Jackson C. Frank’s self titled album is quite possibly the greatest Blues/Folk album to date. With a life story depressingly fitting for a Blues man, he recorded this masterpiece and suffered schizophrenia and depression that kept him from doing another LP. Even his journey into the musical world was spawned from tragedy, an accident set his school ablaze when he was a child, covering his body in burns. He received some insurance money that he used to go to England where he was discovered by Paul Simon, who produced this album.
Blues Run The Game starts off the album brilliantly, introducing you to Frank’s tremendous singing power and lyrical talent. It’s such a somber and poignant song about how inescapable depression is. One verse is particularly chilling with the lyrics:
“Maybe tomorrow, honey
Someplace down the line
I’ll wake up older
So much older, mama
I’ll wake up older
And I’ll just stop all my trying”
He showcases his powerful singing again on Kimbie, his take on the Folk traditional song I Was A Mole In The Ground. He translates his desperation so well, especially on the line “I’d tear this mountain down”. Milk and Honey is a tender existential song, and with few words he’s able to incorporate themes of love and loss, time and death, and the downfall of greed. It’s about as abstract as Frank gets on this album, but he reins it in with his concrete musical delivery.
Here Come The Blues is my favorite Blues song of all time, and it’s not even close. The classic blues guitar playing, the impeccable lyrics, and Frank’s soul-wrenching voice come together perfectly here. His final delivery of the chorus always gives me shivers and often has brought me to tears. I Want To Be Alone is nearly as dark, as the title suggests. Isolation is typical of depression, and he beautifully describes his desire for and resentment of being alone. You Never Wanted Me is a bitter break up song, and it almost feels like he’s trying to convince himself and the woman he’s singing about that he’s moved on. The closing lyric is just perfect:
“Someday, someone will leave you
And I know you’ll feel the same
You’ll mark it down to memory
And the dream that never came
Well there are no answers given
When love is just a game
You never wanted me, babe
And now I feel the same”
Jackson C. Frank was influential in the Folk scene in the 60s and 70s, but not commercially successful, and it’s honestly a shame he was not more recognized. Later reissues of this album added more rarities that he recorded in the 70s, but I feel the original 10 songs are the definitive version. They are terrific songs but they’re not part of this album’s vision. This is a monumental record that I feel is mandatory listening for everyone, not just Folk/Blues fans.