Snakebeard Jackson

Snakebeard Jackson


There are no substitutes for talent and originality. That's why, when asked what genre of music we fall into, we can never really answer. Great music has always defied categorization and that's what makes us special: we are original. We're willing to cross any boundary to make you dance.


Snakebeard Jackson is a union of Bluegrass, Rock, Country and Blues. Comprised of six members with musical tastes as varied as their creative contributions, Snakebeard is host to a thundering stand up bass, a drummer that hits like a heavyweight, the state's finest washboard player, a high-energy mandolin player and a vocal/guitar team that strums, sings and screams the blues. In promotion of their new EP, Snakebeard has built a large and loyal fanbase live in concert as well as online. The sound is old and new. The songwriting hinges on the plight of fighters and the struggles of the losers that win in the end.

Snakebeard Jackson has played in front of thousands of fans in South Dakota and Minnesota. From Yankton to Mankato. From Brookings to Vermillion and many Sioux Falls nights.

Joey Fokken, lead guitar player and one of the vocalists, is a natural tone vender and practiced string bender, a songsmith, stagehand, and feedback destroyer, Joey lends a helping hand to the vocals, solo's and sounds at Snakebeard shows. An unlikely disciple of the blues, knowing only a few scales, Joey does what he can with the few tools in his box. An old Gibson, a new Gibson and a middle-aged Martin make up his small six string army. A student of the guitar since age eleven, Joey traded his hair band heros for the tastes and influences of Tom Waits, Morphine, Social Distortion and the Rolling Stones. When he is asked about how to best enjoy a Snakebeard Jackson show, Joey says the following: "The more you drink the better we sound, the better we sound the more you dance, the more you dance the better we play. It's a cycle, really."

Sean McFarland’s interests delve into the naturals. From being an organic farmer to a goat herder to the rhythm guitarist and one of the vocalists of Snakebeard, his life experiences shaped the music that he brings to the band. From his earthy guitar tone to his sometimes downright dirty vocals, his wild-borne soul always shines through. Sean’s early musical ventures included punk rock, hardcore metal, and psychedelic rock. In college, a conflict with Sean’s landlord motivated him to find a quieter instrument, switching from electric to acoustic guitar. This provoked a musical revelation for him and directed his folk-influenced path from there on.

Matt McFarland is the driving force behind Snakebeard Jackson. He is in no way, shape, or form, related to that scoundrel Sean McFarland. Just kidding, they're cousins but you'd think they're brothers. In a mostly folk oriented band, his frenetic drumming style is what lends the rock and roll to Snakebeard Jackson. Although Matt, like Sean, comes from a musical past such as punk rock and heavy metal, these influences only contribute to the powerful rhythms that Snakebeard creates.

Charles is a mandolin picker who strives for passionate musicanship. He screams, sweats, cries and dances his way across the stage at every show. He may be the finest mandolin player in South Dakota. He is certainly the one with the most heart.

A life long string player, Travis began his musical career playing, of all things, the violin. Guitar also intrigued him in the upcoming years, but both served only as gateway instruments to the bass. Initially playing in his high school orchestra, and then dropping funky grooves in a jazz band, Travis had a very traditional start to his sub-harmonic studies. His philosophy soon changed turning him into the low end theorist he is today. Drawing on insparado from all muscial eras and genres, his influences range from The Beatles to Vivaldi, from Wu Tang to Hank Williams, and damn near everything in between. He and his bull-fiddle bring the sound and the fury wherever they go. For theirs is the power, the kingdom and glory, forever and ever.

It was in a friend's basement jam session where Jesse first picked up an old National Lingerie washboard and the rhythms started ringing. After a successful stint as the rhythm man in the Blueglass Band and The Missouri River Old Time Champions, Jesse signed on with Snakebeard Jackson. He adds the magic touch to every song he plays. He has tried Tin, Brass, Glass, and Zinc style boards to get his sound. Jesse also adds a little low end to the drums by beating the skins on the congas and other hand drums. Jesse's fanbase in the band could be described as a cult following. He loves the music and enjoys for the crowd's cheers each weekend.


Tin Shack Mansion

Written By: Charles Anderson

I’m living in a Tin Shack Mansion
The sun shines in my kitchen each day
Outside a young dog be barking
At the coyotes, the moon and the bay.

Even though our door be made of thin tin
Even though the land be hot and dry
At least we know our roof won’t be dripping
Cause its love and only love that gets us by.

You don’t need a sidearm around the house
If its only kindness you put out
Unless to keep the G-Man away
From what you got growing near the hay.

Living in a Tin Shack mansion.

Bottoms Up

Written By: Sean McFarland

Ichabod was a man who meant me some kind of harm
He got drunk, tried to break my arm
But I saw him coming first,
so I gave him my worst
Ended up in jail all night long

Now I’m sittin in a county jail
It ain’t treatin me so well
Cause they don’t have my mama’s cookin round here
Well I’m sittin in a country jail
But it does my mama well
Cause she knows she don’t have to take care of me

About two weeks later I was out drinkin again
When I ran into a gang of Ichabod’s friends
They said, “Hey you come here”
So I bottomed up my beer
And rolled up my sleeves once again

Now I’m sittin in a county jail
It ain’t treatin me so well
Cause they don’t have my mama’s cookin round here
Well I’m sittin in a country jail
But it does my mama well
Cause she knows she don’t have to take care of me

Well two more weeks of drinkin now I’m swearin on that stand
The judge, he said “Hey son, I’ve had enough of you”
So I got down on my knees
And that judge I tried to appease
But still he sent me away for one to two

Now I’m sittin in a county jail
It ain’t treatin me so well
Cause they don’t have my mama’s cookin round here
Well I’m sittin in a country jail
But it does my mama well
Cause she knows she don’t have to take care of me

Workin for the City

Written By: J. Fokken

He’s drinking with his father
His brother and his mother
Day off today
Tomorrow he gets paid
He’s workin’ for the city
He makes a decent living
No wife, one kid
Who loves to go fishing

The weekends are for traveling
Thursdays are for gambling

He’ll get out on a lake if the wind blows
He wears a cap ‘cause his scalp shows
He don’t mind workin’ nights
Beats the nine to five

His momma was a dancer
Pappa drives a tractor
The old Fords yellow
He’s living in a rental
He reads the morning paper
A couple hours later
Coffee when he’s tired
Won’t quit until he’s wired

Racing’s just a hobby
Tunes an old jalopy

He might come in last but he always wins
He’s damn fast and he’s sleeping in
He’s racing home he’s never alone
His friends are in the fridge

He closes down the bar
He parks it in the yard
And plays old favorites
Waitresses and strangers
Soon he’ll ask them to leave

It’s getting late it’s the end of a day
Or a new day it depends on your age
The girls are going home he’d rather they stayed
Expect nothing and nothing will change

He covers up the rust on an old love
They still talk but it’s not enough
He tells them all to go
But one of them won’t
She said she’s been missing home


Snakebeard Jackson - EP
Snakebeard Jackson - The Burl

Several streaming tracks on our myspace page from the The Burl.

Set List

Setlists change on a regular basis, but here's a recent one:

Set I:

My Baby
10 Drops
Tin Shack Mansion
Black Dirt
I Think I'm Brave
Sally Goodin
Jumpin Jack Flash
If I Want More
Burlington Train

Set II:

Bring Myself In
Jack Knows
Workin for the City
Comin up Again
Bluegrass Breakdown
Cocaine Blues
Cocaine Habit
Lovin Me Was a Crime
Gamblin Ways

E: Til the Money Runs Out

We usually play two sets, occasionally three of about an hour each. We do about 85% original tunes with the occasional Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe, or Hank Williams cover. .