When it's right, it's right. Jackson Price, founder of Big Swing Theory, was raised on the blues. Even with his successful swing band, he found that he still needed another outlet.
When it's right, it's right.
Jackson Price, founder of Big Swing Theory, was raised on the blues. Even with his successful swing band, he found that he still needed another outlet for his blues compositions, and so he formed the spinoff group, Jackson Price and The Blues Rockets.
It took four years of trial and error to find exactly the right combination of people to express his creative vision of a standard blues band. Now, with himself and David Chmil on guitar, Colin Jenkinson on bass and Max Moulton on drums, he has it.
After almost a year of work, the group's first album, "I Used to Have Fun," is ready. The album release party is from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 14) at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west. Admission is free, and you can pick up an album for $10 apiece.
The right people
Price knew what he was looking for in his band, but it still took years to find it. "Most musicians will say they love to play blues, but when you play with them you discover that they get bored quickly with a simple structure," Price said.
Blues features a simple three-chord structure, with "different ways you can play within that structure," Price described. Though it may be simple, the unadorned structure of the blues "brings you back to what you love about music in general.
"In a way it's an homage to music itself. It's the foundation of rock and of jazz," he said.
Blues has a niche market. People who find a good blues band will come religiously. They stay pretty true to the music. Though they occasionally "get a little bit funky and touch upon a bit of rock," Price said, "we stick to the blues, mainly."
The right sound
With the band in place, Price knew it was time to get to the studio. By last winter, they had "tracked the whole thing electric." But, while playing on some of artist Larry Bell's 125 guitars during a concert at the Harwood Museum last October, they heard the music acoustic. Price and company loved the sound so much that "we went back and recorded about half [the tracks] acoustically."
The album is in some ways a culmination of Price's musical life thus far. His father, the late great artist Ken Price, always had blues and jazz playing at home. Jackson Price experimented a lot a teenager. He was into glam rock. He saw a bunch of Grateful Dead shows. And then he heard Jimmy Reed again "on my own."
"Jimmy Reed is kind of his own guy," Price said. "He does an old guitar boogie style. He had a way of playing what we call the five-chord. A music purist would say it's an incorrect way of playing it." Reed "left out the middle of the fingering," while people generally leave out either the bass or the top. "A lot of people think that because he was such a real dude, it was just kind of a beautiful mistake … Guitar players get together and talk about that kind of stuff."
The right songs
As great as the 1980s were in many respects, not all music benefits from a touch of synthesizer. After the incredible years of Muddy Waters in the '70s, "blues, when it hit the 80s, got kinda cheesy," Price said. "Recordings got kinda '80s engineering, which is exactly what blues listeners don't want."
Although the band has "using really nice equipment" for their studio recording, they've left behind not only the over-engineering, but also the predictability of some of the lyrical tendencies of blues. "Lyrically, it's not about 'my baby left me' or 'hittin' the bottle again,'" Price explained. The album features "more personal lyrics with a humorous undertone." Lyrics about "my own personal dysfunction rather than general dysfunction.
"I've learned from writing songs for a long time how to write lyrics in a free way, where they're not forced," he added. That freedom allows Price to write frank, funny and relatable songs that share openly about his experience of his own transformation and evolution. "'Bald, Fat and 45' kinda speaks for itself," he said. "There's an underlying theme about getting a bit older and not being quite as cool as I thought I was."
The song, "Threshold," he said, speaks about "hitting your threshold and needing to go. Now I just not as into being around people as I used to be. I've become much more introverted."
The right town
Price, who was an actor in Los Angeles for 15 years, "had a bit of an epiphany" and "just started playing guitar around the clock." He worked, "and then every other waking hour I would just play." He started playing with the blues band the Mighty Mojo Prophets, and then his wife got pregnant and they decided to come back to Taos, where Price spent his formative years.
"It does feel like home," he said. "And it's a great place to play music, much better than L.A. was for me. If you have a good band, people really appreciate it. You can play to full bars, and they come back. Taos is kind of an underrated music town. People really love music here. Per capita, if you were playing in a different town this size, I don't think it would be the same. I think Taos is special in that regard."
Jackson Price and The Blues Rockets play regularly around town. In addition to shows at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, they play the third Friday of each month at The Taos Inn (that's Dec. 20 this month), and they frequently play at Taos Ski Valley. "We fill up the dance floor, and our crowd is really big and true," Price said.
Of the album, produced and engineered by Max Moulton at the Tower, Price said, "We're proud of it. We really like the way it came out. And believe me, I've recorded before and not been happy. It's hard to capture how you think your band sounds."
Come early to the Mothership on Saturday, from 3-6 p.m., and have fun at the Taos Charter School Fundraiser with Big Swing Theory and support a good cause.
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