JAKE XERXES FUSSELL

BIO

Durham, North Carolina singer and guitarist Jake Xerxes Fussell‘s self-titled debut record, produced by and featuring William Tyler, transmutes ten arcane folk and blues tunes into vibey cosmic laments and crooked riverine rambles. Jake Xerxes (yes, that’s his real middle name, after Georgia potter D.X. Gordy) grew up in Columbus, Georgia, son of Fred C. Fussell, a folklorist, curator, and photographer who hails from across the river in Phenix City, Alabama (once known as “The Wickedest City in America” for its rampant vice, corruption, and crime.) Fred’s fieldwork took him, often with young Jake in tow, across the Southeast documenting traditional vernacular culture, which included  recording blues and old-time musicians with fellow folklorists and recordists George Mitchell and Art Rosenbaum (which led Jake to music, and to some of the songs herein) and collaborating with American Indian artists (which led Jake eventually to his graduate research on Choctaw fiddlers.)

As a teenager Jake began playing and studying with elder musicians in the Chattahoochee Valley, apprenticing with Piedmont blues legend Precious Bryant (“Georgia Buck”), with whom he toured and recorded, and riding wild with Alabama bluesman, black rodeo rider, rye whiskey distiller, and master dowser George Daniel (“Rabbit on a Log”). He joined a Phenix City country band who were students of Jimmie Tarlton of Darby and Tarlton; he accompanied Etta Baker in North Carolina; he moved to Berkeley, where he hung with genius documentary filmmaker Les Blank and learned from Haight folkies like Will Scarlett (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, Brownie McGhee) and cult fingerstyle guitarist Steve Mann (“Push Boat”); he appeared on A Prairie Home Companion. He did a whole lot of listening, gradually honing his prodigious guitar skills, singing, and repertoire. In 2005 he moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where he enrolled in the Southern Studies department at Ole Miss, recorded and toured with Rev. John Wilkins, and in 2014, met up with acclaimed artist William Tyler to begin recording his first solo album.

Collaborating with Tyler and engineer Mark Nevers in Nashville was a conscious decision to depart cloistered trad scenes and sonics for broader, more oblique horizons. Tyler, a guitar virtuoso known for his own compositions that untether and reframe traditional six-string forms and techniques, helmed the push boat in inimitable fashion, enlisting crack(ed) Nashville session vets Chris Scruggs (lap steel, bass, mandolin: Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Marty Stuart), Brian Kotzur (drums: Silver Jews), and Hoot Hester (fiddle; Bill Monroe, Ray Charles) to crew.

Fussell follows his celebrated self-titled debut with a moving new album of Natural Questions in the form of transmogrified folk/blues koans. This time these radiant ancient tunes tone several shades darker while amplifying their absurdist humor, illuminating our national, and psychic, predicaments. What in the Natural World features art by iconic painter Roger Brown and contributions from three notable Nathans—Nathan Bowles (Steve Gunn), Nathan Salsburg (Alan Lomax Archive), and Nathan Golub (Mountain Goats)—as well as Joan Shelley and Casey Toll (Mt. Moriah).

PHOTOS

ALBUMS

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NEWS

ARTIST LINKS

LIVE

See all concerts

Concerts by Songkick

EU/UK Tour with Daniel Bachman:

April
21-Berlin – Nogatklause
22-Hannover – Oberdeck
23-Bonn – Kreuzung an Sankt Helena
24-Weisbaden – Wakker am Wallufer Platz
25-Koln – TBA
26-Dusseldorf – Nimbus –
27-Paris – Le Zorba
28 – Bexhill On Sea – Musics Not Dead
29 – Totnes – Unit 23
30 – Bristol – Centerspace

May
1-London – Cafe Oto
2- Cambridge – The Blue Moon
3-Nottingham – TBA
4- Clun – The Sun Inn
5-Liverpool UK – HUS
6-Todmorden UK – TBA
7- Sheffield – Broomfield Community Center
8-Stirling – Stirling Tolbooth
9-Glasgow – Glad Cafe

US Dates:

March 21 & 22 – New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre w/ Wilco
March 23 – Spotty Dog Books & Ale – Hudson, NY
March 26 – Peace Dale, RI @ Roots Hoot (house concert)
March 31 – Chapel Hill, NC @ Nightlight (full band Record Release show) w/ Sarah Louise + PoB and Carolina Soul DJs
April 8 – Oxford, MS @ End of All Music (in-store) w/Nathan Bowles
April 8 – Oxford, MS @ Proud Larry’s w/Nathan Bowles

US Tour with Joan Shelley:

May 31 – Bloomington, IN @ The Bishop*
June 1 – Milwaukee, WI @ Collectivo*
June 2 – Minneapolis, MN @ Bryant Lake Bowl*
June 3 – Chicago, IL @ Old Town*
June 4 – Cedar Rapids, IA @ CSPH Hall*
June 6 – Des Moines, IA @ Vaudeville Mews*
June 7 – Kansas City, MO @ Knuckleheads*
June 8 – St. Louis, MO @ KDHX Stage*
June 9 – Paducah @ Maiden Alley Cinema*
June 10 – Louisville, KY @ Headliners*
June 11 – Nashville, TN @ The Basement*
June 13 – Decatur, GA @ Eddie’s Attic*
June 14 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle*
June 15 – Vienna, VA @ Jammin’ Java*
June 16 – Freehold, NJ @ Concerts in the Studio*
June 17 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall*
June 18 – Northampton, MA @ Parlor Room*
June 20 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle*

*supporting Joan Shelley

VIDEOS

 

Press Acknowledgments

A singular combination of pedigree, experience, education, and talent.

– The Oxford American

8/10.Finest worksongs reworked. Beautifully loose arrangements of playful, resilient songs.”

– Uncut

9/10. It takes a lot of work to sound this relaxed. On his buoyant self-titled debut, North Carolina-based, Georgia-raised folksinger and guitarist Jake Xerxes Fussell wields guitar chops gleaned from years of apprenticeship and deep study to spin the most vibrant yarns. Although the songs are Fussell’s adaptations of traditional folk and blues material, in Fussell’s curatorial hands, they sound neither old nor self-consciously shiny and new; they simply make you want to dance. 

– Sarah Greene, Exclaim!

A lively and wholehearted gem of folk, country and bluegrass… not only gorgeous, but also a hell of a good time. Quietly, but unmistakably, the poignancy of this group’s paean to the vistas and spirits of their land take hold of you. And you don’t want it to let go.

– Chad Depasquale, Aquarium Drunkard

A human jukebox, a raw and penetrating voice out of time, a genuine bluesman with the heart of a mystic. His debut, Jake Xerxes Fussell, just out from Paradise of Bachelors, is pretty damn perfect. This is the kind of record I feel like I was born to listen to. That voice. That guitar. Man.   

– William Boyle, No Depression

 

Artist Testimonials

Jake isn’t just a rare bird, he’s the professor you always wished you had, the friend you never get tired of epic hangs with, the human jukebox, the guitar player and singer who makes any band that he’s in better. He’s a southern scholar and gentleman in the tradition of Jim Dickinson, George Mitchell, and Les Blank. He’s a Dave Van Ronk for SEC country.

– William Tyler 

Jake is one helluva bluesman: my favorite of his generation, in fact; and, in my opinion, the best young traditional blues artist performing today.

– George Mitchell

Jake X. Fussell is certainly one of America’s finest young tradition-based songsters and guitar pickers. He had an ideal start: as a kid traveling the back roads of Georgia, Alabama, and even out to the Indian regions of Oklahoma with his folklorist dad, hearing and absorbing not only the vocal styles and guitar licks of such greats as Precious Bryant, but also developing a sure sense of the expressive core of Southern roots music. From Georgia’s Sea Islands and Chattahoochie Valley to the Mississippi Delta to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Jake is still listening and learning, and coming up with music that takes us to a deep place in the American spirit.

– Art Rosenbaum

Jake Xerxes Fussell is one of my brothers in song. A finer guitar picker, and more heart-centered interpreter of American song you will rarely find.

– Jolie Holland