Blues Serenade in the Bucolic: Albert Cummings and Veronika Jackson Live at Southern Vermont Arts Center
Day trippers looking to experience the blues in a bucolic setting surrounded by rooms and rooms of unusual artwork and sculptures among the pines should consider attending Friday night’s Albert Cummings and Veronika Jackson performance at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester, Vermont, about a two-hour drive from anywhere in the 518 area.
Opening for blues-rocker Albert Cummings will be Veronika Jackson, an authentic acoustic blues performer making her first performance north of the Mason-Dixon Line. A perennial favorite at the King Biscuit Blues Festival on the banks of the Mississippi, Veronika Jackson takes us back to the coffeehouse scene of the ’60s with her version of Libba Cotton’s “Freight Train.” Authentic by any definition, she plays Piedmont guitar and mixes in originals that make you believe she could single-handedly jumpstart the folk craze more than half a century later.
“I’ve always liked music, and when I think about my life and my music, what I’m doing is wanting to continue the grassroots of what I came from.
“I came from folk. I came from gospel, and it’s all about connecting songs that give some kind of history of what I went through. It doesn’t matter where people come from. There’s a real grassroots of American music.
“I’m gonna be real,” she says about this appearance. “When I perform, I’m coming from the heart of my music, and I’m going to express what’s coming from my heart. They’re going to know what it means to come from hard times, what it means to have nobody to help them, but then to be able to stand strong in what you go through and then come out on top.”
Originally from Florida, Veronika was inspired by artists like Odetta and Diamond Teeth Mary, whom she met at the Florida Folk Festival. Her repertoire includes iconic blues classics like “Shake Sugaree,” “My Babe,” “Big Boss Man,” Leadbelly’s “Good Morning Blues,” Nina Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” and “Women Be Wise” by Sippie Wallace.
Her latest album, “The Woman I Am,” mixes original interpretations of songs by Woody Guthrie and Nina Simone along with originals with titles that only hint at her depth: “The Clouds Are Passing,” “Good Hearted Woman,” and the title song, “The Woman I Am.”
Veronika lives her songs. She frequently plays in historic Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta’s oldest public park, and the final resting place of many of the city’s former slaves, as well as its most noted citizens. She is excited about her northern debut. “I’m just coming from my heart and the grassroots of who I am as a folksinger and a blues singer. I want to come out as real as I can and let the ‘me’ come out and who I am through my music. It’s gotta come from me and not what I think they want to hear.”
Together, Albert Cummings and Veronika Jackson are like blues bookends, each from opposite ends of the shelf. Albert, an area blues perennial for a quarter-century, has returned home from his first extended international tour. He’s a fourth-generation home builder from Williamstown, Massachusetts. For 20 years, music was a sideline to a business that had his homes gracing the covers of several building trade magazines until last year when he went full-time into playing blues and touring the world. His latest album, “10,” went to number 1 on the iTunes Blues Chart, number 2 on the Billboard Blues Chart, and number 20 on the Americana/Folk Chart.
Showtime is 8 p.m., with tickets available at the venue.