JERRY JOSEPH: MOUTH FULL OF COPPER

Mouth Full Of Copper is Jerry Joseph and The Jackmormons at their best. The band, and Jerry in general find their greatest strength in guitar-heavy, emotional rock journeys. Assuming this is true, which may be an assumption, and although Jerry and his various incarnations have some very strong albums, an assumption I am confident in, one must then consider the time at which this live double CD was recorded. As the liner notes state: "Recorded Live in Butte, Montana at the Irish Times 8/29 - 8/31 2002." For those who are particularly familiar with Jerry and his side of the musical spectrum, that date could very well send off signals and perhaps even cause one's heart to skip a beat. The reason for this is that fellow guitarist and very close friend Michael Houser had passed away two weeks prior on August 10th 2002. And for those who may not be particularly familiar with Houser or Widespread Panic, they need only to flip the album notes to the back and read In Memory of Michael Houser to find out exactly where Jerry's mind was on this heated three-night stand in one of the Jackmormons' strong holds.

Knowing Jerry and his rather straight-forward approach, it's no surprise that the album he dedicates to Houser begins with "Brother Michael." The distorted growl of Jerry's guitar slides into the opening chords of the almost ten-minute ass kicker and the band never looks back. Delivering his trademark emotionally-drenched screams while his guitar swarms in feedback, it's hard to deny the passion Jerry is capable of harnessing.

"The Jump" and its dumping bass lines follow "Brother Michael," keeping the aggressive edge before hitting the punchy "I Know There's a Darkness" (which happened to be the only song played at all three of the Irish Times Pub gigs). At this point Jerry takes it down a notch as anger seems to slip to sadness and "Tanker" bubbles through the speakers.

While each track culled for Disc I is worthy of mention, a clear highlight is the huge "Climb To Safety" (following the beautiful reggae groove of "Electra Glide In Blue"-one of the more delicate songs in the Jackmormons' arsenal). The fact that Widespread Panic made "Climb To Safety" famous forces one to think of Houser when listening to this masterpiece, especially when taken in the context of an album dedicated to the man. A few minutes into this monster track guitars and sonic feedback begin to swarm as Jerry weaves his way through a ferocious exploration, further enforcing the notion that Jerry is an incredibly underrated guitar player. About half way through "Climb To Safety" Jerry breaks open with an emotionally-drenched lyrical rap:

Local train detective
Calling out my name
There were Dragons in the sky
Calling out my name
All God's Christmas angels
calling out my name
Jesus can you hear me
Calling out your name

I heard the sky was burning
Soul went up in flames
Got over
Got under
Got over once again

And I hear the angel Gabriel calling out my name
Gabriel can you hear me pulling down my pain

Disc II proves to be equally powerful and full of all that makes Jerry Joseph such an important musician as Disc I. Coming out with "Chainsaw City" is like walking into a room with a gun in both hands and an evil smile that can only be seen through dark sunglasses. Up there with the other top Jerry songs, "Chainsaw City" flirts with several guitar styles and highlights Jerry's tenacious storytelling.

At times it's hard to believe that there are only three guys on stage ("My Little Tiger"), and when Jerry breaks into the sped-up version of "North," his brilliance pours heavy. Within the monster ten-minute "North" Jerry delivers another poignant rap (this one called "Nicaragua") that never gets old:

The smell of revolution failed
Is blowing through my window
When we're writing Constitutions
They're shooting up mosquitoes
Viva Sandanista now is Hola Americanos
And there isn't decent housing
We order in from Dominos

And now I'm drinking coffee
Reading about the slaughter
And I'm blowing off my future
And I'm blowing off my daughter
And I haven't slept in weeks
And I know I really ought to
Baby, I forget a lot these days
There's something in the water

Been trying to meet a girl
From Rivas to Grenada
I see a waking giggle
I don't think they wanna
I could a use a shave, shit, or shower
Flora or the fauna
I'm supposed to worry about my health
I guess I'll start manana

Dinner in San Juan del Sol
With Commandant de Zero
Some tell me he's a killer
Some tell me he's a hero
They go to make the movie
It'll star Bobby DeNiro
I'm over that machismo shit
Yo soy grande maricon

My breath is probably stinking
I got ring around the collar
And I'm a little short of cash
Like fifty thousand dollars
And sometimes I get so fucking riled
I wanna scream and holler
Throw my phone out of the window
I ain't taking any callers!


By Adam Smith
Sure it's a lot of lyrics to read, but when someone can put it down so damn perfect it's tough to edit, so read 'em and let it penetrate your mind... Jerry is far more brilliant than he will ever admit.

Throughout the remainder of Disc II Jerry continues to bring the heat, cranking it up for a devilish "Back In The Hole," a disturbing "Chrome Koran" ("It's hard to trust me With my dick in my hand/Sex shop Bible and a chrome Koran"), a dark yet moderately uplifting "Pearl Of Great Price/Sparkle" and a somewhat delicate (for Jerry standards) "Savage Garden."

Pain, passion, sacrifice, love, drugs, dark bars and darker eyes; yeah, Jerry channels life through his music. He doesn't make excuses and refuses to take the edge off. Anyone who's paying attention is more than aware that life ain't fair, it isn't always fun and it gets really fuckin' heavy. Jerry sings to those of us who are paying attention.

With nine fairly long tracks (ranging from four and half minutes to almost fifteen) on the first disc, and eleven equally as long on the second, this offering is packed full of more music than you could ever digest in one sitting.

If you know Jerry you probably already realize you need to hear this remastered live offering, and if you don't know Jerry Joseph and his Jackmormons, this is an excellent way to familiarize yourself with one of the day's most underappreciated rockers.

In Memory of Michael Houser and a Testament to Jerry Joseph, the music world could use more like both of them.

The Kayceman
JamBase | HeadQuarters
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[Published on: 10/30/03]

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