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Published: 2012/10/11
by Kevin Long

Jackie Greene, Proud Larry’s, Oxford, MS – 10/2

Photo by Jake Kreulen

Every so often, a musician explodes onto the music scene much akin to a dormant volcano that suddenly erupts without warning. The conditions beneath the earth were ideal for the mountain’s summit to blow, but remained undiscovered until the discharge illuminates the sky. Jackie Greene is such an artist and his talent is certainly a force of nature. At the youthful age of thirty-one he has already acquired a lifetime of experience. Starting his career as a bluesy troubadour with his first album, Gone Wanderin’, he has subsequently released a handful of celebrated records. In 2006, Phil Lesh courted him for his band and the rest is history, as his talent was given a larger audience. Since then, he has played with various Grateful Dead projects, while also sharing the stage with such celebrated musicians as B.B. King, Warren Haynes, Buddy Guy and Mark Knopfler, to name a few. He also replaced Jimmy Herring in the reconfigured band, Trigger Hippy. Taking time from his various side projects to focus on his own music, his group embarked on a national tour making a rare southern appearance in Oxford, Mississippi.

The intimate locale was a modest sized bar, light years away from the dazzle of his west coast gigs. It had all the ambiance of a basement but with healthier acoustics. It was an ideal place to soak up the genius that was to follow.

Jackie began the set on the featureless stage with acoustic in hand and his harp braced around his neck; conjuring the flavor of a young Dylan. He promptly counted out “Uphill Mountain” and the versatile show commenced. Nathan Dale on the electric added to the music with his calculated licks, trading off solos with Jackie’s bluesy harp to great ends. Proud Larry’s was only half-full when the magic began, but as the notes floated out into the collage square a myriad of music fans began filing in like moths to a flame. The powerful gem, “Animal” mirrored the first couple of soulful numbers, until halfway through the song he picked up his electric, lighting a powder keg as he attacked the frets like a man possessed.

Whether he was pounding the keys during, “Closer to You” or performing with his numerous guitars, the Sacramento kid owned every instrument. The dance floor roiled during his interesting presentation of The Dead’s classic, “Deal,” as the show straddled a balance of blues, folk and improvised jamming. Steve Taylor took over picking duties when Jackie switched to over to keys, but unmistakably it was Jackie who stirred the drink.

The new material the band introduced for their upcoming release sounded polished while the complexity of the arrangements added nuances. After a flawless version of, “A Moment of Temporary Color” off Greene’s 2010 release, Till the Light Comes, the set came to a crackling end with yet another Grateful Dead classic: a bluesy interpretation of, “New Speedway Boogie.” This exploded into, “The Other One” when bassist Jeremy Plog thumped those iconic bass lines out of the masterful jam. The band was on fire, while Jackie’s guitar playing had many dancing while others gazed in disbelief as the controlled chaos bled back into “New Speedway Boogie” for an awe-inspiring end to the musical journey. An encore of the coveted “Mexican Girl” wrapped up a brilliant evening.

It was evident why Mr. Greene is in such high demand, after witnessing his marveled abilities. He not only maintains a strong personal presence and identity but he has the uncanny gift of making everyone that shares the stage with him elevate their own talent. His music is reminiscent of a time when artists actually desired to leave a piece of their soul behind – not just make a buck. In an era when most music is manufactured like products, he just plays from the heart. To summarize him in the most general terms, the kid gets it, and the music community will reap the benefits for years to come.

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