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Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons, Tractor Tavern, Seattle- 1/03

When a friend of mine told me that I should check out the upcoming Jerry
Joseph and the Jackmormons show at the Tractor Tavern and suggested it was a
show that he wouldn’t miss, come "hell or high water", I was more than a
little intrigued. I knew of Jerry Joseph from the extremely popular, late
80’s through early 90’s, reggae band Little Women, but hadn’t seen him
lately. I had previously missed countless opportunities to catch this
group. My buddy is a good indicator of quality shows. This time I thought I
should clear my schedule and get there as well. I must say I am glad
that I did.

We arrived at about 9:15 and I was surprised that more people were not in
the house as the scheduled start time was 9:30, but it filled up fast and as
the Athens Georgia based Drive by Truckers took the stage. A few minor
technical glitches and they were off and running. Now, I grew up on Long
Island listening to bands such as The Allman Bros., Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly
Hatchet and The Outlaws and aside from a few summer visits to mom’s down in
South Carolina hadn’t heard much of that stuff since I moved out west. But,
suffice to say, classic 3 guitar southern rock is alive and well and
sounding good after a long hiatus. These guys are the heir apparent to
those aforementioned groups with all the hard driving chords speedy guitar
solos and booming rhythm one could ask for. Throw in some long neck Bud’s
and Marlboro Reds and you have the makings of one hell of a good time. The
Drive by Truckers is the perfect compliment to Jerry Joseph and the
Jackmormons. Hard driving, old school southern rock to get you in the mood
for the masterful song writing that defines the Jackmormons style.

Seattle’s Tractor Tavern is an out of the way spot for some of the best
music the city has to offer. Located in unassuming Ballard, a primarily
Norwegian fishing town that dates back to the origins of the city. It has
recently become a trendy neighborhood, not unlike the Haight district in San
Francisco with younger affluent types moving in and remodeling 70 and
80-year-old residences. Amidst the changes it has managed to keep its old
time, small neighborhood feel. The Tractor should seem out of place, yet
somehow it adds to the funkiness with its cowboy kitsch and unpretentious
dr as a welcome respite from the glitz of downtown. This is a bar that
would look just as good in a small Texas town as it does in Ballard. They
regularly host some of the best national as well as local alternative-
country, jam oriented, and otherwise eclectic music the Northwest gets to
see.

The band played one long extended set that began right about 11:30 and
opened with "Oil," a song about the challenges of life in sobriety and what
happens to us when we are returned to the earth after death. "Brother
Michael" was next, followed by "Little Tiger" into "Climb to Safety" back
into "Little Tiger." "Pink Light" followed by "War at the end of the World,"
"Turn Faster," "Conscious Contact" into "Drive" back into "Contact." The
battered woman saga of "Sleeping with Soldiers" culminated almost an hour of
non-stop rocking and rolling. I guess maybe Jerry needed a short break
after all that, or perhaps wanted to connect with his audience. He told us
the story of a town near Ensenada, Mexico, and how a group of local
fisherman who run drugs in the off season, were murdered by the police along
with their entire families in the middle of the town square. The song is
called "Ten Killer Fairies" and it seemed at this point the band was
completely warmed up and were firing on all six cylinders. "Kind of Place,"
"Little Boo’s Fireworks," "Spin Cycle" and "Big Things set up a mini tribute
to the recently deceased George Harrison with "Beware of Darkness" from his
work, "All Things Must Pass." This segued into a rearranged version of the
Beatles classic "Come Together" that went back into "Beware of Darkness" to
finish the show at 1:30. The band came back out for an encore of "Three
Mile Island".

Masterful lyrics and solid, fluid rhythm is the foundation that makes this
Portland, Oregon trio click. The many years of experience both writing songs
and performing is evident in Jerry Joseph’s stage presence. He seems so at
ease on stage I might have thought he was in his own living room. With
Junior Ruppel on bass and Brad Rosen on drums, the band spent two solid
hours ripping through almost 20 songs of love, laughter, war and social
commentary that is all to scarce in today’s do now, think later, world of
instant gratification. Jerry Joseph is a poet, and his compositions flow
like stories set to music. They are smart sometimes-political treatises on
our world today and the human condition. One can’t help but think that most
if not all of them are indeed drawn from real life experience. It is no
wonder that bands like Widespread Panic and David Lindley cover his work.
Jerry Joseph is the kind of musician keeping my hopes alive, that people
still give a damn about what they write and see the opportunity to suggest a
collective social conscience.

It is seldom that I get a chance to see a performer of his ability. He is a
true veteran of the road of life that wrings passionate, musical energy from
every bone in his body. A real American spirit with a voice that was made
for singing his ideas on the state of the world today. Tonight he was
wearing a dark blue shirt with a Big Star in the middle of it. During the
performance I kept thinking "Star, Star, Star." Yes indeed, Jerry Joseph is
a star and you would be wise to catch him if you get the chance.

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