The Wayside Ballads Vol 2 – A Review

Read our review of Bill Jackson’s Wayside Ballads Vol. 2

bill jackson TheWayside-BalladsVol2Cover


Bill Jackson Returns With More Vivid and Engrossing Tales

Album Launch July 28 @ The Spotted Mallard

This is a lively and welcome follow-up to Bill Jackson‘s  The Wayside Ballads Vol 1 (2015), which was a colourful and insightful collection of tales about some larger-than-life personalities, many of whom have been unfortunately well forgotten.  That release breathed new life into some important history.  Read my full review.

Bill Jackson in many ways is joined at the hip with two others whose contributions are critical – brother and co-writer Ross Jackson and dobro maestro Pete Fidler.  Together they make a formidable team and combine effortlessly again on The Wayside Ballads Vol. 2 (Laughing Outlaw Records).

The new album was engineered and produced by Thomm Jutz (Mary Gauthier, Nanci Griffith) at TJ Tunes in Nashville, TN.  The impressive roster of players are Bill Jackson: (acoustic guitar/vocal), Thomm Jutz (acoustic guitar/backing vocals), Pete Fidler (dobro), Sierra Hull (mandolin), Justin Moses (fiddle/banjo), Dan Kimbro (upright bass) and Lynn Williams (drums/percussion).

A highlight is the delightful and gleamingly irresistible ‘Rollin’ into Rosine’.  It came about after a pilgrimage to the birthplace of the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe in Rosine, Kentucky and you can picture it all, such is its powerful imagery.  (in fact I am now inspired to go there myself – maybe even this year!).  ‘Double Shot’ is a slow ballad about hero worship and is awash with Fidler’s beautiful playing , while ‘Halfway House of the Broken’ is a powerful song about domestic violence.  Also, ‘Ghost of His Own’ reminds us of young piquant love.

There is much interest and absorbing content in the other tracks as well – such as ‘Pink Jesus’ which is displayed in a bar in Nashville and the subject of ‘Gippsland Boy’ is co-writer Ross Jackson.

All songs are by Bill Jackson/Ross Jackson except ‘Pink Jesus’ by Bill Jackson/Ross Jackson/John Hadley and ‘Ghost of His Own by Bill Jackson/Ross Jackson/Nigel Wearne)


Bill Jackson with Sierra Hull


Here’s an excerpt of an interview with Bill I published a while back.

Rob: The subject matter of Vol. 1 is colourful characters whose names and deeds you wanted to commit to song and keep alive. Is that much the same aim with the forthcoming Vol. 2? Will it have a largely Australian flavour, or will there be a broader subject matter?

Bill: When I look at a list of the tracks on Vol 2, yeah it’s still full of colourful characters but somehow the songs also have a wider context as well – pretence, domestic violence, infidelity, heroes etc…always trying to personalise things for whoever is listening with the other eye on the story.

I understand that the development of the new record was largely done in Nashville and that you used a host of talented, local musicians. I assume that your long-time music cohort Pete Fidler was involved. Tell me who else you have enlisted.

Yeah Pete was integral to this record. We have been playing together for a long time now and there is a synergy there that comes with that. We have also been playing some of these songs ‘live’ over the past few years. Pete played Dobro only on this record – beautifully. Thomm Jutz and I decided that this was going to be essentially a string band record with a rhythm section, so he put the ‘band’ together for me. We have Lynne Williams on Drums & Percussion (The Wallflowers, John Hiatt etc), Daniel Kimbro on Upright Bass (The Jerry Douglas Trio), Sierra Hull on Mandolin ( a legend at 24) and Justin Moses on Banjo and Fiddle (Emmylou Harris). Thomm also added some Acoustic Guitar and BV’s. The basic tracks went down ‘live’ with me playing acoustic and singing. We kept all of this. Sierra and Justin added their parts afterwards. It was a very seamless process and was essentially done on day 1.

You have been working with producer Thomm Jutz. Tell me a little about him and how you came to work with him

I first met Thomm Jutz back in 2008 through our US Agent. He liked my songs and so we stayed in touch with a view to doing something one day. During that period he has carved quite a name for himself in Nashville, as a Songwriter, Performer, Sideman (Mary Gauthier, Nanci Griffith etc) and Producer (Nanci Griffith, Otis Gibbs, Jon Byrd, The 1861 Project Vol 1- 3 etc). He is very organised, a beautiful musician and has a great ear for all kinds of music. I don’t think I could have made this record anywhere else or with anyone else. There is a lot going on in some of the tracks, however his ability to manage the ‘cracked mosaic’ and let everything shine is just outstanding. His choice of players for this project was just brilliant and it made the whole process a lot of fun. We charted on a Sunday and within a week the album was Mastered. Thomm managed the whole process which gave me the chance to concentrate purely on the songs.

I heard you say that the recent visit to Nashville was your sixth trip there. How difficult is it to establish yourself in a city that has so many players and songwriters and is so far away from home?

I recently read an interview with Mary Gauthier and she was asked what it was like to be overtly Gay and land in Nashville. Essentially she said ‘ she come town with “Mercy Now’ and ‘I Drink’ – they let her in and she has never left. It has always been ‘Song Town’ and still is…’. If you have the songs someone will listen. Having our song ‘Something in Blue’ covered on legendary Nashville songwriter David Olney’s most recent record was some vindication for us that we could be part of a wider community. It was a huge thrill to see him do it ‘live’ on our recent visit. Having said that, there are literally thousands writing in Nashville, which is both daunting and incredibly inspiring as well. There is a validation in the sheer numbers that this is a worthwhile thing to do. It hastens processes in your mind, makes you stop and think, gets you out of your shell, encourages sharing and makes you feel part of that community of ‘Song’.


Read our review of Bill Jackson’s Wayside Ballads Vol. 2




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Author: Rob Dickens

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