Blues scene veterans Jimmy Thackery and RJ Mischo performed on Friday at George’s Majestic Lounge on Dickson Street.
Thackery performed celebrating the release of his album “As Live As It Gets,” a double-disc live album recorded with his band The Drivers on the October 2011 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, featuring guitar by JP Soars and saxophone by Joe McGlohon and Jim Spake. Mischo played supporting his 11th release “Make It Good,” featuring 13 original songs and contributions by the Fabulous Thunderbirds and the former Delbert McClinton rhythm section.
Mischo, having toured successfully both nationally and internationally, now hangs his hat in Fayetteville, working locally with Earl Cate (and Thackery, occasionally) but still venturing out to play blues festivals, clubs and bars with his Red Hot Blues band. Both Mischo and Thackery were featured on local Fayetteville band Earl & Them’s CD “Special Blend,” which was released last summer.
In an interview, Jimmy Thackery talked about the value of recording a live album, the life of a touring musician, and about the state of the Blues genre.
“This kind of roots music is indigenous to smoky taverns full of partyin’ people on a weekend trying to let their hair down,” Thackery said. “The interaction between the audience and the musicians is so key to this stuff, because when the audience is riled up, that pushes the guitarist to push his envelope even further.
“If you’re sittin’ in fishbowl inside a room that looks like the bridge of the starship Enterprise, and some guy staring at meters pushes a red button and says, ‘Be a genius,’ you aren’t going to get the same kind of reaction. You don’t get the same kinetic energy in a studio recording that you do when you’re playing live to a bunch of drunken women.”
Alongside the original songs “Feel the Heat” and “Blind Man in the Night,” “As Live As It Gets” features covers of songs by J.B. Lenoir, Eddie “Guitar Slim” Jones, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and H.E. Owens, the longest-running track being the 20-minute version of Lenoir’s “I’ve Been Down So Long.” The result is a soulful infusion of Blues cultures of the past with its contemporary trends.
Much like Thackery, Mischo got a lot of his early Blues push by association with the work of Muddy Waters. At the beginning of his career, Mischo worked in Minneapolis with Muddy Waters alumnus George “Mojo” Buford, as well as with Sonny Rogers, Percy Strothers and Milwaukee Slim.
Mischo is certainly known for his bandleader charisma, but its his harmonica playing that really sets him apart in the scene. His playing has led to the publishing of harmonica instruction books, and to his music being featured in documentaries, film scores and national commercials.
But all this takes the back seat when it’s time for him to step onto the stage.
“You know, musicians work really hard,” Thackery said. “Honing our craft, putting together a show, writing the music, traveling all over the country. You probably just drove 400 miles to get there, and then you unloaded all that gear. My old bass player, God rest his soul, once said ‘It’s 22 hours of hell for two hours of fun.’ It’s a hard life, man, and it ain’t for everybody. But when you’re onstage and the planets align and everything goes perfectly, the feeling is close to euphoria. It’s the ultimate satisfaction. We’re applause junkies, man, and we can’t live without it.”