Joshua Jacobson – Good Little Thing
13 songs – 51 minutes
The album cover of Good Little Thing gives some indication of the music inside. A cartoon image by Frederick Carlson, with a tongue-in-cheek nod in style towards Robert Crumb’s own renderings of country blues artists, depicts Joshua Jacobson playing an acoustic guitar while sitting at a table on which is nestled a half-drunk bottle of moonshine, a full shot glass and a half-smoked cigar, smouldering in an ashtray. In the background, the moon shines through an open doorway while a woman shakes to the music he is playing. It is an archetypal, almost stereotypical, image and one that immediately brings to mind the classic Yazoo albums of Robert Wilkins or the Mississippi Sheiks. And that would be partly right. Good Little Thing is certainly inspired by and pays homage to acoustic masters such as Tampa Red and Blind Willie McTell, but that also tells only part of the story.
With seven self-penned tracks and six well-selected covers, Good Little Thing is that rare album that successfully plants one foot in a mythical, idealised past whilst leaving the other one firmly in the present. Jacobson sings and plays acoustic 12 string and slide guitar. He is supported by a wide range of musicians on different songs, including Dickey Betts, Damon Fowler, Matt Walker, Pedro Arevelo, Aaron Fowler, Jeffrey “Jefe” Arevelo, Clark Stern, Chris Flowers, Mookie Brill, Hill Roberts and Allan Jolley. Together they add, at various times, acoustic and electric guitar, stand up bass, bouzouki, percussion, washboard, piano, harmonica and banjo.
Jacobson sings in an unaffected, light tenor voice that fits the music perfectly and finger-picks in the classic Piedmont blues style. His songs often use traditional structures, but are dragged into the modern day by his sharp, off-the-wall lyrics. So the 8-bar shuffle of “Codependent Katie” has a melody not dissimilar to “Key To The Highway”, but Jacobson’s lyrics steer a different course as he advises the track’s protagonist: “Sex addition? Well you’re crazy. Attention is all you need. You couldn’t get it from your daddy and now you get it from every man you see.” Likewise, “Twerkin’ Lil’ Mama” and “Bipolar Mama” are not titles one would usually see on an album by a country blues artist.
The music itself is not all rooted in the past, although that is clearly where the Jacobson’s primary affection lies. There is an alluring sense of fun and irreverence about the entire proceeding. The bouncing Jacobson original, “Pistol Packin’ Papa”, benefits from Aaron Fowler’s funky percussion and Dickie Betts’ classic electric guitar solo. Curley Weaver’s 1949 “Ticket Agent” is re-imagined with banjo, washboard, bouzouki and stand-up bass, while Willie Cobbs’ “You Don’t Love Me” is dragged back to a primeval acoustic state, with harp, acoustic and slide guitar all helping to recreate the famous main lick.
With warm-yet-pristine production by Scott Cable, top notch performances by all musicians and a fine collection of well-written songs, Good Little Thing is a very impressive debut release by Joshua Jacobson.