Durham-based folk musician and Ole Miss alumnus Jake Xerxes Fussell will return to Oxford this weekend to share tunes off his new album, “What in the Natural World.”
Fussell will perform at 4 p.m. Saturday at The End of All Music record store on North Lamar. Then later that night, Fussell will also perform at Proud Larry’s.
“What in the Natural World” is Fussell’s second album and debuted the end of last month. It contains the same techniques as his 2015 self-titled. Fussell takes traditional blues and folk songs and adds his own personal interpretation and twist to them.
“I’m not really a songwriter or anything,” Fussell said. “I take a lot of old traditional songs and play with them, rearrange them and put my own spin on them – so that’s my creative outlet.”
Fussell’s new album includes reworked songs from mostly Southern musicians such as Jimmy Driftwood, a folklorist and musician from Arkansas who was popular in the 1960s.
Growing up in Columbus, Georgia – right on the Alabama line – Fussell had a strong presence of folklore in his life, especially because his father was involved in the local folklore museum.
His dad often hired old-time musicians to play at folk festivals, Fussell said, so he grew up surrounded by rural people playing country and folk music.
As a kid, Fussell actually started playing the drums and then moved quickly to the guitar and bass.
Fussell’s favorite artists include influential North Carolinian blues guitarist Etta Baker, folk guitarist Joseph Spence, who is from the Bahamas, and the L.A. experimental rock band Los Lobos. Fussell said he also listens to a lot of Mexican music and jazz.
“My influences are kind of all over the place,” Fussell said. He said he often finds material to rework at the Old Library of Congress.
Fussell was one of The End of All Music’s first employees and is good friends with the owner, David Swider. Swider said Fussell has an encyclopedic knowledge of traditional American music.
“Pretty much anything blues and folk related, pre-1970, he knows about,” Swider said. “He was a really valuable asset to the store when we first opened, and he still is. I still talk to him all the time and ask him about stuff.” Swider said he loves Fussell’s music.
“He’s one of those guys – as cheesy as it sounds – that you can give him a guitar at a party and he can play Dwight Yoakam songs and a rare blues song you’ve never heard of,” Swider said. “He’s kind of a fun guy like that just because he knows so many songs.”
Fussell’s first album blew him away. Swider said he had heard Fussell play all of the songs a million times before, but hearing them on a professional level with a band was so different and fantastic. The album was also very popular among The End of All Music’s customers.
“We would play it over and over in the shop, and every time we were listening to it, someone would buy it,” Swider said. “I think we sold, like, 80 copies of that record on vinyl, which is a lot.”
Fussell has not been back to Oxford since his performance at the Grove last summer. He said he has loved living in Durham the past 2 1/2 years but is also excited to see everyone in Oxford.
“It’s always good to be back,” Fussell said.