With BR-549 on hiatus, Chuck Meadâ€™s managed to keep himself quite busy. In addition to three solo albums, heâ€™s provided musical direction for the stage hit Million Dollar Quartet and the CMT dramatic series Sun Records. The latter afforded the Kansas-native Nashville immigrant time in Memphis, which led to his recording this fourth solo album at Phillips Recording, the studio Sam Phillips built to replace the original Sun studio. Mead expands on the neo-traditional roots of BR-549 with a retro palette that takes in the tall historical tales of Johnny Horton, the honky-tonk pain of Hank Williams, the rock â€˜nâ€™ roll joy of Chuck Berry, and even late-50s ska. He extols the wonders of lifelong musical preoccupation in â€œThe Man Who Shook the World,â€ and Rick Steffâ€™s piano adds a strong Johnnie Johnson vibe to â€œDaddy Worked the Pole.â€ Thereâ€™s Hank-styled melancholy in the resonator guitar and yodel of â€œBetter Than I Was (When I Wasnâ€™t So Good),â€ and the bar-themed â€œTap Into Your Miseryâ€ is a drowning pool of sorrow. The albumâ€™s Memphis locale raises its swampy groove with the guitar reverb and organ of â€œShake,â€ and the wide-ranging set closes with the optimistic of â€œThereâ€™s Love Where I Come From.â€ Meadâ€™s a chameleon as he bounds across a wide range of musical touchstones, but his fluency turns these echoes into flavors, and the album into a celebration of roots. [Â©2019 Hyperbolium]
Oh rock â€˜nâ€™ roll, where have you been? Where have your pounding bass lines, screaming saxophones, scorching guitars and wild-eyed vocals been hiding? The Blackfoot Gypsies make the case for East Nashville, as their third album marries together the roots-rock swagger of the Black Crowes, the grit of the early-70s Stones, the West Coast country of the Byrds and Burritos, and the wildness of 1960s garage rock. In addition to reminding you of the Crowesâ€™ Chris Robinson, Matthew Paige might remind you of Steve Marriott, Ian Hunter or Willie Nile, and the band draws on each of these singersâ€™ groups without landing squarely on any one.
The guitars that open the album echo the Kinks â€œI Need You,â€ accompanied in the front seat by the rhythm section, Paigeâ€™s howling vocal and Ollie Doggâ€™s wailing harmonica. Thereâ€™s barely a breath before Dylan Whitlowâ€™s driving bass and Paul Thackerâ€™s urgent sax push â€œEverybodyâ€™s Watchingâ€ into the red. Paige and drummer Zack Murphy lock into their shared roots as the founding two piece Murphy describes as â€œeverything in the extreme.â€ Even when dialed down, the folk-country â€œPotatoes and Whiskeyâ€ and country-blues â€œVelvet Low Down Bluesâ€ are still edgy.
Thereâ€™s a twist of soul on â€œEverybodyâ€™s Watching,â€ second-line roll on â€œBack to New Orleans,â€ Jan & Dean-styled backing vocals on â€œPromise to Keepâ€ and a Bo Diddley beat on â€œGypsy Queen.â€ The rootsy â€œWoman Womanâ€ suggests the Band, and the hard blues of â€œIâ€™ve Got the Bluesâ€ echoes Led Zeppelin in acoustic mode. Thereâ€™s longing, loneliness, drinking and mean, mistreating women, but more in a blues vein than country, and â€œI Wanna Be Famousâ€ thrashes out a swipe at those famous for being famous. At 62 minutes, the albumâ€™s intensity can get a bit exhausting, but thereâ€™s no doubting the bandâ€™s talent and groove. [Â©2017 Hyperbolium]