Through our management there we have got to play shows with and hang out with some amazing writers and musicians like David Olney, Will Kimbrough, Tommy Womack, Irene Kelley and Phil Lee.
These folks are hard working, touring musicians who have written amazing songs for established artists. It’s their lifeblood. It can’t help but make you want to do more and do it better. We also got to do our first ‘cold’ co-write on the last trip with a Nashville legend John Hadley, who has co-written some really big ones. It was a great experience. We finished one song at 3am. Hope to have it on the next album.
The production standard on the album is immaculate. Tell us about how it came together.
Well we met Jack Irwin in Nashville through our management in February 2010. He works with a lot of people and specifically with David Olney (Deeper Well) which was our connection. Jack had a couple of spare days, so Pete Fidler and I went in there with Sergio Webb, Dan Seymour and Joe Giotta to record The Nashville Session EP ‘live’.
We have got to know Jack pretty well over the last few years and went back there to record Jerilderie in February 2011. He likes to capture a performance – the song played and sung at the same time using a beautiful old RCA ribbon mic for my vocals and guitar.
We may put a small overdub on after, but essentially it is a live performance. He has great ears and is very organised. It’s a small studio but comfortable. Jerilderie took a day and a half of recording. The only difference with this one was that we had Justin Amaral on percussion and recorded a few backing vocals and fiddle and clawhammer banjo back here which Jack synced up to the mixes. It was then backwards and forwards by Skype and email to get the final mixes done.
Because of the live nature of the recording, you can’t change a lot, but Jack is very meticulous and we are really happy with the result. Sounds warm and real to me with the vocals right out front in the mix. Pete, Sergio, Dan and Justin are all great players, so it goes down fast and you don’t have to labour over songs. It seems to me that the first or second takes are always the best and there were not too many second takes.
Pete Fidler’s dobro also adds a great deal to the overall sound. How far back does that musical relationship go?
Pete and I met at an open mic about six years ago and he started to sit in with me whenever we both showed up on the same night. Turned out that we lived really close to each other and we started doing gigs together. He is definitely a musician’s musician. Not only a great dobro player. He can shred it on mandolin and guitar as well. What makes it work so well though is that Pete understands songs. He enhances the lyric, has a musical conversation with them. We have played lots of gigs over the past six years and travelled to the US three times together.
Do you and your partner Ruth Hazelton ever write together?
First up, Ruth is a great natural musician – vocalist, clawhammer banjo, guitar, accordion player, and extremely well known in the folk/trad scene here and overseas. But, no, we don’t specifically write together, but, you know, I run everything by her. Usually at the most inconvenient times for her. (Laughs)
But, you know, I do get real excited when I finish something and usually crave her approval first up. Sometimes I agree with the criticism, sometimes I go with my gut feeling if I really like it. The writing partnership is really my brother Ross and I. He is a prolific poet who is starting to play guitar. Got a backlog of literally hundreds of potential songs and ideas from him to draw from.
You have two songs on the album about the Kelly Gang. What is it about the Kellys and Joe Byrne that captures your imagination?
Like you, Les, we are fascinated by the whole Kelly story. Ned’s shadow has loomed larger than life over this continent and typifies many things Australian, especially ‘a fair go’. Ross, through his research, discovered that Joe Byrne’s horse (stolen) was called Music. Well, we just had to write a song about Joe after that. The image of him strung up on the Benalla jailhouse is iconic. The title track Jerilderie is like a dream, a song of hope, past and present, boldness. We tried to fit a lot of images in there. The hold-up is a great story. Ruth and I stayed overnight there at about the same time of the year as the hold-up and the song was partially born on that night. I love singing it. I have a feeling we are not finished with Ned and the lads yet from a song point of view. He will always be important to us and Australia.
The Nashville Session (August 2010)
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The Nashville Session Bill Jackson Available from iTunes. A review written for the Folk and...The Nashville Session
Available from iTunes.
A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Frank Gutch Jr.
There is an umbilical cord, as transparent as it may seem, between the United States and Australia. You have to be an idiot not to see it. As different as our countries are, we hold ideals in common, or at least like to think we do. The histories parallel one another—wild frontiers, opportunities for all, equality (through a smokescreen carefully applied by politicians and bureaucrats)…My father, who was in WWII, often said that he was damn glad the Australians were one our side because in a fight, they were fearless. They were also, on the whole, honest—or meant to be. Rose-colored glasses? Maybe. But I cannot help but feel that the Aussies are brothers under the skin and that Canadians are just Americans lucky enough to live beyond our political boundaries.
So when Bill Jackson come along with a song about a Confederate warship, I blink at what should have seemed natural. Leave it to an Aussie to school pompous Americans about their own history. While Texans attempt to rewrite history to their liking and fundamentalist conservatives spew their own brand of what they think is reality, Bill Jackson and Ross Jackson dig into a history which would serve well as a Hollywood screenplay—the role of Australia in our own Civil War. Small though it may have been, it points to a fact completely ignored by U.S. historians—the role of Confederates who operated outside of the realm of The South. In this case, it involved the CSS Shenandoah—a pirate ship, if you will—dedicated to the Confederate cause.
The Confederates acquired the ship through nefarious means and immediately put it to work chipping away at Union shipping. Eventually, they worked their way to the Pacific where they concentrated on capturing or destroying whaling ships, a huge source of revenue for the Union. During the Shenandoah's run, they ended up dropping anchor at Melbourne for repairs. While anchored, the Confederates allegedly attempted to recruit Australians for the cause. Scratch 'allegedly.' They ended up recruiting 42 Aussies and when they headed back to the seas, captured an additional 25 whaling ships before turning their ship over to the British.
Fascinating? It sure as hell was to me. The Confederacy's attempts to stab Uncle Sam in the bank book have largely been disregarded by our historians and the fact that it happened as far away as the far Pacific makes it a story worthy of a movie. So when ol' mates Bill and Ross uncovered the story, what were they to do? Can't ignore a story that good. So they wrote a song.
And a fine song it is. About one Billy Kenyon who signed up as a privateer fighting for The Deep South. About going to sea for a cause not really his own. About real history. The great thing about music is that you hear what you hear when it comes to music. While historians are busy spouting perception as fact, musicians cut through the chaff. Let me ask you this—would anyone in the States care about the Edmund Fitzgerald if not for Gordon Lightfoot? Maybe now that the History and Discovery Channels live, but not back then. Reason enough to embrace Bill Jackson and Ross Jackson and the CSS Shenandoah. If you want to know more, here are a couple of links:
As I said in my review of Bill Jackson's Steel + Bone album (here), the guy writes and sings like he's from The States and it doesn't hurt that he has a dobro player (Peter Fidler) who has a touch worthy of a Randy Kohrs or a Pat Wictor. The songs are solid folk with that Americana bent and while the subjects might be Australian, the music is as American as it gets. Honeymoon Gully is a Hatfield/McCoy feud lament which follows two love-struck teens who leave their respective families to give their love a chance in the wild—it happens, of course, in Australia. Jackson pays tribute to his father, who Jackson says loved to drink, gamble and spin a yarn, in "Hard and Free." And the theme of heartache and lost love of This Heartache could have been straight out of old-time Nashville.
Although recorded recently in Nashville, this is one of those projects which could have been recorded there at any time. Jackson and Fidler were touring this last February and put together this session at the drop of a hat. They recruited David Olney cohort Jack Irwin to record, gathered sidemen Sergio Webb, Dan Seymour and Joe Giotta and here you have it. Recorded live almost on a whim. Five songs from the Deep, Deep South—Australia—recorded in the Deep South. Well, the South, anyway.
Word has it that Jackson and Fidler are angling for another American tour. No doubt, Nashville will be an anchor if that tour happens. With luck, they will cover the States as best they can in the time allotted. I would suggest scanning club dates starting next Spring to see if they might be scheduled at a venue in your neck of the woods. They are definitely worth seeing and hearing and it's always a hoot to hear Aussies talk instead of sing. They have one of the coolest accents in the world.
The Nashville Session
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BILL JACKSON THE NASHVILLE SESSIONS (SOUNDVAULT) Bill Jackson threw a boomerang of sorts when he r...BILL JACKSON
THE NASHVILLE SESSIONS (SOUNDVAULT)
Bill Jackson threw a boomerang of sorts when he recorded his latest CD live in Jack Irwin’s Silverton home studio in Nashville.
The Albury born-Sale raised singer-songwriter cut a quintet of narratives about Australia.
Now Jackson and his Dobro playing collaborator Pete Fidler are home on the road again showcasing them.
Fittingly, the disc kicks off with CSS Shenandoah - saga of a Confederate warship that docked at Williamstown on January 25, 1865, to repair damage suffered while capturing Union-whaling ships.
While here the Shenandoah recruited 42 local crew including Rye refugee Billy Kenyon who signed up to help capture another 25 Yankee whaling ships.
Jackson vividly recounts Kenyon’s journey with Captain James Waddell to fight for General Robert E Lee.
It segues into Along For The Ride - one of four co-writes by Jackson and brother Ross - and folklore fuelled Honeymoon Gully.
Jackson injects reality into the story of two young lovers who eloped into Nariel Valley-Corryong bush in the fifties and were eventually found in a remote area mythologised as Honeymoon Gully.
Might have been a safer era and locale for young lovers than the bushfire and flood zone of recent history.
The Jackson brothers didn’t have to look for inspiration for their paternal paean Hard And Free.
They drew from deathbed humour of Depression reared patriarch William James Jackson - a pioneer of the beer and wines of the Victorian-NSW border High Country.
Jackson ends with the Ross Jackson-Fidler penned waltz This Heartache, road tested by Fidler in his bluegrass combo Bluestone Junction.
So what makes this worthy of reviewing?
Well Jackson and Fidler took the trouble to flesh it out on February 24 with Nashville pickers - double bassist Dan Seymour, percussionist Joe Giotta and Sergio Webb on acoustic guitar and gut string banjo.
Yes, that’s winter in America - four decades after Doug Ashdown made his historic journey long before the post Urban gold rushes.
Jackson enriches the disc’s organic feel with his CD insert and back cover design by Warrnambool raised Lonesome Rex picker Colin Suggett, now eking out a living in the south east Gippsland coastal dairy belt.
Steel and Bone Review 1 (August 2008)
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Bill Jackson recalls nodding acquaintances with Willis Alan Ramsay and Don Schlitz in down but not q...Bill Jackson recalls nodding acquaintances with Willis Alan Ramsay and Don Schlitz in down but not quite out Nashville writers’ dives more years ago than he cares to remember. In Austin he frequented the Armadillo World Headquarters in the wake of Commander Cody and in London he froze his ass outside The Troubadour. All that time accumulating scraps of lyrics and melodies, honing his instrumental skills and preserving a voice that reeks of authenticity.
While doing the hard yards adds value to a performer’s arsenal, it doesn’t always ensure quality, but with “Steel And Bone” Bill Jackson delivers the goods in abundance. Acoustic Orchestra touring cohorts Pete Fidler on dobro and lap steel, and Ruth Hazleton on clawhammer banjo and vocals, supplemented by the guitars and keys of producer Marcel Yammounni, push Jackson to strip away pretence, resulting in a starkly atmospheric, lyrically rich and musically compelling recording.
Jackson’s songs on Steel & Bone are replete with tales of broken dreams and lost souls inhabiting a world of profound sadness and resignation. But there is no shoe-gazing despondency here. These are inherently hopeful messages delivered with the wisdom of experience and an eye on the future.
A dobro punctuated country shuffle ushers in the opener “Red Sandy Bed,” where the landscape is bleak and unforgiving:
"At night we lay there just dreaming and we sang like a hillbilly choir
Come morning that’s whare you’ll find us, coaxing some heat from the fire”
There is little respite from loneliness and alienation, the desert a cruel mistress, “but nothing seems worse than the cold and the hurt, and the heartbreak I left back at home.”
“Bring ‘Em On Home” is an anthem to the seemingly disposable, marginalised sectors of our societies that generations have dispatched to faraway places to protect the interests of the secure and privileged. Jackson adds an Australian voice to the remonstrations of McMurtry, Earle, Mellencamp, and LaFave.
A tale of the lost, lonely and confused, “Long Way From Water” is a highlight. Jackson’s protagonists are adrift and homeless, and his search for an emotional landfall intensifies amid swelling lap slide, ominous electric guitar and driving percussion. The chorus brings a mantra-like quality to the song, underscoring a desperate search for comfort and direction.
"Steel & Bone” places Bill Jackson firmly in the ranks of significant artists. Insightful lyrics and an understanding of the emotional train wrecks that loom large in the lives of ordinary folks are balanced by a fundamental tenderness and empathy. One listen to the lovely “Old Fashioned Gal” is proof enough that here we have a set of finely crafted songs that are engaging, plainspoken and articulate.
Feature trax Red Sandy Bed
Long Way From Water
Old Fashioned Gal
Steel and Bone Review 2 (July 2008)
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We finish in the real South below the mighty Murray with a new album from Melbourne’s BILL JACKSON S...We finish in the real South below the mighty Murray with a new album from Melbourne’s BILL JACKSON Skin + Bone (Sound Vault.) Jackson is an artist who embraces the musical revolution that began in the Mississippi Delta and the hills of Kentucky and tries to make it his own. That was the post-war rhythm and blues plus honky tonk that spawned rock n’ roll. So that even when singing about blues legend JOHN LEE HOOKER he sounds Australian. When he adds localities such as Wonthaggi into the mix he isn’t ‘bunging it on’ he is working in service of the song all of which here he either wrote or co-wrote. His laconic vocal style brings to mind elements NEIL MURRAY and PAUL KELLY and his idea of ‘World Music’ seems to be a blend of the endless coast of south-eastern Australia tacked onto the American heartland. That would explain a song such as the anthem Bring ‘Em On Home - a title I should not need to explain. However in the twilight of the current world order such sense goes unheeded. We may also be in the twilight of the singer/troubadour but on this album Jackson is still a true believer in the power of words and music to make a difference. He makes a good case and I hope he is right.
Steel + Bone Bill Jackson (Sound Vault)
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A Review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange by Frank Gutch Jr. (frank.gutch.jr@gmail...A Review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Frank Gutch Jr.
Bill Jackson may be a product of Down Under, but he is a son of Texas and Virginia and Tennessee and many more of the states which have given Americans their musical roots, or am I the typical Ugly American who sees everything through egocentric glasses? Are our roots our roots? I'm not so sure anymore after hearing Steel + Bone, Jackson's award-winning 2008 album. Until recently, my musical attitude toward Australia and New Zealand, rock music aside, was pretty much capsulized by Rolf Harris and "Waltzing Matilda" and their like—songs so truly Down Under there was no mistake. Of course, there have been a few musicians who have broken through the veil, most notably Shane Nicholson and Kasey Chambers, who knocked my socks of with 2008's excellent Rattlin' Bones LP (here). Well, here we go again.
Bill Jackson is not your typical Aussie folkie. He could be from Austin or Charlottesville or Nashville. He writes songs which transcend place and time and while folk in basis, step beyond. That is partially due to partner in crime Peter Fidler, who ranks right up there with Pat Wictor and Randy Kohrs and a handful of others on my best-of list for resonator guitar and dobro. Jackson and Fidler have this symbiotic relationship not unlike that of Kevin Welch and Fats Kaplin, each providing the other with the wherewithal to make good music better. Jackson and Welch construct a building. Fidler and Kaplin lay down finishing touches.
The buildings here are a step or two above the norm, my favorite being the backwoodsy and swamp-flavored Long Way From Water which rivals anything ever superimposed over opening credits of a good independent film of eerie character. There is something in the way the percussion drags the lightly tremeloed guitar alongside the simple but effective dobro which makes you believe. Two measures in, you know this is a good one.
Red Sandy Bed, the only song on the album not written at least in part by Jackson (credit it to one Peter Cole), upbeat as it is, reeks of outback Down Under and high plains desert in the States. The banjo is placed so far in the background you hardly notice while giving the song that undeniable country edge. Jackson co-wrote John Lee Hooker with Cole, a tribute song which lays somewhere between lazy folk and bluesy dirge, the acoustic rhythm carrying the tune down a long slow river. You Evil Bitch Morphine is just what you would expect, music and lyrics humanizing the dehumanizing drug. Jackson takes So Long decades into the past, putting a slight fifties and sixties edge on an otherwise current song. And Tex steps into alt.country territory, Fidler hoisting the slide higher and further than anything on the album. It is a tale of gunslinging come to no good end making me think that maybe this is where Jackson separates Australia from the States. Down there, Tex is sent to the Big House. In the States, we'd have hung him.
This album puts Bill Jackson right up there next to many other outstanding songwriters I have discovered the past few years—A. J. Roach and Brandon Rickman and Kevin Welch and so many others—who rely mostly on song and not just genre and are a notch above. If someone had played this for me blind and asked me where it came from, Australia would have been far from my mind. I think that's cool.
Most of what I know about Australia has come from movies and a few words from my father ("If I had to fight in another war, I would want the Aussies on my side"). Bill Jackson makes me think the geologists may have it all wrong. Maybe Australia was once a part of the United States and through a quirk of fate, ended up Down Under. That will be my working theory until I feel like listening to something different. From now on, I'm just a Northern Australian, a few islands and continents removed.
Steel and Bone Review 4 (July 2008)
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Victorian singer-songwriter Bill Jackson proves on his second solo disc Steel + Bone that his soulfu...Victorian singer-songwriter Bill Jackson proves on his second solo disc Steel + Bone that his soulful country is more substance than style.
And it’s not just because he cloaks his vibrant vignettes in an accessible aural bed of mandolin, banjo, dobro and lap steel.
Jackson delves into the collateral damage of violence - the album title is taken from the jail cell and new home of the Oedipal killer in Tex.
Once again he strip-mines his rural roots in the embryonic Gippsland mariner’s tale Bobby Crockett’s Island - one of three powerful anti-war songs.
And he also uses a Wonthaggi dance floor encounter to contrast love and war in So Long - a sibling song of the social comment of Bring ‘Em On Home.
Jackson also kicks hard with haunting paternal paean Long Way From Water and sympathy for fallen peers in the vitriolic You Evil Bitch Morphine.
The singer exploits diverse shades of love - for a long time partner in Old Fashioned Gal - and the artistic desire of an eclectic cast in The Passion.
John Lee Hooker, who died at 83 on June 21, 2001, shortly after being awarded his fifth Grammy was featured in Lucy’s Life on previous disc Diggin’ The Roots but earns an entire song here.
If this all sounds a little too serious check out the role reversal practised by the homeowner in God Botherin’ Blues.
Bill Jackson 'Steel and Bone' (August 2008)
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Dubbed “Australia’s Lyle Lovett” by a festival promoter Down Under, Jackson loads his gratifying thi...Dubbed “Australia’s Lyle Lovett” by a festival promoter Down Under, Jackson loads his gratifying third solo disc with melodic, vividly detailed story songs swimming in Pete Fidler’s greasy Dobro and lap steel licks. Jackson may not be as deadpan quirky as Lovett, but the earthy poet demonstrates a similar gift for balancing dark humor and humane intelligence, most strikingly on “You Evil Bitch Morphine,” the suspenseful “Long Way From Water,” “John Lee Hooker,” the anti-war anthem “Bring ’Em On Home” and “God Botherin’ Blues #7” (about Sunday morning missionaries unexpectedly knocking on the devil’s door)
Salty Dog Podcast Interview (Feb 21, 2007)
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'Bill Jackson is the genuine article. A roots singer songwriter from Australia who mixes up roots, r...'Bill Jackson is the genuine article. A roots singer songwriter from Australia who mixes up roots, rock and a taste of alt. country into a very fine brew. This interview covers his influences and experiences, Bill talks about the trials of songwriting and of course, his 'Diggin The Roots' CD is featured throughout. Great listening. Recorded in Melbourne, Australia on 16th December 2006'.
Feb 21, 2007
Full Interview at www.salty.com.au
The Melbourne 'Age' (August 2006)
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Bill Jackson plays solid Aussie roots-rock with a universal country flavour - the sort of country th...Bill Jackson plays solid Aussie roots-rock with a universal country flavour - the sort of country that might appeal to people who automatically say they hate country without ever truly listening to it. His bio contains an impressive list of dues paid, from Nashville to London and all stops in between, and we're just lucky he's come home to Melbourne to make this latest record. As you would expect of a songwriter working in the Australian music capital, he's put together an ace backing band, led by the magnificent Shannon Bourne on guitars (check out his recent solo debut Burn It Down) and Mr Everywhere Bruce Haymes on keyboards. Jackson has a lived-in, easy vocal style that sounds real nice on the slow stuff such as opener Lucy's Life and the big ballad Hobohemia but really gets to cranking on the blues-rock numbers such as slow-burner Hole in the Chicken Wire and the harder kickers Ghost in a Limousine and Lucky When I Left (with the outstanding country lyric "I got lucky when I found her, she got lucky when I left").
Capital Country News (Sept 2006)
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Back in Melbourne they are still making music mucho influenced by source material and mixing it up i...Back in Melbourne they are still making music mucho influenced by source material and mixing it up into 57 or so varieties (OK bad semi obscure pun.) The latest contender from the southern state is BILL JACKSON with ‘DIGGIN’ THE ROOTS’ (Sound Vault.) Now Bill has been around several blocks and traveled extensively in search of his mantra – Austin being a place he might have found it but he still calls Melbourne home. I keep saying there are great musicians down there and a fair few of them are right here on this disc. In fact guitarists Shannon Bourne and Marcel Yammouni (who also produces) pack such a punch in their playing that the artist would be in danger of being overshadowed were it not for the fact he writes very fine songs and sings them convincingly too. Still the sonic attack is placed mainly up front on the first few tracks and I’m not convinced a bit of judicious programming may have improved what is already a very good singer/songwriter album with balls. Guts too, I smile every time I listen to the biographical track Hole In The Chicken Wire and hear Andalusia rhymed with panacea. Take a chance and hear some genuine ground breaking roots influenced music that cuts across borders.
Beat Magazine (Oct 2006)
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"I'm in the middle of Hobohemia waiting for a train/ my livelihood depends on crops, I'm counting on..."I'm in the middle of Hobohemia waiting for a train/ my livelihood depends on crops, I'm counting on the rain/ my education don't mean nothing in these hard times/ I fill the boxes with fruit and I fill my head with rhymes." - Hobohemia - Bill Jackson.
Albury born, Sale reared singer-songwriter Bill Jackson had big advances on peers - he first visited Texas hot spot Austin before it was popular with faddists.
Jackson didn't have government grants or record company cash when he invaded the Lone Star State capital in the late seventies and eighties.
But he enjoyed post nuptials of Willie Nelson's redneck-hippie shotgun wedding that gave birth to a progressive Texas sound in Jan Reid's book The Improbable Rise Of Redneck Rock.
It's a sturdy sub genre that has outlived faux country fly by night vampires and refried rockers singing flat with grunge guitars. So when Jackson sings about being in Austin "hanging out at the Armadillo, smoking joints and writing songs in perfect harmony," in the searing Hole In The Chicken Wire he hasn't pillaged it from a cyber chat room. That memory is carved in Jackson's solo disc Diggin' The Roots (Soundvault) that he launches at East Brunswick Club Hotel on Wednesday October 11. Tracey Miller, promoting her popular CD, also performs at Bill's lavish launch.
He namechecks famed but long defunct Armadillo World HQ and aptly named Hole In The Wall that has spanned four decades.
Equally importantly the Melbourne University educated some time teacher enriches realism by daubing his timeless tableau with slices from his three siblings' lives and backing vocals by Olivia Nathan.The hole in the chicken wire is not a hollow metaphor but entrée to a world that pre-dated his cassette recording debut with the Lamington Bros in 1981 on expatriate Australasian Barry Coburn's South Of The Border Records. For trivia buffs expat Kiwi Peter Bain-Hogg - executive producer of SBS smash hit Rockwiz - sold Jackson's cassette from the boot of a Fiat 124 at Royal Melbourne Showgrounds during Shotgun Willie's debut Australasian tour. Sales stimulus for Jackson's tune was companion song - Dead Livers Nelson eulogy Love To Have A Joint With Willie that broke the commercial radio country boycott. Jackson has a hot band - guitarist Shannon Bourne, bassists Marcel Yammouni and Damien Boyd, drummer Daniel Xuerub, organist Bruce Haymes who shares pianist duties with Marcel. Mornington singer Anna Wright joins Jackson on Lucy's Life - a poignant vignette that sets the mood for the driving passion of Ghost In The Limousine. Jackson sings of John Lee Hooker in the former and Robert Johnson in the latter - a dream sequence. "We started out with good intentions but now we're nothing but rock stars."
He owes more to Tony Joe White than blues peers trapped in delta quicksand - "if this is the future, well, I don't like it one bit/ looks like peace, love and understanding take another hit."
Bill explores the flip side of love in Lucky When I Left and injects melodic Enigma with a poetic beauty - "just like Mona Lisa you always keep me guessing/ hanging in that beautiful space between leaving and a blessing." Equally evocative Hobohemia - a beatific ballad with Mornington singer Anna Wright - and pathos primed biblical Gippsland sourced sibling Settlement Road. Jackson finishes his eight-track disc with Peter Cole penned tune Who's The Dancer?
Roots Music Report (US - Dec 2006)
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Australian Bill Jackson’s first solo CD, “Diggin’ the Roots” is an impressive piece of work. You get...Australian Bill Jackson’s first solo CD, “Diggin’ the Roots” is an impressive piece of work. You get some rock and a bit of country all of which adds up to some great listening.
Jackson has been around the music business for awhile and that maturity is well-reflected in his work. His songwriting talents are extraordinary using creative lyrics to tell his stories. He then delivers those inventive lyrics with a rich, versatile voice. While a little Dylanesque influence is evident, his style is very much his own.
Some of his melodies are slower ballad that will have you swaying while others are more up-tempo that will have you rocking. Either way, Jackson puts his heart and soul into the music and the listener can sense his connection.
JB HiFi MAG (Sept 2006)
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As the title of his debut album suggests, singer/songwriter Bill Jackson has exhumed the spirits of ...As the title of his debut album suggests, singer/songwriter Bill Jackson has exhumed the spirits of blues legends like John Lee Hooker, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Robert Johnson (all mentioned on various tracks) to inspire a bunch of original compositions that touch on relationships, pressures of life on the land and trying to make it in a rock band.
Jackson’s convincing vocals enhance the narrative material, he’s assertive on the rockers, subtle on slower ones, while an A-List band that includes guitarist Shannon Bourne, keyboard player Bruce Haymes and multi-instrumentalist / producer Marcel Yammouni provide outstanding support.
Prefer 45-75 minute set length. Mostly perform originals, as heard on my albums. Very occasionally include covers, where appropriate.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.