Antonio Borrego III just doesn’t have the right ring for a bluegrass/old time performer, even in northern California.
So the young man who developed a fascination with the music just six short years ago became Snap Jackson, and has released a second CD of original music with his band, The Knock On Wood Players.
On Kaleidoscope, Jackson is featured on banjo, ukulele and lead vocals, supported by Shane Kalbach on fiddle and mandolin, Eric Antrim on guitar, and Brian Clark on bass. Of the 11 tracks, 8 are songs/tunes Snap has written or co-wrtiten, with a pair (Senate House and In Front Of You) coming from Kalbach, which he sings as well.
Snap alternates between clawhammer and 3-finger banjo, and uses his ukulele on a couple tracks as well. And like a good many young artists who have recently been attracted to acoustic string music, his songs reflect current pop trends as much as they do the godfathers of bluegrass or old time. The same is true, perhaps even more so, for Shane’s songs.
All the tracks are recorded with traditional bluegrass instrumentation, and several of the songs exhibit a hard driving sound, particularly one of the album’s two instrumentals, Tuleburg Turnaround.
How It Is features more of a swing sound, with Kalbach on fiddle and Snap’s uke filling the rhythmic roll more commonly supplied by the mandolin.
The title track puts the uke out front for an energetic jig-time ballad with a defiant attitude.
California banjo wizard Bill Evans guests on Graveyard, a solid, straightahead bluegrass song of Jackson’s about a gravedigger who ponders his own demise, and when he might need a grave himself.
Evans speaks highly of Jackson, and brings his academic training (a masters degree in ethnomusicology) to bear on the cultural phenomenon behind the music.
“Where do you find ‘lonesome’ in California? Sometimes, in the most urban of environments.
Stockton, California is the home of Snap Jackson & The Knock On Wood Players and it’s also a city in bankruptcy, with gangs, poverty and many foreclosures. In Stockton, economic conditions are just as dire as in any southern Appalachian mountain town and what folks sing about here is just about the same as in the heart of bluegrass country. Snap’s original songs speak of timeless issues – life, death, hard times, the need for independence and the love of family.
Snap’s Hispanic heritage enriches his take on American string band music while at the same time, his obvious love for bluegrass and old-time traditions is evident in all that he and the band sings and plays. He’s a student of the tradition but it’s obvious that he’s quickly adding to it, bringing a unique viewpoint that’s bringing together audiences of all ages and ethnicities.
The music is moving outward in many different directions these days, and Snap Jackson is building bridges that I hope we can all cross someday.”
From all accounts – including Bill’s – it is Snap’s live show that really seals the deal. They don’t get far from California much, though hey did perform at ROMP last month, and are scheduled at Maine’s Thomas Point Beach festival in September.
You can keep track of Snap Jackson & The Knock On Wood Players online.