In the music spotlight: Jackie Venson
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Well-established in her hometown of Austin, Texas, rising talent Jackie Venson continues her upward trajectory in locales far from home where fans seek soulful grooves, savvy blues guitar and songs to free the mind. The singer and guitarist visits Chicago’s Elbo Room next week with her loop station and rhythm section, brining formidable instrumental chops and a musical message of positivity. “It’s all good,” she sings reassuringly on the terse soul-pop of “Mysterious” from new recent EP “Transcends,” even as she sings about navigating emotional pitfalls and growing pains.
Venson’s Texas roots are evident in her soulful blues guitar playing on “Show My Light” from 2016 album “Live at Strange Brew.” Her muscular fretwork is balanced by a singing voice that radiates warmth and spirit. The sinewy funk of “Fight” is reminiscent of Sheila E., encouraging both solidarity and self-confidence in the effort to elevate oneself and one’s community. Title track “Transcends” lists a litany of modern societal ills. Danger, destruction and exploitation lurk around every corner. Venson responds fearlessly with a fierce riff and a simple mantra that states, “love transcends.”
The artist has claimed influences ranging from Buddy Guy to Sade and Alicia Keys, all of which ring equally true in recordings including 2014’s “The Light in Me” and her stage show. Venson has been particularly well-matched as a touring partner of fellow Austin guitarist Gary Clark Jr., but her current run of Midwest club dates find her ready to build upon strong word of mouth on her own terms and using her own vibrant power.
The restless propulsion of an artist on the move rings through the soulful “Flying,” as Venson sings about determination and potential. It’s a song of social power, but it echoes the energy of a promising young career. “I see where I am going, and I see where I have been,” sings Venson. “Keep my faith forever flowing, until the end.”
The end for Venson is a long way off, indeed. Catch her at the Elbo Room on Tuesday. It won’t be long before her energy and audience have outgrown such intimate confines.
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.