Tips for Playing “Jackson” by Lucinda Williams

Though the picking is rather straightforward, there are some challenging techniques to deal with.

Lucinda Williams’ “Jackson” appears on her 1998 album, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, which garnered her second Grammy Award (the first was in 1993 for “Passionate Kisses,” a country tune performed by Mary Chapin Carpenter). Like the rest of the album, the song is a bittersweet travelogue through the towns of the Deep South. 

Williams introduces the song with a solo fingerpicked guitar, playing a basic alternate-thumb pattern one time through the progression before the vocals begin. The band gradually trickles in, and the fingerpicked guitar gradually becomes more absorbed by the band as the song progresses. 


Though the picking is rather straightforward, there are some challenging techniques to deal with. In bar 5, you must hammer on with your picking-hand index finger while simultaneously striking a thumbed bass note—one of those moves that’s like rubbing your stomach while patting your head. Note the eighth notes in bar 11: the arrows in the notation tell you to strike the upper strings with the back of your fingernails in a quick brushing motion.

The one other tricky move in the intro also involves a slur and comes at bars 11 and 12. Here, the pull-off is delayed over more than a full beat, while other picked notes are going on in between. Seek to maintain an even flow without striking the bass notes too hard, and you’ll capture the mood effectively. —Jon Chappell

Due to copyright restrictions, we are unable to post notation or tablature for this musical work. If you have a digital or physical copy of the May 2010 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, you will find the music on page 82.

This beautiful and captivating performance is from Williams’ “Live from Austin TX,” which was shot in 1995, but not released until 1998. For more on Williams, check out our in-depth profile from 2016.

Joey Lusterman
Joey Lusterman

Opinionated creative slash beginning guitarist. Joey has worked in every department at Acoustic Guitar in the past 10+ years: front desk, ad sales, editorial, sound guy, camera man, booth babe, email coder, podcast editor, photographer, book designer…

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