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Jackie Venson: “Texas blues players have a way of commanding the entire room and just melting your face off”

Jackie Venson
(Image credit: SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images)

The blues has been an essential part of Austin-based Jackie Venson’s repertoire since she started playing guitar almost a decade ago. She specifically embraced the sheer intensity of electric Texas-based blues. 

“Every time I hear a Texas blues player, it’s just really strong,” Venson says. “They have a way of just commanding the entire room and just melting your face off. But it’s not a shreddy kind of melt your face off. It’s an intensity that only Texans have – I swear.” 

Despite this, she hadn’t made a strictly blues-centric album until her latest offering, Love Transcends. After a few years of playing the guitar, she had started “happily” wandering sonically, incorporating and blending more genres. She likes how one can push the boundaries of any genre by “introducing little facets of others.” 

It was a special challenge for her. At the same time, there was substantial interest in hearing her more bluesy side. Fans – and other musicians – kept asking her, “Why don’t you have a blues record?” 

“They’ve always been curious as to what would have been on my [blues record],” she says. “I’ve never been totally unopposed to it, but I just never really had the kindling to actually go forth and do it. When it comes to creative projects, it’s nice to follow my gut in my spirit. And if I don’t think to do a blues album, I’m not going to do it.” 

But when producer Tim Palmer suggested working on a blues album together, she decided it was time to finally commit. They recorded at Austin-based Arlyn Studios. 

“It’s nice to kind of reel it in for a little bit of time,” Venson says. “I can do a lot of different stuff, but I wanted to keep this album real traditional, so I didn’t bring in any of my wacky effects like I usually do. I kept it real simple – clean tone, distortion and reverb.”

She credits her custom-made Epiphone Les Paul for allowing her to channel a “balls-to-the-wall Texas blues” intensity. “It has more presence, more intensity and just more oomph than the Strat I used to play,” she says. “Like a Texas blues musician, I wanted to kick down the doors and burn down the building.”

Joshua M. Miller

Josh is a freelance journalist who has spent the past dozen or so years interviewing musicians for a variety of publications, including Guitar World, GRAMMY.com, SPIN, Chicago Sun-Times, MTV News, Rolling Stone and American Songwriter. He credits his father for getting him into music. He's been interested in discovering new bands ever since his father gave him a list of artists to look into. A favorite story his father told him is when he skipped a high school track meet to see Jimi Hendrix in concert. For his part, seeing one of his favorite guitarists – Mike Campbell – feet away from him during a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concert is a special moment he’ll always cherish.