Booker T Jones : The Road to Memphis
Is Booker T Jones the coolest man in rock'n'roll? As the titular leader of Booker T and the MGs Jones' distinctive Hammond B3 organ riffs were critical to the distinctive Stax Records sound. Over 40 years after Stax's demise Jones remains a powerful figure in contemporary rock'n'roll, his very presence a prima facie indicator of musical excellence.
Having utilised the considerable talents of Drive By Truckers for his previous record Jones has this time called upon East Coast neo-soul outfit, The Roots, with guest appearances from Sharon Jones, Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Matt Berninger (The National) and Lou Reed.
Back in the day, Memphis was a hive of creativity for cutting-edge r'n'b: Elvis to BB King to Stax. These days, while the lights of Beale Street still shine with names of yore, Memphis is a shadow of its former self.
However, sociological realities don't detract from the nostalgic heart of The Road to Memphis. Walking Papers has the swagger and roll of early Booker T Jones, Crazy is all noodles and soft-shoe shuffles while James' turn at the microphone on Progress leads down a path first trodden in 1976 when LA rock turned to the pelvic thrust of funk for inspiration. Jones takes on vocal duties on the subtle, self-referential groove of Down in Memphis, the slickness of Rent Party reaches new levels of maximum viscosity, while Sharon Jones and Matt Berningham celebrate in style on Representing Memphis. After the hip-thrusting beauty of Harlem House, Lou Reed turns up to draw the links between Jones' beloved Memphis and Reed's dirty New York borough in The Bronx.
To watch Booker T Jones on his last tour of Australia was to see a maestro in action, an icon of cool against which all others can only hope to be measured. It's been a long journey from Memphis for Booker Jones - and few people know the roads better than him.
If you like this…: You'll have already immersed yourself in the entire Stax canon.
Best track: Down in Memphis.
In a word: Cool