Jefferson Ross – Southern Currency
I came to this artist years ago purely by accident. A roots-oriented radio station had switched formats & their CDs were for sale at $1 each. There were tons of CDs piled into old plastic post office bins. Jefferson Ross was one that looked interesting. Took a chance. Of all the CDs that day Ross’ songs were by far the best.
Over the years of being independent, I thought he drifted off like so many. But I was pleasantly surprised when this CD found its way to my speakers. Presented in a handsome rustic well-designed & photographed 6-panel fold-out package.
This collection could’ve been even better had Jefferson (guitars/lead vocals) dipped swampier into a Cajun, Delta & American Gothic fount. A little more Tony Joe White-Guy Clark. Maybe next time. But, hell, this one’s indeed dug in deep into Southern soil sufficiently to be satisfying. I’m not surprised. If you like the rural richness of The Band – you’ll enjoy Ross.
This 11-cut Southern Currency (Drops March 18–Independent) is primarily fiddle-mandolin driven & the lead-off “Alabama Is a Winding Road,” possesses sharp imaginary with some tragic tales. Its gratifying melody & brilliant silky backup vocals are instantly likable. Ross has lost none of his storytelling charms.
There are tunes laid out in a more Appalachian tradition (“Two Kentucky Brothers”), a Civil War tale about 2 brothers who wore uniforms of opposite colors. Dixieland swing (“Baptize The Gumbo”) & blues (“King of Mississippi”). While the majority aren’t earth-shaking the quality is woven throughout with fine musicianship & Jefferson is wise enough to avoid the pitfalls of novelty, corniness, & too much country angst. He chooses his subjects wisely. His voice is so impressively expressive & sentimental with eloquent pastoral tones.
On this CD Jefferson composed songs that focus on individual Southern states. There’s a William Faulkner quality that runs through this homeland narrative. The musical paint comes in rich bold strokes on “Down In Macon, Georgia,” as Ross bases some of this music reminiscent of Gary U.S. Bonds’ classic radio-friendly “New Orleans.” But this Ross arrangement is performed so well it’s immaterial.
While Ross has always sung well, this collection showcases his ability to reshape his vocalizing into many varied styles effectively. In a word: he never sounded better.
Produced by Thomm Jutz (guitars/harmony vocals). The musical dynamite is lit by Mike Compton (mandolin), Mark Fain (upright bass), Tammy Rogers-King (fiddle & harmony vocals) & Lynn Williams (drums/percussion).
Jefferson in some ways is like the late-country singer Boxcar Willie. A superb voice & musician who many times upstaged some of the more famous country singers.
Yet, Ross, like Boxcar Willie, is like that one chocolate in a box of many that have a cherry in it. You have to look for him & savor it.
Portrait of Ross from his Facebook. The 44-minute CD is available @ http://jeffersonross.com