From theSeptember/October 2022issueofCLASSICAL GUITAR| By Blair Jackson
The John in the title of the fine acoustic guitar-and-harmonica duo record Digging in Johns Backyard is Piedmont blues guitarist-singer John Jackson (19242002), among the many country blues performers rediscovered through the early 1960s folk boom. A fantastic fingerstyle player and singer, Jackson emulated Charley Patton, Blind Blake, Reverend Gary Davis, among others, and both guitarist Frank Fotusky and harmonica ace Grant Dermody cite him as a pal and influence. However, this type of project has more in keeping with the duo of guitarist John Cephas (19302009; he was mentored by Jackson, and Dermody knew him) and harmonicist Phil Wiggins (b. 1954), whose heyday was the 80s and 90s.
The unadorned, unamplified performances appear to be a few (really talented) pals casually sitting on leading porch pickin, blowin, and singin a bakers dozen of these songs in a good selection of country blues styles. They will have terrific chemistry and unassailable chops. Songs range between well-worn numbers like Death Dont HAVEN’T ANY Mercy, Police Dog Blues, Alberta, and Hard Time Killing Floor Blues to wonderful, more obscure tunes such as for example Peach Tree Blues (Yank Rachell), Papas on the Housetop (Leroy Carr), Boats Up River (the lone John Jackson-penned song), and Shake It and Break It (Charley Patton).
Fotuskys great-sounding guitars on the album certainly are a 1995 Gibson Custom Shop J-35 specd off the 1937 J-35 on the cover of Gibsons Fabulous Flattops book, and a grand concert-size 2007 Fraulini Angelina 12-string built by Todd Cambio, owner of Fraulini Guitars.
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