Review Summary: Jackson C. Franks lone release is one of the most impressionable folk albums of all time and a haunting record of his depression.
Huddie Ledbetter once said before performing ‘Good Morning Blues’ that we all have the ‘blues’. There is not a notion I could agree with more. Everyone has experienced tragedy and we all deal with it in different ways. Some of us survive it, we deal with our grief and we move on to continue living life. Still, there are others who can’t stop looking back. Jackson C. Frank is one of the unfortunate casualties of tragedy.
Born in Buffalo, New York, Jackson was only eleven years old when a furnace at his school exploded, killing fifteen of his classmates and leaving him scarred, having more than half of his body burned in the fire. He was introduced to playing music by a teacher while he recovered in the hospital. Ten years later, he used the insurance money from the accident to catch a boat to England where he would record his one and only album, his eponymous debut record.
Persuaded by friend and producer Paul Simon, Jackson recorded the album in just three hours at the CBS Studios in London. He hid behind screens with his guitar while Al Stewart and Art Garfunkel watched in amazement. The result was one of the most impressionable folk records released, perhaps ever. Though it was his only effort, Jackson left a mark on the folk scene that would not soon be forgotten.
In ‘Blues Run the Game’, the only single from the album, Jackson recounts his own experience with the ‘blues’. He sings of his attempts to leave his sadness behind by leaving his home, but his sadness never changes. He can’t even drown his sorrows in liquor. ‘Don’t Look Back’ leaves his blues behind, if only briefly, in a folk tune that is the antithesis to what was played before. This becomes a bit of a pattern over the record, while the more melancholy tracks are certainly more prominent, it’s not out the record’s nature to sprawl into more tuneful tracks similar to that of the English contemporaries that surrounded him.
Overall, this is one of the best true-to-form folk albums, and it’s performed by one of the most haunting voices the scene has ever had. After this album was released, Jackson lost his mind to the ‘blues’, dealing with writer’s block shortly after, and later in life, the death of his only son and being partially blinded after being shot in the eye. He faded into obscurity and would spent most of his life in-and-out of mental institutions being treated for paranoid schizophrenia. Jackson himself refuted this, as he believed it was his depression he suffered from; the blues.