Billy Jeter closes ASC’s 2023 Live@5

The Shine Eye Band performers for Live@5 included C.J. Looney (left) on harmonica, Darius Blanton on keyboard, Lex Arenella on drums, Lynn Fitzgerald on bass, Billy Jeter on rhythm guitar and vocals, and Perry Israel on lead guitar. (Special to The Commercial/Richard Ledbetter)
The Shine Eye Band performers for Live@5 included C.J. Looney (left) on harmonica, Darius Blanton on keyboard, Lex Arenella on drums, Lynn Fitzgerald on bass, Billy Jeter on rhythm guitar and vocals, and Perry Israel on lead guitar. (Special to The Commercial/Richard Ledbetter)

The final installment for this year monthly Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas Live@5 was held in the Art Space on Main's Adam B. Robinson Jr. Black Box Theatre.

A local favorite, Billy Jeter and his band Shine Eye, were the featured entertainers for two hours of original songs composed by Jeter.

Wabbaseka-born Jeter's discography contains five long play recordings, including: Billy Jeter and Parkstone (2016), Songdog Blues (2018), House on Fire (2019), Shine Eye Landing (2021) and Hysteria (2023). The evening's presentation contained songs from the final two records on that list.

Jeter's standard performance usually includes a story at the beginning of each number explaining the origins of his lyrics. He said how his style of song writing falls under the "Delta Roots" genre.

"The majority of my songs begin in Wabbaseka and end in Wabbaseka," Jeter said. "It's pretty much the center of my song-writing universe."

Introducing a newly completed original, he said, "This is titled, 'The Ballad of Goosey Willie.'"

"Goosey Willie was an inmate from Cummins who worked on my uncle's farm," Jeter said.

He explained how Willie went to prison for killing a man over a woman. Willie became a blues singer of some renown, both locally and across the country. He got the name "Goosey" because he got drunk and stole a car one day and when he wrecked the vehicle in a curve, his neighbor's goose, that he had stolen, flew out of the window.

"After about 500 versions of this I think I finally found the right one," Jeter said.

Elaborating on his Wabbaseka origins, Jeter spoke of a favorite business in the heart of the small town, C&B Grocery.

"It's an oasis on the stretch of highway between Pine Bluff and Stuttgart run by a wonderful lady named Rose Conley," he said.

With a grocery and dry goods store in the front and pool hall/dining room in the rear, Jeter said its one of the last of its kind, representing many of the old juke joints that used to dot this part of the country. Built in 1920, the two-story brick structure was formerly known as Ball's Beer Joint.

December 3 marked the second annual "Rosie Shack Homecoming Show" at C&B that is now planned as an annual event. At the performance, Jeter introduced his latest single tiled "Rosie's Shack."

"This will be the first single from my next album, 'Delta Traces,'" he said.

In the song, Jeter lists the great blues artists who originated in north Jefferson County and passed through the doors of C&B at some point in their lives. They include Bobby Rush, Sippie Wallace, Queen Sylvia Embry, "Goosey" Willie Moore and Larry "Totsy" Davis. Each artist left their indelible mark on the music genre they helped develop.

"Most of my songs are story songs or songs about grievances. I wrote this song driving through New Mexico. 'Labor Day Blues' is a grievance song. In it I quote one line from some of the great protest songs written by John Lennon, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Woodie Guthrie," he said. "I'm very proud of 'Labor Day Blues.' It has done well in the charts and is also played on the radio quite often."

Jeter's energy overflowed the theatre Friday night, bringing the band and fans along on his musical journey through the Delta he loves.

His The Shine Eye Band is a revolving door with different players joining the group on different nights.

"I'm going to introduce y'all to the band and the band to each other," Jeter joked.

Friday night's lineup included R.J. Looney on harmonica, Darius Blanton on keyboard, Lex Capraitalia Arenella on drums, Lynn Fitzgerald on bass, Perry Israel on lead guitar and Jeter on rhythm guitar and vocals.

Other numbers in the block of songs that find their roots in the Delta dirt included, "Buddy Roe," "Denim in the Dirty" and "Unemployment Tree." All these numbers are off his latest release, "Hysteria."

"'Buddy Roe' is being played on blues radio programs right now," he said.

"Hysteria," has been in the top 20 albums of the folk music charts for the past nine months.

It should be noted how Bobby Rush contributes harmonica on the CD in "Buddy Roe," and "Unemployment Tree."

Displaying his sense of humor, Jeter remarked, "I consider myself a songwriter first and a guitar player second. But I still always think a new guitar will make me a better player."

In addition to original songs, the band salted in the occasional Bob Dylan and Levon Helm number to spice up the repertoire.

  photo  Billy Jeter and his band Shine Eye performed two hours of original songs. (Special to The Commercial/Richard Ledbetter)
 
 

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