Mean Old Man
Jerry Lee Lewis
If Jerry Lee Lewis were the leader of a MC, the truth is probably that he’d be riding a rat rod of a bobber as opposed to a bagger. It would be time to lock up the women and children whenever he rode into town, as is what probably happened when the man and the myth were one and the same. Jerry Lee Lewis makes no apologies for his Southern heritage. But rather than just dabble in the redneck side of things, Jerry stretched out and embraced all manner of music—so long as it screams with emotion. He can go from country to rock to blues to gospel in a manner of seconds. And his recorded legacy ought to be enough to earn him his own chunk of Mt. Rushmore, where he’d be chiseled next to Howlin’ Wolf, Elvis, and Chuck Berry (think about that the next time you’re in Sturgis!).
His latest album, the aptly-entitled Mean Old Man is like a birthday party where all your crazy friends show up to jam. In this case, we get the 74-year old Jerry Lee Lewis going stronger than ever and sharing the spotlight with a few other artists you may have heard of. Like Kid Rock and Slash on “Rockin’ My Life Away.” And Eric Clapton and James Burton on “You Can Have Her.” Or the Stones’ “Dead Flowers,” with Mick himself. Better yet, there’s Keith Richards on “Sweet Virgina,” and “Bad Moon Rising” with none other than John Fogerty. Lest we forget other tracks feature guests like Ron Wood, Merle Haggard, Tim McGraw, Willie Nelson, Shelby Lynne, and others I don’t have the space to get into here. Suffice to say, this CD is the mother of all jam sessions. About the only thing that’s wrong is that the 10 tracks are over just when the party is getting started.
Albert King With Stevie Ray Vaughan
Along with the other two “Kings” (B.B. and Freddie), Albert King’s influence on rock has been widespread yet subtle. Many kids emulating their favorite guitar player these days probably don’t even know they are following along in the fretwork of Albert King. A product of Arkansas, by way of Mississippi, King’s route to fame followed the familiar trail of other bluesmen. But instead of going to Chicago, he went to Gary, Indiana, and next, St. Louis, where he played in local bands. He eventually ended up in Memphis where he recorded for Stax and achieved his largest measure of success. His “Born Under A Bad Sign,” became a blues classic, even before Clapton and Cream covered it.
This album is culled from sessions done in 1983 when Albert King was booked to do a show with Stevie Ray Vaughan. Stevie was still a local legend and had yet to gain national recognition at the time, although the buzz around Austin was certainly deafening. Albert has already been one of Stevie’s longtime influences. The two had met briefly before but this would be the first extended session, which was actually a taping for the In Session TV show (around the same time, David Bowie’s “Lets Dance” featuring Mr. Vaughan was making its way up the charts).
To hear these guys jam is like watching master bike builders work side by side on the same project. There’s a lot of back and forth “Oh, yeah, take this,” and “OK, how ’bout this,” banter, but the recorded result is a real treat for fans of guitar shootouts. “Call It Stormy Monday,” and “Pride and Joy,” are the obvious showstoppers, plus there’s also smokin’ versions of “Match Box Blues,” and “Ask Me No Questions.” For at-home viewing when the ride is over, the package includes a bonus DVD that also contains killer performances of “Born Under a Bad Sign,” and “Pride and Joy.” Add beer and mix well.