The title of Vasti Jackson's most recent album, the self-released No Borders to the Blues, serves as a sort of mission statement for the Mississippi guitarist. On the turbocharged "No Border to the Blues" he insists that the genre transcends race and class, and he calls on a variety of influences--R & B, soul, blues, and blues-rock. Yet he manages to sound consistently southern throughout; there's not much church in his voice, but his vocals adroitly fuse leather and sandpaper, and the fuzz-edged vibrato in his guitar playing recalls the style of blues-fusion renegades like Johnny "Guitar" Watson. When he's playful, he exploits his sizable repertoire of styles. On the lovelorn "Say Goodbye" he worries a guitar phrase to telegraph a sense of entrapment, then breaks into extended, shimmering lines to suggest release; on the slightly druggy-sounding postfunk workout "Up in Here," he melds contemporary street slang--"Gettin' my drink on / And my game's strong / DJ's playin' my song"--with odes to down-home barbecue-and-chicken-wings soul in an insouciant rasp. He's even better when he tackles more serious subjects: on the swampy "Casino in the Cotton Field" he and his band use whining, echo-enhanced slide guitar, heartbeat bass rhythms, and turntable scratching as he bemoans the impact of legalized gambling on poor Mississippians. Fri 1/21, 9:30 PM, Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage, 773-342-0452, $12. See also Saturday.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.