Backed by the newest star rhythm section, Double Trouble, three rather disparate characters get together and discover what they have in common. While this underpinning might suggest otherwise, this is not strictly a blues album. It might be a rhythm and blues, but this is not the regular stuff. Tommy Castro, for example, has been playing in roadhouses for the past decade on other labels. No, this is a bit like an updated Wet Willie, the band for whom Jimmy Hall was a mainstay.
Grits ain't groceries, eggs ain't poultry, and Mona Lisa was a Man...
This trio of leaders steers its way through originals and soul standards. "Sometimes," a Jones original, is 100% barrelhouse with all three singing and Hall's harmonica insinuating itself from the background. Reese Wynans' uncredited roadhouse piano tinkles softly, driving this three minutes of heaven. Jimmy Hall sings his "If That Ain't Love," harp potent and dark. It makes you miss Wet Willie. This is how a blazing session begins.
But okay, I lied. Johnny Winter's "Be Careful with a Fool" is fully a blues. A hot-shit- I'm gonna-sit-in-yo'-lap slow blues.. The very familiar Double Trouble rhythm section which once backed SRV can be so perfect. Tommy Castro cooks everything to a white heat, Tommy Shannon chording on the bass, giving the song that full power-trio sound that Hendrix, Cream and then SRV perfected. Sanctification is what they call it in the church, and Tommy Castro worships at the Temple of Blues. Jimmy Hall supplies as fine a harp solo as one could desire. If Johnny Winter was the quintessential Rolling Stones interpreter, then Tommy Castro is the quintessential interpreter of Johnny Winter.
Up comes the album's big surprise. It takes a pair or uranium balls to cover the Beatles' "Help!" How does it come off? No assistance required. The group thoroughly transforms the song, like Delbert McClinton took John and Paul to a Southern Baptist Church in white East Texas and had Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley over to compose a song for the next Sunday's service. Rather than a mid-sixties British love song, it becomes a Caucasian country blues lamenting the conflict between Saturday night and Sunday morning.
"Whole Lotta Soul" is infused with the spirit of Otis Redding; "Good Good Lovin'" is a James Brown rave up. The Lloyd Jones blues shuffle "Raised in the Country" provides a tastefully greasy guitar solo, warding off the roadhouse, and both guitarists get to take their turn, as if with that willing country cheerleader beneath the bleachers after a small-town football victory. [Ahem. Right. –Ed.] "Mammer Jammer" sounds too much like the J. Geils Band's "Whammer Jammer" for comfort. Instead, it becomes a Sha-Na Na shuffle.
There is no doubt that this is a very fun record. I expected a lot less and was more than surprised at how fine this music is. Rock on.
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