Wednesday, 26 November 2014

John Paul Keith-Memphis Circa 3AM

Never has there been a more apt title for an album, I've been in Memphis at 3AM and it was a dazzling sight, as I somewhat stumbled onto Beale Street out front of B.B Kings. I knew nothing about this artist or this album before it caught my eye as I perused the racks at Basement Discs during my lunch break. Anything that has Memphis in the title is likely to attract my attention, when I looked at the back of the CD it said produced and engineered by Roland Janes with that I was sold.

The most striking thing about this record is the playing, Keith and his backing band the one,four,five have obviously been around for a while because the sound is tight. They are helped in no small part by the great production work by Janes, this may have been his last project before his passing. In a small detour Janes was a pioneer in the Memphis music scene with his work at Sun studios and his own Sonic studios. He produced the classic I'm Movin On by Matt Lucas, he also produced the definitive version of Mountain of Love by Harold Dorman on his own Rita label. So what you get from this album is a real mix of what makes Memphis such a musical jewel of the south, there is some twisted funky blues, some doleful country and some sublime southern soul.

You Really Oughta Be With Me has that early 60's rock sound of Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks, strident rhythm guitar and a pulsing backbeat. We Got All Night a funky blues descends further into the swamp, Keith sounds a little like early John Fogarty with his guitar solo. It sounds like some of those early swamp style records that Creedence recorded, especially on their first album. Everything's Different Now is a nice midtempo slice of southern soul, John Paul Keith is a great guitarist each solo has depth and soul,

Yesterday I was another
Now I'm staring at the ceiling fan
Everything is different now

Ninety Proof Kiss has a great start, some lowdown guitar picking to get your feet tapping, it's a slow paean to those great mournful country songs. It also has some nice barrelhouse piano which it gives it a distinct New Orleans flavour. New Year's Eve is the standout track, pure southern soul reminiscent of the great work of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham,

Maybe I've had too much champagne
Pouring this whole year down the drain
What can I say, auld lang syne brings me down
Why can't those hands spin the other way around.

Not sure if this was Roland's last project but he continued his legacy, spreading the word that is Memphis soul.

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