Big George Jackson opened the latest Blues In The City gig with the self-explanatory "I'm a Big Man" (he is 6'6" with a frame to match). It set the standard for the rest of the evening. Jackson and his band delivered an excellent show of blues the way it is done in Minnesota (Chicago-style with a dash of West Coast).
The two sets included several tracks from the critically acclaimed "Beggin' Ain't For Me". The covers visited the repertoire of several Chicago artists, including an excellent slideless version of Elmore James' "Shake Your Moneymaker". No slavish copyists, though, the band always added their own seal to the songs. So, when they dipped into the Jimmy Reed songbook, the harp was played in Jackson's own style, rather than just reproducing Reed's licks.
A wonderful singer, Jackson has a warm deep voice that is as welcoming as a log fire on a cold winter's evening. He is also a very fine harp player with a style reflecting his two biggest influences: Big Walter and Sonny Boy II. The only time you could actually see the harp in his huge hands, though, was when he served up a brilliant rendition of "I'm Ready" on chromatic.
Jackson, an amiable character who clearly enjoys his work, was perfectly complemented throughout by his very fine band. The excellent dual guitar attack of Jeremy Johnson (ex R.J. Mischo) and Phil Schmid (ex Lynwood Slim), was underpinned by the boilerhouse of bassist John Schroder and drummer Dwight Dario (both ex Mischo, amongst others). They had the crowd up and dancing for the originals--always a good sign--which is testament to Jackson's songwriting credentials. He has the happy knack of how to make the audience feel good, as was demonstrated by the Canned Heat-like boogie of "Fee Fi Fo Fam", and the autobiographical "I'm A Big Man" and "Beggin' Ain't For Me".
Big George Jackson and his band were a big hit, and enjoyed themselves so much that they eked out the encore with an extra couple of songs. They left Nottingham with a whole host of new fans. This time around they only played a few dates in England. Next time, make sure you catch them.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.
Photography copyright © 1999 by Tom Asp, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.