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Review: Booker T: Potato Hole

Southern-rock's new old instrumental sound

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Review: Booker T: Potato Hole
source: pricegrabber.com
When Booker T. Jones, the famous organist behind instrumental soul's most legendary band, ventured to the South By Southwest showcase a few years ago to jam with his old bandmates, he stumbled across Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers; finding them the exact sort of rough guitar band he wanted for his next project, he signed them on. Potato Hole may sound more like a collaboration than the labeling lets on, but the combo -- along with the lead guitar of mutual friend Neil Young -- is still a bracing and welcome fusion.

About this CD

  • Release date: April 21, 2009
  • Label: ANTI
  • Catalog number: 86948
  • Produced by Booker T. Jones, Rob Schnapf
  • Musicians: Booker T. Jones: organ, acoustic guitar, electric guitar; Neil Young: guitar, John Neff: guitar, pedal steel guitar; Mike Cooley: guitar, Patterson Hood: guitar, Brad Morgan: drums, Shonna Tucker: bass, Lenny Castro: percussion
  • Engineered by Doug Boehm
  • Mastered by Alan Yoshida
  • Executive Producer: Andy Kaulkin

Pros

  • Booker T.'s B-3 sound will, apparently, never grow old, and it's wisely given center stage among the noise.
  • Jones' new songs are not jams, but true instrumental songs, and solid ones at that.
  • The crunch of the Truckers and the interplay of three guitarists, somehow, suits Booker well.

Cons

  • This is not a MGs album, or anything remotely like it. Don't expect one. It's only tangentially a soul album.

My review

Rock music often makes for strange bedfellows, but this is just plain crazy -- soul organist extraordinaire Booker T. Jones, the man who put the fire under the MGs' "Green Onions," jamming on ten tracks with relative Southern-rock upstarts Drive-By Truckers, and Neil Young soloing over it all like this was a new Crazy Horse album. Covering Tom Waits? And, dear God, Outkast?!

And yet, on further inspection, it makes sense. The father of Truckers guitarist Patterson Hood, David Hood, played bass in those classic Muscle Shoals cuts. Athens, GA and Memphis aren't that far apart, and Neil -- well, what doesn't Neil excel at? His career is so perverse that it makes sense for him to jam with the band who mythologized his non-beef with Skynyrd on their song "Ronnie And Neil."

But back to Booker. After twenty years without a solo record, kudos must be given for not going the easy route and coming up with some tight Memphis grooves; instead, Jones uses the garage-meets-jam sensibilities of Young and the Truckers to give himself an excuse to loosen up. Seven of these tracks are new Booker originals (the organist, believe it or not, composes his instrumentals on guitar first), and even though the band's three lead guitars weave through each other on nearly every track, it's Booker's classic organ sound that's the focus here. You never realize just how little his B-3 sounds like everyone else's until you hear it out of context. For an album based around a man who doesn't sing, this is instantly and unquestionably his spotlight, from the very first riff.

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