Sometimes you hear a song that takes you completely by surprise and blows you away. "Have You Ever Seen Peaches Growing On A Sweet Potato Vine?" by Jake Xerxes Fussell is just such a song. I first heard this incredible track on an Uncut Magazine sampler cd and could not stop playing it and telling my friends that it was the best thing that I had heard all year.
I checked out both of Jake's albums, his 2015 eponymously titled debut and his new release "What In The Natural World" [both on the wonderful Paradise of Bachelors label] and found them to be equally brilliant.
Further investigation revealed that Jake was to be touring the UK in May and, better yet, he was playing in Liverpool! The cherry on the cake came when it transpired that he was touring as a double bill with one of my favourite guitarists, the incredible Daniel Bachman. Maybe all my birthdays had come at once.
The venue at which Daniel and Jake were to play was new to me - HUS , a fashionable Scandinavian-themed café/bar/restaurant/arts venue on Tithebarn Street in the heart of Liverpool's office quarter.
I arrived early at the gig as there were no advance tickets, entry was, incredibly, by donation. I arrived at HUS to find a Friday evening, post-work party in full swing with a free barbeque and music from a DJ. Not quite what I expected but I soon discovered that Daniel and Jake would be playing downstairs in a chic subterranean concrete bunker called the Kolbox, which had been designed by one of Daniel's friends.
It was clear from the highly entertaining soundcheck [which Jake and Daniel kindly let me sit in on]that this was going to be a fantastic evening.
Daniel and Jake take it in turns to be the opening act and tonight it was Daniel's turn to go on first.
A prodigiously talented player, Daniel is regarded as the natural successor to such masters of the "American Primitive" guitar style as John Fahey and Jack Rose . Yes, he really is that good.
Daniel's set was mesmerising from start to finish, as he alternated between a regular guitar and a beautiful Weissenborn lap-slide guitar, both of which he played with consummate mastery.
His set varied in pace from fast, loud and rhythmic to slow, sweet and melodic ; from ragas to ragtime to waltzes, including a stunning version of Lemuel Turner's "Beautiful Eyes of Virginia".
Daniel's incredible set was concluded with a haunting, intense raga played on the Weisseborn , for which Jake joined him on shruti box drone. Amazing stuff.
In contrast to Daniel's acoustic set, Jake took to the performance area wielding a Fender Telecaster but his playing, although electric, was no less subtle that Daniel's as he picked his way through a brilliant selection of old-time songs from way back in America's history.
Jake opened with the traditional sea-shanty "Around The Bay Of Mexico", which, most appropriately for the venue, describes a voyage from Liverpool to California in search of gold. Jake told me that he learned this from a record by folk-revivalists, The Weavers.
Jake has an uncanny ability to choose uplifting material, as witnessed by his joyful, syncopated versions of Duke Ellington's "Jump For Joy" and Jean Ritchie's "Swing And Turn Jubilee".
From his first album Jake gave us a smile-inducing version of The Georgia Sea Island Singers' "Ragged Levy", which makes reference to sweet potatoes, which leads us back to the beginning of this review, and Jake's fabulous version of "Have You Ever Seen Peaches Growing On A Sweet Potato Vine?", with which he concluded his superb set tonight. When I first heard this on the Uncut cd, little did I know that I would, few weeks later, be seeing Jake perform it live in my home city, but here he was, bringing his esoteric country-blues to Liverpool.
A superb evening from two American masters of the guitar
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