A country musician who has received high praise and plenty of attention will perform a live stream concert Wednesday with some big names, from an unlikely location — Woodstock, New York.
Tony Jackson at 8 p.m. Wednesday will perform at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, New York. The community at the edge of the Catskill Mountains is well-known for its links to what is perhaps the most famous rock festival ever held, the Woodstock Music and Art Fair of 1969. And such rock, folk and blues luminaries as Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, The Band and Paul Butterfield have called this musical community home over the years.
On Wednesday, longtime Woodstock residents John Sebastian, of Lovin’ Spoonful fame, and Cindy Cashdollar, whose pedal steel playing has shaped the sounds of everyone from Dylan himself to Asleep at the Wheel, Ryan Adams and Rod Stewart, will join Jackson. Longtime Van Morrison guitarist John Platania and Aaron “Prof. Louie” Hurwitz are also set to perform. A vocalist, keyboard and accordion player, Hurwitz worked extensively with the second incarnation of The Band and has also worked with with Graham Parker, Commander Cody, Guy Davis, Buckwheat Zydeco and New Riders Of The Purple Sage, among others.
Sebastian played on Jackson’s 2017 self-titled debut, as did Vince Gill, Bill Payne of Little Feat and The Doobie Brothers, Mickey Raphael of Willie Nelson’s band and Garry Tallent of the E-Street Band.
But Jackson stands on his own when it comes to accolades. Rolling Stone in 2019 declared his “Country Road” to be one of the “10 Best Country and Americana Songs.”
“Fiddle, harmonica and pedal steel guitar fill this less-known James Taylor salute to the rolling ribbons of backwoods blacktop, but it’s Tony Jackson’s voice — which could easily pass for Taylor’s classic croon — that packs the biggest punch,” reads rollingstone.com.
With a father in the U.S. Navy, Jackson grew up on military bases and at one point lived with his family in Spain for three years. He joined the U.S. Marines two weeks after graduating high school and as a self-described “computer and electronics geek as a teenager,” took the entrance exam for a new computer science school in Quantico, Virginia. He was accepted and after completing his military service was hired by a Richmond bank to work in their IT division. He worked his way up to senior vice-president by the time he was in his 30s.
His musical resume had initially consisted of singing “White Christmas” in his sixth grade Christmas play and being forced by his mother to perform in the church choir. In recent years, a friend of Jackson’s band lost its lead singer and Jackson was convinced to audition. The rest is history, as they say.
Jackson’s mother listened to gospel. His father listened to jazz, Hip-Hop and R&B. But when Jackson was in Spain, for three years while ages 10-13, country music star Randy Travis played a USO gig. Jackson and some pals arrived early and spoke with Travis without realizing he was performing that night. That experience seemed to be pivotal for Jackson in terms of his path to becoming a country musician.
When George Jones died in 2013, Jackson and some friends recorded the musician’s hit, “The Grand Tour.” They also made a video that ended up on YouTube. The attention that video garnered set the stage for Jackson’s arrival in Nashville and recording sessions that produced his 2017 debut album release, “Tony Jackson.”
On Wednesday evening, Jackson will bring Nashville to Woodstock when he performs at the Bearsville Theater, which was built decades ago by the late Woodstock music impresario Albert Grossman. Grossman is well-known for managing Dylan. Current owner, Woodstock resident Lizzie Vann, purchased the Bearsville Theater complex in 2019, renamed it Bearsville Center and embarked on a multi-million dollar renovation that has earned high-praise.
But the theater’s debut was sidelined by the Covid-19 pandemic and those eager to enjoy live music at the new venue have been forced to wait for its official opening. Vann has kept the Bearsville Theater spirit alive with outdoor performances and tours. And the legacy of a theater that has hosted Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, Mike Gordon of Phish, Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones and Jon Anderson of Yes endures, in a virtual world that is laying the groundwork for the return of live music to Bearsville.