When an album opens with a song called ‘Pink Jesus’, one can presume that things will get interesting fairly quickly, and Bill Jackson lives up to his promise on this collection of eleven songs that incorporate musical and lyrical traditions of folk and country music. That said, there’s some lovely dobro playing by Pete Fidler that swings the needle more towards country – but both audiences would be very pleased with this album.
Jackson’s voice is direct and honest – he delivers his stories straight to the audience and it is clear that he has respect for both. And there are plenty of good stories to be found here. As the name of the album suggests, they’re mostly ballads, although musically they don’t all follow that pattern.
Amongst the highlights are ‘Gippsland Boy’, a plaintive song of the land and one man’s history that could just us easily have emerged from Slim Dusty, at a different pace and probably not as sweet, but that same grasp of storytelling is there.
‘Every Day’s a Drinkin’ Day’ has a title that could belong to a few different country artists but the song is not about the glories of beer – it’s about a man with a ‘big feather in his hat/nothin’ in his case/cheap, dirty white guitar/glazed eyes and weathered face’ whose ‘every song’s a trainwreck but it buys another beer’.
Jackson is a man who observes the details and avoids making pronouncements. He honours the subjects of his stories and, in doing so, honours the people listening to them. This is an album for people who like their country music straight up, no ice, and want to sip it slowly.
The Wayside Ballads Vol 2 is out now.www.billjacksonmusic.com