Anything Veronika Jackson sings with her amazing voice sounds soulful. Without having to think about it, plan it or emulate it, she sings in a gospel way, with a rich, beautiful voice that will make anyone stop to listen. It comes naturally from years of hearing music in church and in her community. Intrinsically, she carries forth the African American musical traditions that go back to the spirituals, gospel, blues, and soul, even though she may be singing folk music influenced by the folk music of her generation Odetta, Richie Havens, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan.
Her compelling music, unlike the traditional folk-blues of rural African Americans, is literally Folk Blues, drawing inspiration from both the blues heritage and the 1960 Folk music movement.
The impressive singer lives in Decatur, Georgia just outside of Atlanta and hails from St. Petersburg, Florida. “I play folk with the flavor of the blues”, she explained. “I love songs that tell stories. Songs that educate, inspire and give people a good time. Blues ain’t nothin’ but telling a story. That’s what the African American were able to portray what was in their life. Blues is not sad. It’s fun.”
She is a singer/songwriter who performs originals as well as classic songs, but she does not carry forth the usual blues repertoire typical of the genre. Indeed, if you expect her to be “typical” and predictable in any way, she will surprise you. “Sometimes people encourage me to pick up a certain blues repertoire, a set of songs that will make me like the other blues singers, because they think that will make me more popular, or because that’s what they think people want to hear. But that’s not my style. I choose a song and give it my interpretation. I am real. I sing nothing I can’t relate to.” For example, she chose “Freight Train” by Elizabeth Cotten. “I love that song and I got tired of so many people not knowing that it was written by a black woman.”
Individualistic, strong and determined, Veronika Jackson is more of a singer than a guitarist, an instrument which she plays capably as accompaniment. “I play Piedmont style rhythm guitar,” she explained.
“The style of singing that I do…I sing it from the heart. I was not trying to be a blues singer. It was not a goal I went toward. I just sing it the way I feel it.”
Yet, she is a blues singer with an ethereal, pure and stunningly lovely folk quality. It does not matter what song she chooses. “I liked Bessie Smith, Odetta and Joan Baez. Those were the women! I respect the guys, but the women got through to me. I have a desire to keep acoustic blues going in its grassroots, authentic form. Like Elizabeth Cotten and Odetta.” Other blues women are also noticing her. Rory Block is said to have complimented her, saying: “You really sing it from the heart.”
Veronika Jackson is truly inspiring. She is no longer a hidden treasure of the folk blues and she emerging onto larger stages: The Clyde “Pop” Ferguson Blues Fest, Merlefest, the Virginia Women’s Music Festival and many more. “I believe what I do has a purpose. I stepped out to follow my aspirations as a solo artist to carry on this heritage. Hopefully, somebody will hear me.”