Jackie Greene


Jackie Greene teams up with Tim Bluhm and The Mother Hips for his latest album

:: Jackie Greene ::
:: Fox Theatre :: January 13 ::
:: Bluebird Theater :: January 14 ::
:: Agave (Avon)  :: January 15 ::

:: Belly Up :: January 16 ::

By Timothy Dwenger

It’s a Thursday morning in December and Jackie Greene is cruising around Northern California shopping for his first tuxedo, just a few weeks after his 30th birthday. “I’m doing a benefit show in San Francisco tonight,” he told The Marquee.  “It’s one of those fancy things and while you don’t have to wear a tux, a lot of the people I know are doing it and I don’t want to be that guy. I always end up needing one and I never have one, so I guess I might as well buy one. I figure I’m fully grown by now, so why not?”

Organized by Bob Weir and Woody Harrelson, the show benefited Casa De Milagros, a Peruvian school that aids orphaned children, and featured Greene sitting in with a band made up of Weir and frequent musical collaborators Jay Lane and Rob Wasserman. With an intimate audience of around 100 that included Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and Dwight Clark of ’80s Super Bowl champs the 49ers, among other heavy hitters, it seems that Greene’s decision to don a tuxedo was probably appropriate.

While a lot has been made of Greene’s connection to the surviving members of the Grateful Dead, and how they have embraced him and pulled him into the fold, he is a remarkably prolific and talented artist in his own right. With six albums to his credit since he broke onto the scene in 2002, Greene’s rootsy, blues-based style has deftly toed the line between Americana and pop and given him a reputation for musical maturity well beyond his years, as he just recently turned 30.

With his most recent release Till The Light Comes, Greene has surprised some fans by making a record that draws more from California pop bands than it does from southern blues traditions.  “I think there is sort of a San Francisco feel on this album. It’s obvious to me because I made it there and I lived there, but I think there’s a little psychedelic tinge to it,” he said. “I don’t ever really try and force anything, because that always feels weird to me. If we are recording something or doing a song and we want to try a certain direction and it feels too forced for me, it never really comes out in a way that I like. I err on the side of feeling comfortable. This album definitely went in a different direction, but I’m comfortable with that.”

When discussing this new direction it’s important to note that Till The Light Comes was produced by Greene’s close friend and founder of legendary Bay Area band, The Mother Hips, Tim Bluhm. While the two have a long history together as they co-own a recording studio in San Francisco and also play together in an on-again, off-again side project The Skinny Singers, it was the first time they had worked together in this way.  “This is the first record of mine that he has produced. He sang and played on the last record, but it was produced by Steve Berlin [Los Lobos],” Greene said before going on to explain some of the studio dynamics. “There was no ‘getting to know you’ period on this record. We’ve known each other for quite some time. We can get right in each other’s faces and it’s totally fine, so that’s pretty cool because you get more mileage out of your time together if you are able to do that.”

As the album began to take shape it became clear to everyone involved that this was going to be a different kind of Jackie Greene record, and it screamed out for a different kind of backing band.  “It turns out the band on most of the tracks — about 80 percent — is The Mother Hips. We just kinda said, ‘They are the perfect band for it, so let’s bring them in and do it,’” said Greene. In a way, it was a dream come true for Greene, who grew up listening to Bluhm’s band. “The Hips had a record called Shootout that came out on American when I was 15 and I loved that record. I still love that record,” said Greene. “That was the first time I had heard of them and I didn’t actually meet Tim until 10 years later or so, but I’ve always been a fan of his and of The Mother Hips.”

In addition to having The Hips back him up, Greene enlisted Bluhm to write several of the album’s 10 tracks with him. “Tim and I wrote about half of the songs on this album together,” he said. “‘Medicine’ was a song where Tim came up with the chorus in a dream. He woke up and recorded the chorus and melody for it and e-mailed that to me. I thought it was great! I just ran with it and we ended up making a song out of that dream.  We just trust each other and we are able to e-mail ideas back and forth and say, ‘Oh, that sucks,’ or ‘That’s great.’ It’s a pretty cool relationship.”

So, while Till The Light Comes bears Greene’s name, fans of The Hips will notice that the album is laced with their sunny pop sensibilities and is nearly as much a Mother Hips record as it is a Jackie Greene record. Though the Hips won’t be on the road with him this month, Greene’s band has done a great job working the new tunes into a rotation that features material from his entire catalog along with a healthy dose of Grateful Dead tunes.

:: Jackie Greene ::

:: Fox Theatre :: January 13 ::

:: Bluebird Theater :: January 14 ::

:: Agave (Avon) :: January 15 ::

:: Belly Up :: January 16 ::

Recommended if you Like:

• The Mother Hips

• Grateful Dead

• JJ Grey and Mofro

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