George Jackson Challenges the notion of “authenticity” with new Old-Time album, Time and Place
At the heart of all traditional music lies two important coordinates, the time and place of origin; objective definitions in the ever evolving aesthetics of folk music. These coordinates are the concepts explored with infinite new possibility by New Zealand born, American old time fiddler George Jackson on his debut album, Time and Place. Traveling has been a way of life for Jackson, who was born to musician parents in Christchurch, New Zealand. He spent the better part of his childhood living and touring around in a house bus with his family band. An avid student of American fiddle styles, Jackson eventually made his way to Nashville, TN where he now lives. On Time and Place, he offers a mesmerising collection of original fiddle tunes, which reflect an uncannily deep understanding of American roots traditions, while remaining entirely true to his own musical and personal identity. As global cultures meld, this album offers a fascinating look at what time and place mean to fiddle styles in today’s world.
Jackson’s Time and Place was recorded at the Rubber Room in Chapel Hill, NC, with a number of renowned young musicians from the region, including Jackson’s long time collaborator Andrew Small, Charm City Junction’s Brad Kolodner, Mark Kilianski of Hoot and Holler, and Mandolin Orange’s Andrew Marlin, as well as fellow southern hemisphere native Ashlee Watkins. Each track on the album is named for it’s time and place of composition, and traces Jackson’s journey from New Zealand to 10 years spent in Australia touring and performing, to his new life in the United States. "Dorrigo” is named for one of his favorite Australian festivals, while "Cabin on the Cumberland", and “New Floors, Old Knees” memorialize his new home in Nashville, TN. The immigrant story is central to American history and culture, and Time and Place offers the chance to dig into an entirely new immigrant story in the form of some delightful and gritty new tunes.
Jackson first fell in love with old time music at the hallowed Appalachian Old Time String Band Festival in Clifftop, West Virginia; one of the biggest hotspots for American old time music. Having just finished jazz school in Australia at the time, Jackson felt a new found freedom in old time music. “I spent so long thinking about soloing, which is supposed to be all about freedom, but it was at Clifftop that I realized sinking into a great melody and a groove deeply with a group of people, leaving egos at the door, was more freeing than anything I’d experienced”. Growing up, Jackson played many different styles of fiddle music, Scottish music was a particular focus and he was also a competitive highland dancer. “Dancing to bagpipes was so exhilarating when I was young, but I spent a lot of time later on playing Bluegrass and modern Jazz, which are not really dance musics per se. I think when I got really into old time music it was like coming home to dance music for me”.
With “authenticity” being such a strong focus for the old time community, it might be hard to imagine a foreigner being respected musically. “American music is melting pot music,” says Jackson, “and you can hear the history of America through it. For example, the way that you use rhythm in your bow is very African, and some of of the tunes are Scottish or Irish in origin. I haven’t been an American until now, which is why I like to write and play my own tunes, because that’s me bringing myself, the New Zealander, into the mix”.