Dear Reader: Go and find a copy of the Nighthawk's Open All Night
(Genes, 1976/1995). Cue up the first song, Sonny Boy Williamson's "Nine Below Zero. The singer and guitarist is a youthful James Thackery, veteran of 300-plus shows a year, squeezing out those perfectly streamlined blues licks like they mean something. Fast forward to the present and hear a very different Thackery, one right out of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner
. Healing Ground
is ostensibly a blues album. It is labeled that way because Thackery is part of the homogenized Telarc Blues stable. Not that this is bad. It just is.
There are blues songs on this recording, but they are forgettable, save for one that is superbly faithful to the Muddy Waters original, "You Can't Lose What You Never Had. The rest of the disc is a thematic mess. No common thread passes through the center of each song. The disc comes off as a collection of unrelated themes, barely related vehicles, and no concept, period. Not that this is bad. It just is. The disc showcases Jimmy Thackery's muscular guitar playing and song writing, which, on the whole, is very entertaining.
The opener, "Let the Guitar Do The Work, would be right at home next to Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman on a country playlist. Ditto that for the instrumental "Kickin' Chicken. These songs readily demonstrate where popular blues, county, and rock reach their tipple point. They are replete with crystalline Fender lead lines and barrelhouse piano, the latter compliments of Kevin McKendree. "Fender Bender sounds so much like the Scorpions' "Rock You Like a Hurricane that it takes several listens to truly appreciate Thackery's genius in building drama progressively into his solos. Here he solos three times, the first low-key and precise, the second smoldering and barely contained, and the third blowing-the-doors-wide-open virtuosic. The title cut sounds like the Pretenders' "Brass in Pocket coupled with "Born in the USA.
In the end it is the instruments that reveal the most talent. Even with its heavy allusion to the Scorpions, "Fender Bender" is still a lot of fun. "Pickin' Chicken is a down-home shit-kicking twelve-bar party full of Bill Haley licks as well as early Elvis background. "Shot in the Dark is a Dick Dale dream. This is a spooky surf-guitar vibe that should be included in the revival of The Munsters. Dig that Kenny Burrell-Wes Montgomery interlude in the middle. Thackery has both chops and a sense of humor. I hope to hear more of the former and less of the latter on his next recording.
Personnel: 1. Let the Guitar Do the Work; 2. Fender Bender; 3. Healin' Ground; 4. Had Enough; 5. Devil's Toolbox; 6. Weaker Than You Know; 7. Upside of Lonely; 8. Kickin' Chicken; 9. Get Up; 10. A Shot in the Dark; 11. Can't Lose What You Never Had.