Self-Release – 2015
11 tracks; 51 minutes
The Norman Jackson Band is based in Springfield MO but, as Norman tells us on the opening “Norman’s Blues” he is originally from the South side of Chicago. Rick Shortt started out as a 12 year-old with Norman as his mentor and his sax playing is now an integral part of the band’s sound as Norman handles guitar and vocals, his nephew Ron ‘Boogieman’ Brown is on drums and Danny Williams the bass player was a member of Norman’s church congregation. A close-knit unit, the band came third in the 2016 IBC’s, the band’s catchphrase is ‘Get Your Happy On!’ and their debut album is a blend of blues, soul and funk.
After “Norman’s Blues” acts as an intro to the band “Givin’ Up” starts as a slow blues and builds in intensity, mainly through Rick’s increasingly frantic sax work. Norman’s vocals fit well with the soulful “Man Of My House” with some strong sax work from Rick though he does get a little over-excited towards the end of his solo. “Healthy Woman” is a swinging blues with Norman proudly telling us about how his woman has “meat on her bones”; “All Alone” starts with some gentle guitar before developing into a strong instrumental feature for Rick’s sax work. Danny’s rumbling bass leads into “Grandmama Says” in which Norman recounts some of his grandma’s homespun philosophy over an extended funky tune. The shorter “Water Faucet” sticks to the funky side of things, the odd title explained by the chorus: “I’m not your water faucet, baby, you can’t turn me off and on”.
The band slows the pace for a soulful ballad “When You Came Into My Life”, Norman singing well of how love came into his life; with beautiful sax from the start and solid vocals this was the standout track for this reviewer. “Old Time Way” is an uptempo tune dominated by Rick’s sax and “Greene County Blues” a slower shuffle about the local prison. The album closes with “Snake In My House”, another slower number with classic lyrics about being suspicious about what might be going on at home when Norman is out at work – think “I Smell A Rat” as a template.
It is a positive thing that all the material here is original, albeit some of it is derivative. The instrumental side of the band is dominated by Rick’s sax work and it is not surprising that he is known as ‘the wild man of the sax’ as some of his work here does go over the top though when he remains focussed his playing is solid, as on “All Alone” and “When You Came Into My Life”. One suspects that this is a band to see live, as their IBC success would imply, rather than hear on disc but this album has some good moments.