Saturday: Southern soul veteran Ralph "Soul" Jackson at Martyrs' | Bleader

Saturday: Southern soul veteran Ralph "Soul" Jackson at Martyrs'


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Ralph Soul Jackson in home studio
  • Ralph "Soul" Jackson in home studio
Ever since John Ciba, a rabid record collector and half of the DJ duo East of Edens Soul Express, launched his Rabbit Factory label six years ago by reissuing productions from Neal Hemphill's recording studio in Birmingham, Alabama, veteran singer Ralph "Soul" Jackson has regularly turned up on the label's compilations and performed at its revues. Jackson, 65, who's a cousin to soul great Jo Jo Benson, came to Hemphill after cutting some sides in the mid- to late 60s with Rick Hall and Dan Penn—both Muscle Shoals legends. He made a couple of singles for Hemphill's Sound of Birmingham label in 1971, and following a hiatus from the music biz, returned in 1975 to do a few more—none of which had much success.

He continued to record sporadically in subsequent years and eventually built a home studio in his native Phenix City, Alabama (he named it the Ralph Jackson Recording Studio), where he had some success producing hip-hop records. In 2009 Ciba approached Jackson about making an album with him there using a live band of Chicago musicians. Jackson had become enamored of playing all the instruments himself, and on a mediocre self-released album from 2009, Just Because I Love You, his voice is surrounded by chintzy drum programs and synthesizers. Ciba managed to convince Jackson, and a group that included members of Mucca Pazza, Detholz!, and the Drastics made the trip. Guitarist Todd Rittmann of Dead Rider mixed the record, titled The Alabama Love Man, in Chicago, and now it's finally seeing release.

Jackson will be supported by many of the musicians on the record at a release party on Saturday at Martyrs'. The eight songs on The Alabama Love Man sure as hell top Jackson's self-produced work, revisiting the mixture of predisco grooves and hard southern soul from his days with Hemphill. Jackson's intonation is a bit wobbly here and there, but his voice still has plenty of juice and a load of expressiveness. The band aims for a vintage sound, but never really coheres into something special like neosoul masters the Dap-Kings—the group was assembled specifically for the session, which didn't allow the players to develop much rapport. Onstage, though, Jackson's charisma can make up for a lot. He'll be supported by Adam Fitz & the Part Timers (some of whom played on the record), who will also open with their own set. The bill is rounded out by Al Scorch & the Country Ensemble and East of Edens Soul Express. Below you can check out the opening track from Jackson's new album, "I Can't Leave Your Love Alone."

Today's playlist:

Tyshawn Sorey, Oblique-1 (Pi)
Barbara Lynn, A Good Woman: The Complete Tribe & Jet Stream Singles 1966-1979 (Kent)
J.D. Allen Trio, Victory (Sunnyside)
Honey Ear Trio, Steampunk Serenade (Foxhaven)
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, The Witch Doctor (Blue Note)