A lot of blues and soul blues with a strong Nashville twang characterize Midnight Memphis Sun, even to the extent of a curious faint echo of Steve Cropper, making this an unusual release from JW-Jones, one of Canada's top touring acts and a cat who managed to snag two immortals to sit in: Hubert Sumlin and Charlie Musselwhite, three cuts each. Though the title tells of the disc's Memphis vibe, and it's most certainly there, Nashville cowboys can't help but peek through quite frequently, quite satisfyingly. Catch Cuts Like a Knife, where, via sod and sweat, Jones turns Bryan Adams' song into what it should've been all along.
He's also a formidable writer, whether solo or teamed with brother Tim, and he penned or co-wrote 3/4s of the cuts here, the rest a menu of well-chosen sides by Jimmy Reed, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Jimmy Reed, Lowell Fulson, and the aforementioned Adams. One of his own, Born Operator, is a surprisingly au courant commentary on the New Republican Recession/Depression which has brought the world to its knees. In another track, one of my faves of the CD (though the instrumental Howlin' with Hubert is another), Sumlin sits in, and the contrast and interface between the two guitars is mouth-watering. There's also a bit of honky-tonkin', in Burnt Child, one of the Musselwhite tracks, and Charlie's as sonically conversational as ever.
Mean Streak, the cut that most knocks me out, jumps right into scratchy riverside blues, stripped way down, emphasizing Jones' lazy Lightnin' Hopkins factor, each note crucial, dissected emotion rather than musical invention, and the sung narrative brings Robert Johnson to mind, just raw honesty in the face of the unpredictability of human nature. Games turns the burn factor back up and closes the CD out, a paean to some pretty well-known problems of courtship, so, yeah, this cat knows a thing or two about what's what and who's who, and he sure as hell didn't get it from a Dale Carnegie seminar or Deepak Chopra.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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