Shirley Jackson
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Shirley Jackson

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"Ear On The East"

SideCats Sound: warm, organic
By Sandy MacDonald

Last Fall Shirley Jackson was prepping songs for a new album with her well-known blues septet The Good Rockin’ Daddies.
“Some of the Daddies couldn’t make the rehearsal, so just four of us got together and started working on the songs,” explains Jackson. “We started to arrange the songs with the instrumentation we had, and thought it sounded pretty cool. It just turned into a different project.”
That new project is the acoustic four-piece SideCats, with Jackson on vocals, tenor sax and guitar; Dawn Hatfield on baritone sax; Rob MacIntosh on tenor sax and Jef Wirchenko on stand-up bass. (They all still play regularly with the busy Good Rockin’ Daddies, too.)
After years of playing in front of a full rhythm section of drums, bass and keys, this line up finds innovative ways to frame Jackson’s folksy-blues.
“The Horns are much more involved with (the SideCats),” says Hatfield, who also toured and recorded with the Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra.
Jackson is also a well traveled musician who won the prestigious national Maple Blues award last year as best blues saxophonist in the country. But she doesn’t blow much on this outing, instead strumming rhythm acoustic guitar and handling all the vocals on the dozen tracks.
What makes this album come alive is the interplay between the horns- Hatfiled’s agile baritone covers off the lower range while tenors Rob MacIntosh and Jackson create some deft interplay, all built over Wirchenko’s nimble bass playing.
The horns honk, wail and bump, hitting accent shots and carrying rhythmic passages, covering the space where a drummer would normally push the music. The sound is warm and organic.
The album has a deliberate home-ground sound, not surprising since it was recorded with one condenser microphone in Jackson’s living room.
“It was a very vintage approach,” laughs Hatfield. “But that’s our thing. When we did a recent tour in Ontario, it was very 1950’s, with Jef’s bass strapped to the roof of Shirley’s station wagon.”
Jackson’s songs are crafted around old-school R&B, lots of minor chord color and catchy horn harmonies. Her tight-throated singing would never be confused for Peggy Lee or Etta James, but she delivers the songs like she means what she sings.
Hatfield adds the struttin’ instrumental Sandy Short-Haired.with her growling baritone honking a bass part while the tenors links arms in the cool stroll.
The band tosses in with a cover of (Everytime I Hear That) Mellow Saxophone and a jumping version of Tailgator Jump, by Dutch swing band Blue Moon Special.
“I’ve been writing songs for years,” says Jackson, “But since getting my own space (by the lake), it seems to have flourished.
“The songs won’t stop.”
- Daily News, Sandy MacDonald


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