Let the Good Times Roll
4 out of 5 stars
From the opening “Summertime Blues”-styled guitar and snare stutter of the title track to the throaty Little Richard surge of the final “Everyone’s Talking ‘Bout The All American,” there is no doubt where JD McPherson’s heart and influences lie. His late ’50s/early ’60s aesthetic incorporates everything from Johnny Burnette pumped rockabilly to sweet Buddy Holly wired ballads with a substantial dose of Chuck Berry attitude and offhand, witty lyrical insight.
But to pigeonhole McPherson as some well-intentioned-but-why-bother? retro minded relic is missing the point. His spry sound is as much informed by the energy and assertiveness, if not the style, of early punk from The Clash and The Ramones. It also helps that he sports a voice as clear, vibrant and honest as Eddie Cochran or Gene Vincent, artists those punkers were proud to cite as inspirational. Some selections such as “You Must Have Met Little Caroline?” pile on castanets, extra guitars and piano in what seems to be an homage to Phil Spector.
Co-producer Mark Neill (Black Keys, Old 97s) keeps the guitar reverb turned up to 10, yet leaves room for standup bassist Jimmy Sutton’s innovative lines to shine. The groove is open and full even when the approach is stripped down to just the core quintet on the rollicking “Mother Of Lies,” a deceptively simple tune that shifts from the big band jump of Ray Charles to a pulsating Stray Cat strut. It, and other tracks are aided enormously by McPherson’s secret weapon – tenor saxist Doug Corcoran.
Ballads like the slow prom dance “Bridgebuilder” and the saucy spaghetti Western vibe of “Precious” are more than just filler to alter the propulsive mood. McPherson writes strong, memorable melodies and sings them with the smooth, subtle soul of Sam Cooke.
Even listeners not attuned to McPherson’s musical mindset will recognize and appreciate the sheer joy that explodes out of the speaker on this, his sophomore album. Its title seems clichéd but there is nothing predictable about the exuberance or the obvious attention to detail McPherson applied to his rolling good times.