:: Jackie Greene :: Bluebird Theater :: December 2 ::
By Timothy Dwenger
It isn’t often that a 21- year-old stops a room cold with a soulfully mature voice that calls to mind a young Tom Waits or Otis Redding. But that is exactly what happened when Jackie Greene took the stage at an open mic in Sacramento in the fall of 2001. At that point Greene had been gigging in bars and selling records out of his trunk for the better part of five years. Things took a turn for him when DIG Music owner Marty DeAnda heard him that night in Sacramento, signed him within days and gave the youngster the chance to get his music out to a much broader audience.
Since DeAnda took a chance on him, Greene has put out three acclaimed albums and electrified audiences all over the country. His blues-soaked style of rock and his electric stage presence often steals the show as the opening act for established performers such as B.B. King, Taj Mahal and Susan Tedeschi.
A prolific and wildly creative artist, Greene recently released an EP entitled Small Tempest with his own band and a record with a band called The Skinny Singers. “The Skinny Singers is myself and my friend Tim Bluhm, who is the lead singer of a rock band called The Mother Hips. We’ve been friends for a while and we decided that we’d get together and form our own acoustic duo. It’s turned out to be more than just an acoustic thing and is now just about songs we’ve written together,” said Greene in a recent interview with The Marquee. “It started off as a fun thing for us because I am seen as the serious guy in my band and he is in his, as well. The Skinny Singers is kinda a goof that is fun and isn’t supposed to be taken too seriously. We really tried to make a record that just two people could do. It’s not chock full of instrumentation. It’s just the best it could be and the biggest it could sound with just two people doing it.”
In mid-September, The Skinny Singers played a four-show CD release run that was highlighted by Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead joining the band onstage at The Independent in San Francisco. The group ran through Greene’s original “Gone Wanderin’” before closing out the show with the Dead classics “Friend of the Devil,” “Ripple” and “Sugaree,” to the delight of the intimate crowd.
The sit-in came on the heels of Phil and Friends rehearsals for the fall tour of which Greene was a part. The legendary bassist had contacted Greene earlier this year after hearing a track from his 2006 album American Myth on the radio and offered him a spot in most recent incarnation of his Phil and Friends project. Greene jumped at the opportunity and has signed on with Lesh for at least a year.
As a result of the invitation and the looming fall tour, Greene spent the scarce hours of free time he had this past summer learning as much of the Dead’s material as he could. “Phil would load me down with a waist high stack of songs from the archives and just say, ‘Find ones that you really like.’ I was never a Deadhead and I’m kinda turning into one now because I’ve gotten to discover all this music that I never knew,” offered Greene. “I had all the big records growing up and I knew all the songs like ‘Casey Jones.’ I love those songs but I never got to know the more obscure ones. Now, I am finding that there are a lot of songs I didn’t know that I like, so it is really fun.”
The fall tour drew rave reviews from fans and critics alike, many of whom were being exposed to Greene for the first time. In addition to focusing on the extensive Grateful Dead catalog, Phil and Friends broke out several of Greene’s originals on the road. “I let Phil decide what songs of mine we played,” Greene said. “He picked tons of them, so we ended up doing up to four or five a night, and it’s great because they fit right in.”
When relating the experience of playing with Lesh to his own career, Greene is very complimentary. “This has been such an inspiration to me as a songwriter because it is really difficult to find songwriters that I really like,” he said. “I am in the process of recording my next album and I just wrote a song that is totally Grateful Dead inspired. As we were recording it I realized that it is kinda ‘Scarlet Begonias.’”
The album, Greene’s fifth full-length in his young career, is expected to hit shelves in February of 2008. In addition to his own songs, it may feature a few written with his new songwriting partner, Phil Lesh.
:: Jackie Greene ::
:: Bluebird Theater :: December 2 ::
Spectate if you Gravitate:
• North Mississippi Allstars
• G. Love
• The Mother Hips