Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2016 Sept-Oct Contents 88 Rhythms
Bill Jackson has firmly established himself over the
past few years as one of australia’s finest singer/
songwriters. 'steel & Bone' was awarded folk alliance
australia 'radio Presenters album of the year' in 2008
and his 2011 album ‘Jerilderie’ was enthusiastically
received in the marketplace, so much so that the
song ‘something in Blue’ was covered and released
on legendary americana artist David olney’s album
‘when the Deal Goes Down’.
Jackson writes primarily with his brother Ross. The
content is eclectic but never obvious - from love to war
and everything in between. They also have that rare
ability to entwine folklore into a folk/country/roots
setting. Songs like ‘Kate’s Pretty Green Dress’, ‘Joe Byrne’,
‘Jerilderie’, ‘Honeymoon Gully’, CSS Shenandoah’ -
extraordinary stories about ordinary people.
Jackson tours exclusively with Pete Fidler, one of
Australia’s finest musician’s. They have toured the US
four times together. US website acousticmusic.com
described Fidler as ‘ranking up there with a handful
of people on my best of dobro/resonator players’ and
of Jackson and Fidler being ‘joined at the hip’ in a
‘symbiotic musical relationship’. Jackson released ‘The
Wayside Ballads Vol 1(August, 2015) and Vol 2 (recorded
in the US during Sept, 2015) was released worldwide on
May 2, 2016 through Laughing Outlaw Records.
Shane Howard wrote the following essay about Jackson
and his music to accompany the release of The Wayside
Ballads Vol 2.
I'm generalising of course but Australia doesn't have
much respect for folk music. Australia doesn't really have
a folk tradition. Not like Ireland, England, Scotland, the
rest of Europe or Asia or the Americas and Canada. It's
as if the roots of our Settler culture haven't gone deep
enough yet, in this ancient, Aboriginal landscape, for us
to trust our own voice.
We respect other people's folk music, but at home we
consider it indifferently. We fall over ourselves for the
inane and the banal that gets packaged and sold to us
from the larger, commercial, cultural imperialists.
Real music is rock, or schmaltz or alternative or punk or
classical and there's a little room left over for folk, which
is then relegated to generic labelling in with World, Roots
and Blues. There are whole industries based around these
genres, but folk is considered as if it were something that
amateurs do on the weekends and not worthy of much
attention or support. The ARIA awards, for example,
have no folk category. "I close my eyes and I wonder if
everything's as hollow as it seems", sings Bob Dylan on
'Tryin' To Get To Heaven Before They Close The Door'.
Bill Jackson is out there fighting the good fight and
he's been doing it for a long time. He's a true folkie, in
the Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez tradition,
reminding us of our better selves, prompting our
conscience and reminding us to give a damn about the
unconscionable shit that's happening in our world. Once
the balladeers were the media, traveling from town to
town, village to village, carrying the news. Bill's comes
from the same mould and is cut from the same cloth.
Jackson does this by marrying compelling melodies and
fine musicianship to clever, witty, poignant lyrics that
never underestimate the intelligence of his audience.
There is no iTunes category for the type of music Bill
Jackson creates and performs. It's not just folk, or
country, or Americana, or blues, yet it contains elements
of all those genres. But you're not likely to hear Bill on
mainstream radio anytime soon.
Undaunted, Bill continues on, touring and recording,
garnering fans across the country, constantly winning
new audiences in Australia, the USA and beyond. Of
course he wants people to like his songs but he's not
about to sell himself short for a popularity contest. He's
coming from the grass roots, from the ground up, from
the struggle of the 99%, who have to put up with the
deceit and conceit of the kingdoms and corporations. His
songs are gritty and real and come at you like a hammer,
ringin' in the mornin'. Take it or leave it, he's telling it
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