Livestream: Jake Xerxes Fussell
Wednesday, April 15, 2020 | 7:00 pm
We’ll continue the series with singer and guitarist Jake Xerxes Fussell.
We’re encouraging our viewers to give to two important fundraising efforts organized by local arts organizations — the Durham Arts Council’s Arts Recovery Fund and NorthStar Church of the Arts’ Durham Artist Relief Fund — to directly support the Durham arts community. (These funds are not affiliated with Duke University.)
Durham, North Carolina singer and guitarist Jake Xerxes Fussell 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. 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 collaborating with American Indian artists (which led Jake eventually to his graduate research on Choctaw fiddlers).
Jake’s 2015 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.
In 2017, Fussell followed his celebrated self-titled debut with a moving new album of natural questions (What In the Natural World) 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.
On Out of Sight, his third and most finely wrought album yet, guitarist, singer, and master interpreter Fussell is joined for the first time by a full band. An utterly transporting selection of traditional narrative folksongs addressing the troubles and delights of love, work, and wine (i.e., the things that matter), collected from a myriad of obscure sources and deftly metamorphosed, Out of Sight contains, among other moving curiosities, a fishmonger’s cry that sounds like an astral lament (“The River St. Johns”); a cotton mill tune that humorously explores the unknown terrain of death and memory (“Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues”); and a fishermen’s shanty/gospel song equally concerned with terrestrial boozing and heavenly transcendence (“Drinking of the Wine”).