A few years ago I was blown away by a band out of my hometown of Spartanburg, SC called Sevenmoore. The band featured some of Sparkle City’s finest players, including two founding members of The Marshall Tucker Band, Paul Riddle and Jerry Eubanks. As great as they were, I was equally impressed by a “side project” of that band called Jackson Crossing, lead by Rick Willis, a man I had seen perform many times and in many bands, including one special memory of a Spartanburg Spring Fling outdoor gig by Gov’t Mule where Rick was asked to sit in. This guy is not only a great guitar slinger and vocalist, he is also a top of the line songwriter, as evidenced on the debut album from Jackson Crossing, Saints & Sinners.
But no good band is made up of a single guy. Jackson Crossing is filled to the very brim with talent, including guitarist Rusty Barkley, vocalist Shannon Scott, keyboard man Jimmy Thornburg, bassist Tim Clement, and drummer Scott Stinson.
The album was produced by former Capricorn Records producer Paul Hornsby, the man responsible for just a ton of great records of the seventies, including Charlie Daniels’ Fire On The Mountain, and all of the original records by The Marshall Tucker Band.
Hornsby adds some of his own great keyboard stylings to the record, along with other guests Adam Mewherter on trombone, Miguel Castro on percussion, and current Marshall Tucker member Marcus Henderson on sax.
Speaking of Tucker, Jackson Crossing front man Rick Willis was asked to join the MTB in December, and has been touring with them ever since. From what I hear, that will not stop him from playing with Jax Crossing, which is a good thing.
All of the songs here were written by Willis except for one, except for the last song on the album, the beautiful “Summer’s Over,” which was penned by Stan and Rusty Barkley.
This album doesn’t have a bad song on it. It really reminds me of The Marshall Tucker Band’s early stuff, without being a clone. From the road song “Long Way Home” to perhaps the finest song on the record, and one that was previously recorded by Willis in Sevenmoore, “Smells Like Rain,” it’s a CD that stands up to repeat listenings. Seriously folks, I have played it at least once a day since it came in the mail.
“Wash Me” is an amazing tune as well. It has an almost gospel feel, and at times it sounds a bit like Casting Crowns. A very uplifting tune, and like the rest of the album, it is very musically pleasing to the old ear.
“No Time” is a smoldering blues tune with some fine Southern guitar picking and “In Praise of Beamer” rocks like a cross between ZZ Top and Gov’t Mule, actually sounding more like Warren Haynes and The Mule if I had to choose one to compare to. It’s a major rocker.
The rocking instrumental “Dominus Fevit & a Girl Named Liz” is pure seventies Macon, like a cross between The Brothers and The CDB. Very cool tune.
Another of my personal favorites is the title track, “Saints and Sinners.” Rick sings his heart out on this downright beautiful tune.
Saints and Sinners is one of the year’s best albums, and I am including major labels, indies and DIY releases folks. If you like Southern Rock you'll love this disc. If you love the old Capricorn, Hornsby, Macon sound, you can’t live without Jackson Crossing.
-Michael Buffalo Smith