Rhythm & Views

Jackie Greene

Jackie Greene is something of an American myth. Touted as a legend in the making since before he was old enough to drink at the bars he played in, Greene is a modern Horatio Alger story, rock-star version: Unpopular kid from broken home discovers golden cache of '60s LPs in the basement one summer when the TV is busted; consumed with passion for R&B, starts writing songs on a guitar his dad left behind; plays his first gig at 16 and never looks back; masters dobro, piano, organ and harmonica; opens for B.B. King and Taj Mahal; after two albums on regional label, signs with Verve.

Greene is brilliant and ambitious, and he works his ass off. All of that is an open book in American Myth. He seems to be able to write from every human emotion, and shares Ryan Adams' gift of requiring little more than a nanosecond to turn any experience into a song. R&B is dominant in his arrangements, but it's mixed with the rock, country and blues of the same era--and updated with the occasional pop chorus.

For Myth, Verve also surrounded him with top players--Elvis Costello's rhythm section, Greg Leisz on pedal steel, Joel Guzman on accordion and a full horn section on some tracks. They evidently figured out the only thing that could improve on Greene's diverse and disciplined talent would be a setting that would turn it loose. The result is 14 tracks that just might restore your faith in the American dream.