Greene’s just right
Jackie Greene is one of those rare Sacramento musicians who need no introduction. He has managed, amazingly, to cross over into the consciousness of the mainstream—to those people who are not local-music aficionados, who do not regularly see live music and who do not watch the local scene closely. Now, Greene is poised on the edge of breaking into a larger, national audience. A few weeks ago, the Jackie Greene Band (including Hence Phillips on bass and Ben Lefever on drums) was invited to perform for executives of DreamWorks Records at a private showcase at Johnny Depp’s famous (and infamous) Viper Room, and the following day’s show (at the Roxy) was peopled with representatives from the Vanguard and HighTone labels and the House of Blues.
The label interest, perhaps, is not entirely surprising. After all, the Jackie Greene Band could very well be the hardest-working band in Sacramento, with shows nearly every night of the week and the kind of buzz-making hustle that one rarely sees in local musicians. Also, the band has managed to plug into a market that has remained virtually untapped in this area: the age bracket from 35 to 50. Essentially, this is the bracket supporting Greene, and these are the people who, last week at the Blue Lamp, sang along with Greene as he and his band ran through three sets of mostly original material to a full house.
Greene has been splitting his musical time as an electric-blues player and an acoustic singer-songwriter. Although clearly derivative of Bob Dylan, the latter material seems vastly more relevant than the former. Greene is a capable electric-blues player, but he is not remarkable or particularly fresh; it’s clear he’s listened closely to Clapton and many of the Chicago bluesmen. Despite this criticism, his audience loved it, including a cover of Elmore James’ “The Sky Is Crying,” a song that has been done to death by musicians much stronger than Greene.
This point is the key to Greene’s success, however: knowing exactly what his audience wants and giving it to them night after night. There are no surprises here: nothing shocking, nothing to jolt the happy dancing of the audience. Instead, there is straightforward songwriting and roots-inspired blues at a volume that everyone can enjoy: not too loud, not too quiet. Is the music derivative? Perhaps. Is it good? It’s better than that: As Goldilocks would say, for the audience, this band is just right.
God damn, Grub Dog! The singer-songwriter and guitarist for the Amazing Sweethearts has announced plans to move to Austin, Texas, in July, meaning the end of one of the longest-running rock ’n’ roll bands in the area (not to mention the end of Grub’s supergroup side project, the Wreckords). The Sweethearts will play a series of dates in June and July before calling it quits, including a date on June 4 at Old Ironsides. The band’s final Sacramento show will be June 27 at Old Ironsides with Honeyspot and Victory Gin. Keep checking local listings for additional shows.