Bill Jackson “1965”

Wayside Records 2023

Bill Jackson 1965 album cover

Antipodean Troubadour goes back to the beginning.

Bill Jackson’s previous album ‘The Wayside Ballads Vol 3′ won Contemporary Album of the Year at the Australian Folk Music Awards in 2021. In partnership with his brother Ross, Jackson explored interesting family roots to write songs such as ‘The Shed’. It was a marvellous tribute to their great grandfather who was one of the founding members of the Australian Union Movement and a catalyst in the 1888 Brookong Shearer’s Strike. Other songs personalised his family history while referencing Australia’s prisoner roots, the country at the time of the Boer War, the Great War and the Great Depression, the Kelly Gang never too far away.  The album confirmed Bill Jackson as an excellent folk artist.

‘1965’ goes sideways. This album has Jackson referencing his musical roots. That year, despite the distance, Jackson says he connected to the cultural epicentre that was America. It has had a hold on him ever since. On ‘Precious Cargo’ he mentions the writer and poet Jack Kerouac and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott who had a big influence on Bob Dylan. 1965 was the year Dylan plugged his guitar jack into an amp. At some point in 1965 The Castiles played their first ever gig in New Jersey. Although referencing The Byrds, The Stones, The Beatles, Motown, the Bakersfield and Nashville Sound… it’s The Boss along with The Bard who often inhabit the time and space on this album, whether it be the intro on ‘Lonesome Ride’ or Jackson’s harmonica playing on tracks like ‘Stone Cold Side of the Bed’.

Precious Cargo’ is a fine opening track that bounces along – maybe not poetry but a well-crafted song enhanced by Ruth Hazleton’s banjo playing. ‘How I Feel’ is an interesting track that has Jackson back on home turf referencing Adam Lindsay Gordon’s depression and school teacher Thomas Curnow. The backing vocals make a huge difference. ‘Boots of American Snakeskin’ suits Jackson’s voice. There can’t be many lyrics out there using the Australian idiom mozzies. ‘Hong Kong’ is a playful homage to The Stones with some of the most memorable lines: “The first time I heard The Stones was in a Hong Kong bar drinkin gin/ They were playing Satisfaction I was three sheets to the wind”. And “Cause pretty soon you’re all consumed with a sailors right to spew”.  Track 11 is described as an out-take. ‘She Does it All with Her Eyes‘ was written by David Olney and brings Elvis to mind. ‘Who Wins Wars’ is a reminder of what Jackson does best. Folk. It is powerful stuff and very poignant.

Once more the album was recorded in collaboration with Kerryn Tolhurst. In addition to producing the album he also plays a mean resonator. Enjoyable? Yes. Memorable? Maybe less so. Jackson’s voice sounds confined on many of the tracks. It would be much more satisfying to hear them live, as his assembled band provide a glorious backing. Bill Jackson is still an excellent folk artist and storyteller.


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