Booker T. Jones: Potato Hole

By James Calemine

Memphis luminary Booker T. Jones released his first solo CD in two decades on April 21, 2009. This instrumental CD, recorded in Athens, Georgia, and San Francisco, California, proves a rock-soul soundtrack where Jones employs The Drive By Truckers and Neil Young to serve as his band. Only Booker T. Jones could bring together The Drive By Truckers and Neil Young at a musical reservoir that hovers somewhere above the cosmic Mississippi River.

Potato Hole is not Booker T trying to replicate the MGs glory days when he wrote songs with Steve Cropper and they served as STAX Records’ house band. A gritty “Pound It Out” opens this inimitable collection. “She Breaks” bears the sound of Neil Young on this song as he and Jones navigate the musicians into a funky territory that explores an old southern music vernacular.

The Truckers serve as a perfect back-up band to Jones as they were with Bettye LaVette. It would also be interesting to see the Truckers back up Neil. David Barbe—who recorded most of the Truckers’ albums—lent his insight to the recording, which allowed the talented musicians to coalesce. Jones covers Outkast’s’ “Hey Ya” with a lively, organ-driven rocker that blends the soul of the MGs and the sonic fuzz of Crazy Horse.

“Native New Yorker” emerges as a Truckers-fueled rocker, and verifies Jones’ organ work on this tune proves he’s still a master musician after 50 years. This collection of musicians possess four generations of experience between them and it shows. “Warped Sister” shows no signs of musical noodling…just straight up and rock and roll. It’s too bad Patterson Hood didn’t sing the lyrics on this glorious rendition of Tom Waits’ “Get Behind The Mule”, but the musical landscape does not fail the original version.

“Reunion Time” contains a dark R&B tone provided by the Truckers’ tapestry of mean guitars augmented by Jones’ soulful organ that is the closest sounding composition to any MGs material. The title track, a playful riff, jolts the listener into present day with ingredients of old music tones that sounds brand new–a great song in any year. “Space City”, a Truckers tune, closes the CD in a laid back way. Potato Hole stands as one of a kind…

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