When looking at the Red Dirt music scene, there are a few names that consistently come up as synonymous with the genre. Some of them are familiar and well recognized while a few aren't as well known, but nevertheless essential to the Red Dirt catalogue. Everyone knows of Bob Childers, arguable the Godfather of the Red Dirt scene. Jimmy LaFave is inextricably tied to the movement as well, even though he has since relocated to Texas.
The Red Dirt Rangers remain a staple of the movement while younger artists like Cross Canadian Ragweed, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, and Stoney LaRue have opened up doors to a new generation of Red Dirt Fans and taken the music south into Texas. Tom Skinner remains an integral part as well. One name that seems to have escaped the public consciousness, however, is Greg Jacobs.
Of course, those who are engrained in the scene know Jacobs work, but after retiring from playing on a regular basis, his name has receded form the spotlight of primary players. Nevertheless, his songwriting has been integral to the Red Dirt movement and a staple to its catalogue.
Jacobs name has started popping up again, however, as Cody Canada and the Departed recently covered his song "A Little Rain Will Do" on the band's debut CD, This Is Indian Land. Likewise, Jason Boland's cover of "Farmer's Luck" for his upcoming new CD continues to expose a whole new generation of Red Dirt fans to Jacobs' songs. It seems only fitting, then that Jacobs should step out of the shadows and grace us with his songs once again.
With Lucky Live, Greg Jacobs steps out of his self imposed retirement and rejoins the Red Dirt music scene. A recent conversation with Jacobs revealed that after signing with Binky Records on the early 90's, he released three albums and retired from the scene roughly five years ago. Jacobs never quit writing, however. He never actually quit playing, for that matter. It was just all scaled back considerably.
"When I decided to get back into it, I had a handful of new songs and I thought I'll just rerecord some of my older ones," Jacobs explained of his recent decision to start playing again and how to reenter the scene. The result is Lucky Live, recorded this past spring, primarily at The Blue Door in Oklahoma City with Travis Linville, Terry "Buffalo" Ware and John Fullbright.
Of the 17 tracks on the disc, there is one Bob Childers tune (an unwritten rule of the Red Dirt scene, according to Jacobs), four or five new songs, and nearly a dozen of Jacobs' best recordings live.
"It's (a live album) something I've always wanted to do because I always felt that my records were overproduced. I want something that's more representative of the way I actually play them, so a live record made sense."
When discussing Red Dirt music, Jacobs openly shared his thoughts on the mercurial scene.
"What is Red Dirt? To me, that's difficult to define," he said. "I think of it more as a regional thing. To me, it means Oklahoma music. Some of the younger guys like Stoney Larue and Jason Boland and Cody Canada have taken it down to Texas, but to me it's about Oklahoma.
"Stillwater is where it originated and for some people, I guess it has to come from there. We're not snobs, though -- we're pretty inclusive. To me, Red Dirt just needs to be from Oklahoma, but maybe that's just me.
"The thing is, it's not a distinctive sound," he said. "Like bluegrass -- if you say it, people just know what you're talking about. For us coming out of Stillwater, though, Red Dirt encompasses a little bit of everything. Jimmy LaFave is a mix of rock and blues and Cross Canadian Ragweed was definitely more rock, whereas people like myself and Tom Skinner are more folk, and Jason Boland is more Top 40 country.
"Many of us have tried, but we just can't make it as Top 40 songwriters. I tried it in Nashville for about two years and they said 'You're a pretty good songwriter, but you're not country enough. Go home, listen and write something like this...' The younger guys now, some of them can approach it, but I never could."
Perhaps the difference with Red Dirt is the genuineness in the lyrics. Every song tells a story and tells it both vividly and believably. When presenting my view on the subject, Jacobs agreed that there is a level of honesty in the lyrics that sets most Red Dirt songs apart from most Top 40 songs. When listening to Jacobs' songs, it is just that level of vividness and honesty that sets his songs apart from the pack.
So why return to playing now?
"I just wanted to get out and play again. The bug never left me, I just don't get to do it as much as I'd like to," Jacobs said.
Jacobs' also shared that the new disc's title is a nod to his nickname, Lucky, which Bob Childers bestowed upon him during his time in Nashville.
"Bob called me Lucky Breaks," he chuckled. "We were all in Nashville in the mid 80's and I was on an unlucky streak, so Bob gave me that nickname ironically, and it stuck."
The luck that Childers bestowed upon him may never have brought Jacobs fame and fortune, but his songwriting has nevertheless helped shape the Red Dirt music scene. It's not uncommon to hear Red Dirt Rangers, Tom Skinner or Susan Herndon cover a Jacobs tune and a whole new generation is now being exposed to him by The Departed and Jason Boland. It seems appropriate, then, that Jacobs should step back out of the shadows and present his songs as only he can.
Jacobs will be celebrating the release of his new CD with a show this Saturday night, Aug. 6, at The Church, 304 S. Trenton. Ironically, Jacobs has never played or recorded at the iconic studio, but he was looking for a good listening room for his release party when Scott Aycock suggested The Church. Even though it will be his first time at The Church, it makes for a near perfect pairing, placing one of Red Dirt's classic songwriters in and iconic room full of history.
The concert will start at 8pm with a suggested donation of $20 per person. Jacobs' band for the night will include Gene Williams, Travis Linville and John Fullbright. According to Jacobs, the evening will likely start with himself and Linville on stage, then himself and Fullbright, eventually building to a full band performance. Beyond that, Jacobs and his band mates will let the evening guide itself to create a special experience.
"I'm not much for set lists," Jacobs said. "All I know is we'll start with "River Run Dry," after that, it just goes where it goes."
That sounds like the perfect way to spend the evening with Jacobs: just letting the music take the lead and go where it may. If you're a true Red Dirt fan, it will be a special evening you won't want to miss.
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