What an unbelievably stellar and exciting collection of vital American songs; written and originally recorded at the truly-legendary Sun Records and Sam Phillips Recording Service studios in Memphis back in the ’50’s and now being revived by an amazing array of artists and recorded (yet again) at both studios. The house band includes North Mississippi All Stars stalwarts Luther Dickinson (guitar) and his brother Cody Dickinson (drums) – sons of Memphis producing legend Jim Dickinson (really, I’m not going to tell you since you should already know damned well who he was), John Paul Keith (guitar), Amy LaVere (bass) and Rick Steff (keyboards) from Memphis sons, Lucero. Perfomers include the cast of CMT’s “Sun Records” series, which just concluded its run; Jimbo Mathus (again, you should know this giant by now), Bobby Rush and others who breathe new, dynamic life into these chestnuts. The sound is phenomenal and the final analysis is once you’ve listened to these performances, you should want to go back and listen to the original versions.
Jimbo Mathus’ reading of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “High School Confidential” is an absolute standout; while The Killer’s version didn’t hit the top of the charts, due to his fall from grace, the sheer energy from the original to Mr. Mathus’ deliver hasn’t diminished over the decades since its original release; it has the same verve and drive as Mr. Lewis’ and sounds like it just walked out of 1958, including that rollicking piano melody; Brian Hayes’ version of Johnny Cash’s “Ways Of A Woman In Love” (also originally cut in 1958) has a buoyant joy; his upbeat vocal and the twanging guitars are spot-on. Valerie June’s take on “Sure To Fall”, the 1955 Carl Perkins classic has a honky tonk aura and a vocal sweetness (far more satisfying to me than The Beatles’ version from their BBC sessions); ace bass player Amy LaVere delivers with a swinging version of “Ten Cats Down” (The Miller Sisters, 1956) – her voice, which has a timeless quality about it makes a lively track even more jumpin’; the cast of “Sun Records” drops their rendition of Bill Emerson’s 1955 anthem “Red Hot” (the call-and-response of “my gal is red hot”/”your gal ain’t doodley squat” is a classic moment in rock & roll) and “Moanin’ At Midnight” features Luther Dickinson unveiling his Howlin’ Wolf-isms to a soulful “T”.
There is one very important element to this gathering of songs and the collective of players – this album was a labor of love, done for a charitable cause. The American Music Society will be donating all proceeds from this compilation to help benefit the St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the world-renowned center in Memphis, which tireless works to help end the battle against children’s cancer and other life-threatening diseases. So when you listen to this, do so not only with an open mind but an open heart. I guarantee these songs will have even greater value.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – ESSENTIAL LISTENING
Red Hot: A Memphis Celebration Of Sun Records will be released on Friday, June 16th, 2017