Blues troubadour Fruteland Jackson comes to us with an acoustic presentation on “Tell Me What You Say”, his latest offering on Electro Fi Records. This album is a vehicle for Fruteland’s strengths, which are Fruteland and his instrument. His soothing vibrato, heartfelt lyrics, definitive picking and strong presence come shining through on each track. I was pleased to hear Fruteland was back, true-to-form after a short hiatus to the electric Blues with “Blues 2.0”.
Fruteland’s sparing use of additional instruments on this record is very tasteful and often times poignant as in the use of the cello and trumpet in “Blues Over Bagdad”. This song serves as a hymn and the lyrics present the dichotomy of supporting our troops but protesting the war at the same time. “Blues Over Bagdad” leads into “I Won”, a song co-written by Johnny Mae Dunson, that contains some absolutely beautiful piano. The theme is one often heard of the struggle between “me and the devil had a tussle and I won”.
Fruteland’s supporting cast is just what’s needed on this album with most of the tasty accents delivered by Chris Whiteley on harmonica, trumpet and guitars. Julian Fauth’s piano is absolutely wonderful (can I borrow him for my next CD?). Bucky Berger provides just the right amount of percussion and drums on the CD. Kevin Fox provides cello on “Blues Over Bagdad”. The album was recorded in Toronto on September 11th and 12th in 2006 and produced by Andrew Galloway and Alec Fraser.
“A Gambler’s View” has a good introduction that leads into a song about why folks gamble. “The IRS” discusses Fruteland’s first-hand experiences with an audit (editor’s comment: yeah, let’s go after Blues musicians ‘cause Lord they just have oodles of money coming in). “You Are My Sunshine”, the Jimmy Davis song that got him elected twice to governor of Louisiana is treated very well by Fruteland and guest vocalist Diana Bratithwaite. A very straight-ahead Blues “Sittin on My Front Porch” co-written by Dr. Rabbit, Fruteland’s resonance on this song provides a therapeutic remedy to all ailments.
Fruteland is a humble, tireless performer, who does a tremendous job of educating (countless Blues in the Schools programs), both intentional and subtle. Fruteland portrays himself exactly as he is: a human being with fears, wants, concerns, loves, losses and bright moments. Everyone can relate to “Birthday Blues”, the second from the last cut on the record, especially we Blues fans as we’re aging just as fast as the ancient performers we so love. Fortunately Fruteland’s fairly young and can provide us with many more great albums like “Tell Me What You Say” to come. I’ll tell you what I say, go out and get this fine record from Electro Fi Records.
About the author: Dave Glynn, frontman for the Empty Can Band found at www.EmptyCanBand.com, regularly writes reviews for BadDogBlues.com and MNBlues.com.