April 20, 2009


Organ Donor (Ben Greenman, April 27, 2009, The New Yorker)

The organist, songwriter, and arranger extraordinaire Booker T. Jones is one of the legends of soul music. A multi-instrumentalist as a child and later a student in music composition at Indiana University, he went on to head up the Stax house band, Booker T. & the MG’s, which backed everyone from Otis Redding to Rufus Thomas, and to co-write hits like “I’ve Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)” and “I Love You More Than Words Can Say.” Jones also released a number of acclaimed records of his own material—his catalogue goes much deeper than the immortal “Green Onions,” and even includes an album-length tribute to “Abbey Road,” called “McLemore Avenue”—and, after leaving the group in the early seventies, became a top-drawer session player and producer, responsible for Bill Withers’s “Ain’t No Sunshine” and Willie Nelson’s “Stardust,” among other records.

Jones’s new solo album, “Potato Hole” (Anti-), is his first in two decades, and throughout he is backed not only by the Southern-rock stalwarts Drive-By Truckers but also by Neil Young. If this sounds more like rock-and-roll than Southern soul, that’s because it is.

CD Review: 'Potato Hole' by Booker T. (Eric R. Danton, April 20, 2009, Hartford Courant)
Now, 31 years after his last solo effort, Booker T. returns with "Potato Hole" (Anti). The MGs have long since scattered, and Jones is backed here by the Drive-By Truckers, who are becoming the new house band for re-emerging old-school artists. (The group also played with Bettye LaVette on her 2007 album, "Scene of the Crime.")
With Neil Young adding lead guitar, Booker T. and the DBTs blaze through a collection of instrumental tunes, three covers augmenting seven original numbers. Organ is the obvious focal point, but there's plenty of guitar, too, on songs that most often come across as careful, joyous exercises in teamwork.

His blaring Hammond organ and growling electrics guitars from Young and the Truckers are a heady combination on the raucous opening track "Pound It Out," while Young's caustic fuzz-tone guitar anchors "Native New Yorker." The whole crew lays back into a deep, soulful pocket on "Nan," Jones' organ gleaming at the front of tune.

The covers show his range, as a musician and a music fan: He unpacks a rootsy funk part for a version of OutKast's 2003 hit "Hey Ya!" which the Truckers have been known to play in their own sets, and his burbling Hammond adds vibrant color to a juicier take on Tom Waits' spooky, spare "Get Behind the Mule."

A noodling version of the Truckers' own "Space City" wanders a little too aimlessly to close, but "Potato Hole" overall is a subtle album with enough fire to prove that Jones can still bring the heat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 20, 2009 8:35 AM
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