Jackie Greene was well-established, if not exactly famous, when Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh tapped him to become one of his Friends in 2007. The youthful California singer/songwriter went on to distinguish himself as a performer during his tenure with that ensemble, the strengths of which translate directly to Live From Throckmorton Theatre.
Within the cozy confines of this intimate Mill Valley venue one night last November, a solitary Greene, alternating between acoustic guitar and grand piano (with a couple touches of harmonica), offered a career-spanning, well-paced selection of material, almost equal parts upbeat and subdued. He even touches upon the topical front, albeit ever-so-lightly, with the opening of “Ghosts of Promised Lands.” And while it’s certainly a courageous move to occupy a stage alone for around seventy-five minutes, there’s no denying Jackie Green’s personal investment in these sixteen numbers, even if his deceptively casual air belies that attitude (not to mention his self-confidence.)
The clean, clear tenor with which Greene sings also echoes through his voice as he speaks so good-naturedly in his charming between-song repartee. But his vocals suit the sparkling textures of the guitar on “Honey I’ve Been Thinking About You” as much as the ringing clarity of piano notes on “Don’t Let The Devil Take Your Mind,” all of which tones proceed directly and emanate clearly from a pristine recording courtesy the sound engineer Edwin DeShazo and FOH designee JP LaRosee (subsequently mixed by Karl Derfler). It was certainly a wise move indeed to preserve this performance for posterity as it captures the essence of the man and his work.
Over the course of his eight albums and two EP’s, Jackie Greene’s taken diverse approaches to production, not all of which have necessarily benefited his original material (see Back To Birth and Till The Light Comes). Yet songs such as “Sweet Somewhere Bound” and “Gone Wanderin’” have consistently represented the strongest components of his LP’s, a virtue reaffirmed here in this simplified presentation. “I Don’t Live In A Dream” and “Grindstone” may not constitute the work of a truly great artist—rather than innovate Greene updates the modern folk/rock/pop template—yet his self-composed material, no matter its structure, resonates with more than a little genuine soul as he performs it here.
In fact, his emotive delivery on the vintage Ray Charles chestnut, “Drown in My Own Tears,” is more than enough in itself to authenticate his influences and thus set him even further apart from his contemporaries in this hybrid genre. Likewise, if music lovers pair 100% Greene with Live From Town Hall, the digital-only previous release of 2019 presenting Jackie Greene with The Modern Lives Band, this latest title might morph into something like the opening set of “An Evening with…” It will ultimately still stand on its own terms though, as befits such a stellar one-man show.