Jerry Lee Lewis: Rock & Roll Time

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

VZCD119

Jerry Lee Lewis
Rock & Roll Time
(Vanguard)
4 out of 5 stars

Now three albums into a comeback that began with 2006’s Last Man Standing duet set and continued with 2010’s Mean Old Man, Jerry Lee Lewis seems truly reinvigorated in his waning years. He’s pushing 80 but you’ll never be able to tell from the strutting, swaggering performances on this album.

Credit producers Steve Bing and veteran drummer Jim Keltner, both back from the previous release, for corralling an A list of sidemen (and one woman) to provide the killer with all the support he needs. Doyle Bramhall ll, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Robbie Robertson, Nils Lofgren (on lap steel), Neil Young and Shelby Lynne all make appearances on this short, 31 minute batch of covers. Due to technology and superstar schedules, it’s doubtful many of these artists were in the same room with Lewis, in contrast to 1972’s similarly themed The Session, recorded in London. But that doesn’t hamper the wildly spirited music and sheer loose intensity at work here.

Even when the material falls into the “do we really need another version of this?” warhorse bucket like Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land” and “Little Queenie” along with Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” Lewis attacks the oldies like a caged lion making them feel fresh, if not exactly new, again. But the majority of the selections dig deeper below the obvious into blues (a cool, tough Chicago shuffle on Bob Dylan’s obscure “Stepchild”), country (Kris Kristofferson’s reflective title track in addition to his “Here Comes that Rainbow Again”) and of course classic rock and roll (a roaring version of Fats Domino’s “Sick and Tired”). The rock solid rhythm section of Keltner and bassist Rick Rosas provides a malleable bottom that drives these songs.

Still, this is all Lewis’ show. His piano playing may not be of the sizzling great balls of fire of yore, but it remains distinctive and lively. Likewise his singing has hardly changed, although there is a tinge of melancholy on the Lynne duet “Here Comes that Rainbow Again” and the reflective “Rock and Roll Time.”

Unlike other such projects that prop up ageing rockers with a surplus of headliners respectfully going through the motions, Lewis is totally in control as he cranks out these tunes with a fire and intensity that doesn’t seem to have dimmed despite his six decade career.

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