Published Jan 27, 2015It takes a lot of work to sound this relaxed. On his buoyant self-titled debut, North Carolina-based, Georgia-raised folksinger and guitarist Jake Xerxes Fussell (yes, that really is his middle name) wields guitar chops gleaned from years of apprenticeship and deep study to spin the most vibrant yarns. His mentors: Piedmont blues guitarist Precious Bryant, Alabama bluesman George Daniel and Californian guitarist Steve Mann, who each inspired a track.
Although the songs are Fussell's adaptations of traditional folk and blues material (much of it originally recorded in the '30s), in Fussell's curatorial hands, they sound neither old nor self-consciously shiny and new; they simply make you want to dance. Infusing the album with just the right mix of care and free are an alt-Nashville band of not-necessarily-traditionalists: producer William Tyler (Lambchop, Silver Jews) on guitar and organ, Chris Scruggs on lap steel, bass and mandolin, drummer Brian Kotzur and Hoot Hester on fiddle.
With his gravelly, approachable voice, Fussell delivers old work songs (polyrhythmic "Raggy Levy"), love songs ("Star Girl" is delicately enduring) and domestic tunes (mellow R&B sizzler "Pork And Beans") to our age. It's like the lyric in "Push Boat" he utters so sweetly over watery guitar: "I'm working on a push boat, the water's mighty slack; I'm taking sugar molasses down, and bringing sugar back." Yeah, he's bringing sugar back, all right. (Paradise of Bachelors)