When it comes to on-stage energy, there are few UK rock and roll performers who can match Nottingham-based Earl Jackson
. Wearing a naval style peaked cap, he comes across as a latter day Chuck Berry - indeed he jokes that Chuck was his dad - but there is more to him than that, even if many of his numbers were written and recorded by Berry. There's more than a hint of Eddie Murphy in his toothy smile, his swivel eye popping grimaces and his humorous and at times manic approach. But he's a good guitarist and a pretty fair vocalist with bags of personality.
Earl and his band the Earl Jackson Four were the stars of the latest Tales From The Woods promotion at the Dublin Castle in Camden and from his first number, Chuck's Back In The USA, he had the audience hooked. There were several numbers from the Chuck Berry song book in his set, including Roll Over Beethoven, Nadine (complete with duck walk) and, as an encore, Johnny B Goode, and it was perhaps on these numbers that he seemed most comfortable. But there was also a good selection of blues and R and B songs, including Flip, Flop and Fly, the bluesy Please Let Me Explain, James Hunter's Don't Do Me No Favours, Roy Brown's Miss Fanny Brown and an excellent version of Howlin' Wolf's Howling For My Baby. He also included a couple of numbers from his 2010 album Bustin' Loose - I'm Dead Broke But I'm Satisfied and Clyde McPhatter's Deep Sea Ball. Born of Jamaican parents and originally a gospel singer, Earl has been popular on the rock and roll scene for many years, but he was an inspired choice by Keith Woods for his latest show, in a pub that used to host roots music shows regularly.
Support act on last night's show were Smiley Jacks
, a four piece blues band featuring the excellent guitar of Iain 'Hound Dog' Terry, a founder member of Matchbox and a former member of various other groups over the years, including Shotgun and the Cruisers, as well as backing the likes of Muddy Waters and Charlie Gracie and recording solo. They kicked off with Down The Road Apiece and the set was solid rocking blues from beginning to end. The band has a new CD on Union records and this was an opportunity for them to play quite a few of the numbers on it, including Freddy King's Hideaway, Shotgun's Cadillac 55, Secret Service, Tore Down, the instrumental Smiley Jacks and The Dark Side Of Town. Bluesy versions of Matchbox, Hoochie Coochie Man and Walkin' The Dog were included, as well as an up tempo New Orleans, along with Down In The Jungle, which was a track on his solo album.
Once again Keith Woods (picture below) is to be congratuled on promoting the show and his choice of Deejay Wheelie Bag to provide music before and after the acts - playing vinyl 45s I was pleased to see - also worked well.
Words and photos by Nick Cobban