Yes, folks, it’s that time of the year again. This is the time when the Jacob’s Ladder Festival takes place up North by the gently lapping waters of the Sea of Galilee. The annual, and original, spring version of the festival kicks off on May 2 and, over three days, will offer the regular and so beloved mix of bluegrass, country, folk, blues, rock and pop music.
There will be quite a few familiar faces and voices on show over the weekend with Canadian outfit The Abrams Brothers returning to delight the crowd. Singer, guitarist and mandolin player John Abrams and brother James, who plays fiddle, guitar and mandolin, and sings, will be backed by vocalist-percussionist Cam Giroux and bass player, banjo player and singer Jason Mercer.
Mikey Pauker will come at his audiences from a very different angle. The Los Angeles-based musician has been conveying a spiritual message through his music for the past three years through a prism of pop, folk and contemporary Jewish music. His cohorts have included Matisyahu, Idan Raichel and David Broza, and Pauker’s debut album is due for release later this year.
Elsewhere on the non- Israeli side of the program, Marc Black will proffer his somewhat quizzical combination of Americana, folk and rock- seasoned folk music, while American singer- songwriter folkie Randall Williams will bring his polished classically trained instrumental skills to his emotive gigs.
Then there’s an American acoustic guitarist-singer named Freebo, who has one the most impressive CVs of any artist to have graced the Jacob’s Ladder Festival stage, with names like Neil Young and blues artist Bonnie Raitt in there.
Meanwhile, Jason Feddy feeds off artistic explorations that come from a whole different world – culturally and geographically. Like festival organizers Yehudit and Menachem Winegrad, the 47-year-old guitarist-vocalist hails from northern England. He moved to Southern California 13 years ago.
Things started well with Feddy’s US ventures, and he landed a number of prestigious slots, opening for such luminaries as English singer- songwriter David Gray, alternative rock act Ben Folds Five and Freebo’s old pal Neil Young. But then the high- profile gigs ran out, and it was back to basics.
“They call this ‘The Land of the Free,’ but really it’s the land of hard work,” Feddy notes soberly. “I was 33 when I arrived. I had a lot of growing up to do. I worked in construction for five years before I was able to make a living from music.”
Through it all, however, Feddy appears to have maintained that typically northern English ability to look adversity straight in the face and wink. Long before his construction work phase, Feddy grew up on a rich and eclectic source of musical inspiration.
“As a kid I loved The Beatles, Pink Floyd and John Martyn, and I hated The Eagles, BBC Radio 1 – except for legendary envelope-pushing DJ] John Peel and The Bee Gees,” he declares, adding that maturity has somewhat modified some of his tastes. “I have since warmed to The Bee Gees – excellent songwriting.”
Music was very much an escape for the young Feddy. “I learned to play guitar in Habonim [Jewish youth movement]. I was fat and awkward and from what was then called a ‘broken home,’ which was unusual in British Jewish communities in the 1970s. Singing – a natural gift – and playing a bit of guitar was a good way to make friends, and meet girls, without having to reveal much of oneself,” he says.
Feddy grabbed the first rung of the musical ladder when still at school in Leeds, with the enigmatically entitled Orphans of The Druid Ormazd band.
“We were not in the least bit pretentious,” he recalls. “In my late teens I joined a cover band that toured working men’s clubs in the north of England during the miners’ strike [of the mid-1980s]. When that band broke up, the bass player Jonathan Barrett and I formed Officer Dibble. He was a great songwriter and very much my first lyrical mentor. We were picked up by a big management company in London, made a bunch of recordings that went nowhere, but toured with some great acts. When Dibble split, I continued on solo and opened for tons of people, and even played at places like The Albert Hall, London Palladium,” he recounts.
Now a regular feature of the Californian music scene, Feddy performs a polished Beatles tribute and, intriguingly, a production called Shakespeare’s Fool based on speeches and songs penned by The Bard.
“We take it into schools, colleges and provincial theaters, and Shakespeare’s Fool was recently nominated for Laguna Beach’s prestigious Art Star Award,” Feddy notes proudly.
Feddy promises to serve up a highly entertaining program for the Jacob’s Ladder audiences, with original scores from his new CD, some of The Bard’s best “and I’ll do some jokes, too,” he adds. Sounds like fun.
For tickets and more information about the Jacob’s Ladder Festival: (04) 685-0403, firstname.lastname@example.org and www.jlfestival.com