From his work as a sideman with the likes of Jake Blount and Jacob Jolliff, as well as his beloved collections of original fiddle tunes, including viral sensation “Dorrigo”, Jackson has already made his mark on the traditional music scene in the United States. Having lived in Nashville for much of the past decade, Jackson now digs further into the various inspirations he has found in his newfound home with his album George Jackson’s Local Trio, featuring Eli Broxham and Frank Evans.
“I feel a much stronger sense of identity with this record,” he says. “In many ways, it’s still working with the concepts that I was getting at with Time and Place, trying to be a part of something with a long history while also trying to bring myself to the table as an outsider, but now there’s a lot more confidence in bring together the different elements I’m interested in and continuing to form my voice with less fear of ‘doing it wrong’.”
For his Local Trio, Jackson enlisted two friends who he felt could help capture the experimental spirit of the project. Banjo player Frank Evans, originally from Toronto, Canada, is known for his work with the Slocan Ramblers. Fluent in both three-finger and claw-hammer banjo styles, Jackson sought him out for his genre-crossing abilities. “He can go very deep in old-time as well as bluegrass music, and also has an interest and proficiency as an improviser and with jazz concepts”, explains Jackson. “He just feels like such a natural fit for me musically.”
Bassist Eli Broxham is from Chicago and has studied both old-time and classical music. “He has such a fearless spirit in the way that he approaches music”, explains Jackson.
Fellow fiddle player John Mailander (Bruce Hornsby, Billy Strings) produced the record, collaborating closely with the trio to achieve Jackson’s boundary-pushing vision. “Something that I’m proud of with this record is that it doesn’t sound like music that has been made before, we were able to push old-time in genuinely new directions using arrangements, samples, and recording techniques”, explains Jackson.
The material on the record ranges from traditional tunes like "Lady Hamilton" and "Raleigh and Spencer" to originals by both Jackson and Broxham, to an instrumental cover of Sylvan Esso’s "Ferris Wheel," picked apart into their base elements and seemingly put back together, along with free improvisation, melody as rhythm, and samples of dog howls and old source recordings. On the album’s closing track, “Tennessee Blues,” Jackson took inspiration from a single bass solo in the original Bill Monroe recording, which features the repeated use of a non-diatonic walking line for a “particularly deranged exploration of the tune”, according to Jackson’s liner notes.
As a producer, “John (Mailander) helped us temper the arrangements,” explains Jackson. “I was giving myself permission to explore on this album, and I tended at times to take that to the extreme. John helped to take the ideas that I had and keep the spirit of what I was trying to do while tempering the ideas into perspective. He also had a pretty strong concept of how to record the band, specifically, with a combination of using mics and amps so that we could introduce amp-affected tones at certain points, and have room to explore all of the sonic options from fully acoustic to fully electronic."
Recorded and mixed at The Tractor Shed by Grammy-winning engineer Sean Sullivan, George Jackson’s Local Trio continues a long heritage of stretching fiddle music out in every possible direction, and maintaining a living, breathing tradition through reverence and simultaneous newfound relevance. With this new record, Jackson continues to show his brilliance as a student of the fiddle, with a seemingly never-ending well of creativity to draw on when it comes to writing and producing new and fascinating music.