By: Jason Sheppard
Rod Jackson and the Perfect Strangers bring the sound, joy and feeling of classic country music to audiences old and new
It’s not uncommon for a local musician or band to bring their talented skills to Nashville to capture that classic country sound which many music fans remember and love. For Newfoundland band Rod Jackson and the Perfect Strangers, they feel it’s just as important, if not more so, to bring the Nashville sound to Newfoundland.
Rod Jackson, Doug Randell, Rosemary Lawton, Todd Randell, Stephen Green and Perry Nash make up the members of the band. They are all from Newfoundland.
Vocalist Rod Jackson, a native of Grand Falls-Windsor, insists their style is the real deal.
“There’s not a lot of homegrown, real Newfoundland country around,” said Jackson. “We have a Nashville quality guitarist and singer and we have a Nashville quality fiddle player with us. I mean, this is the real country.”
Jackson, a performer who has released a number of solo CDs in the past, started out in the music business by raising money for the arthritis society. This led to him creating videos and touring nationally and internationally. Although he agrees that performing was a ball, eventually he decided to take time off from the life because he felt it just wasn’t fun anymore.
When Jackson’s father passed away in 2008, one of the things he wanted his son to do was perform gospel music. The following year, Jackson released an album of gospel music titled The Promise, which then went on to win a NL Music Award for Gospel Album of the year. After that recognition, Jackson then turned his focus to raising his daughters and running his business.
A few years later, when musician Doug Rendall and his brother Todd asked Jackson to join them on a tour, he felt the time was not only right to begin performing once again, but that these were the right people to do it with.
“I said, Oh my God, I finally find someone who plays the way I would want him to play,” said Jackson. “He (Doug) sings like George Jones and plays like Waylon Jennings, so you can’t get any better than that.”
Rendall, an extremely talented musician in his own right, says one of the greatest musical highlights for him was playing with Tommy Cash, brother of legendary singer Johnny Cash.
“Just being on stage with him and seeing how professional his guys look and sound on stage and knowing they were looking at me, there was nothing like it,” he recalls. Rendall impressed Cash so much that Cash told him he could have a career in Nashville.
“Tommy once told me if Johnny was still alive, I’d probably never be without a gig. That’s pretty cool.”
A huge influence on both men is classic country crooner George Jones. Rendall is such a huge fan that he often performs Jonses’s classic He Stopped Loving Her Today, which is an all-time favourite for him.
“Country music, as far as I’m concerned, is the only music that grabs your heart,” said Jackson.
‘The Right Group’
Jackson and Rendall feel the most important aspect about performing today is that everybody is now on the same page, which makes it fun.
“You have to have the right group around you if you’re going to be successful at anything. You have to have the right people because if you don’t, you can do whatever you want to do with your life, but you’ll always feel kind of dragged back by people and situations,” said Jackson.
One of those ‘right people’ is band newcomer, 23 year-old-fiddle player Rosemary Lawton, who is just finishing MUN and plans to teach music.
“She’s unknown now because she’s so young,” Jackson explains, but he shares that will change.
This group insists they are not your local bar band. They take pride in the fact that people can come to hear the songs and listen to the lyrics and also hear awesome guitars that they haven’t heard.
“The energy is back now,” Jackson says. “We’re not trying to be the next big thing. We’ll just show you what we can do when we hit the stage.”
One of those stages will be at the Exploits Valley Salmon Festival this summer which they promise is going to be one high energy show, and one which will be vastly different from the types of shows they would perform at a venue such as the Arts and Culture Centre.
For those shows, the band would perform a lot of ballads. For Salmon-fest, they will tailor their rockin’ country style for the bound-to-be spirited crowd and promise a show that will more than please those in attendance.
“For us, it’s just get out on stage and rock the place.” Jackson says.
The band promises that the show will be less in the style of George Jones and Tammy Wynette and more Toby Keith – who Johnson has opened for.
When asked to describe what they have planned for the big event, Jackson just smiles and answers “Think AC/DC meets country.”