John Paul Keith - 'Memphis Circa 3AM' CD Review (Big Legal Mess Records / Fat Possum) ~ BrooklynRocks: NYC Music Blog

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

John Paul Keith - 'Memphis Circa 3AM' CD Review (Big Legal Mess Records / Fat Possum)

John Paul Keith - 'Memphis Circa 3AM' CD Review (Big Legal Mess Records / Fat Possum)
After coming out of self-imposed musical exile in 2009, Memphis guitarist / singer John Paul Keith released his third disc, Memphis Circa 3AM, last week (Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum Records). This new release has its roots in the Sun Records’ sound of the 50’s but Keith expands upon this core with musical touch points that can be compared to John Lennon, The Plimsouls and Dave Edmonds / Rockpile. This is a warm and organic sounding disc that was produced by Roland Janes — house guitarist for Sun Records in the 50s and longtime engineer and producer at Sam Phillips Recording Services. Cut live to two-inch tape—with Janes providing direction from the booth and not a computer in sight—the album sounds deeply rooted and incredibly fresh at the same time.

The disc starts with the 50’s sounding roots-rock rave up “You Really Oughta Be With Me”, which features a blazing guitar solo and a call-and-response ‘chorus’ between the guitar leads and bass. This is followed by the Byrdsian/Laurel Canyon sounding “We Got All Night” which features echo-drenched guitar work along with a guitar solo that could rival Neil Young’s work on “Mr. Soul”. Continuing to switch gears around the band’s core sound, Keith and his band, the One Four Fives, (named after a standard chord progression) slide into the power-pop gem “Everything is Different Now”.

Keith has a winsome voice (with shades of John Lennon and/or Peter Case) and the clarity of his delivery highlight his ability to turn a lyrical phrase. Most of the songs are tales of love and loss – from the bluesy waltz “Ninety Proof Kiss” (“No one ever looked finer still wearing last-night’s eyeliner / I’m sure gonna miss that ninety-proof kiss / The only kind you ever laid on me”) to the rainy-day Lennonish number “She’s Almost You” (“Why should I pine for you every day, when she loves the words I used to say to you / they’re almost true”). The disc ends with the upbeat garage rock number “Baby We’re A Bad Idea” (“I’m not the only one / I know I’m not the only one / I don’t care when I’m tangled in your hair that I’m not your only one”). While other artists have used similar lyrical themes to explore Americana/New Depression tales of woe, Keith’s upbeat and energetic delivery is a welcome change and the disc’s thirty-five minute running time warrants repeated plays.

John Paul Keith is playing Bowery Electric on Oct. 24th along with the like-minded Swingin Neckbreakers and Twin Guns and Party Lights. Doors are at 7:30PM and cover is $10.

John Paul Keith