Li'l Son Jackson,
Vol. 1: Rockin' & Rollin'
(Document, 2006)

Although the title of this CD is Rockin' & Rollin', it's not rock 'n' roll. It is pre-rock, pre-electric, late '40s country blues. It is Li'l Son Jackson on his acoustic guitar, fingerpicking Delta blues riffs while he sings. If you don't know his work, think Lightnin' Hopkins, another Texas bluesman from about the same period.

Jackson, though, was never as successful as Hopkins. By the time he got back from the second World War and was ready to try to create a musical career, Muddy Waters had already gone to Chicago and plugged his guitar in. T Bone Walker was playing with an electric blues band and Jackson, a committed acoustic bluesman, was just a couple of years too late. He managed to record for a few local companies and his stuff sold well enough for him to make a living in clubs.

Jackson plays pretty standard blues and his songs cover all of the standard blues themes: evil women, whiskey, being broke, addiction to gambling, hard times and booze. It's good stuff. His guitar playing is solid and sharp and his singing fits his material. What makes the CD worth hearing more than once is the depth of Jackson's soul: you can feel the man's suffering in his music. When he sings about gambling everything he has away, you sense that Jackson isn't just putting a lyric across; he makes you believe he's been there.

It's too bad he was never better known and we can only hope that this CD will help spread his music to the larger audience it deserves.

by Michael Scott Cain
3 February 2007