Note: Booker T. is at Joe’s Pub in NYC tonight, 6/10. Still time to get tix!
Someone with the musical credentials and legacy of Booker T. Jones didn’t have to go out and strike a new path. But one of the things that I’ve always admired about him – besides the fact that he was one of the key pillars in the Stax/Volt machine – is that he’s always looking to learn and continuing to grow artistically. This was a guy who was studying classical music composition, composing and transposition at Indiana University while writing, producing and performing material that forever changed the musical landscape. When it came time to record the material that makes up Potato Hole, he could’ve easily hired a seasoned producer to oversee the sessions. Instead, he takes a couple of courses at a community college to get himself caught up on the latest recording techniques. Jones ended up co-produced the new CD with Rob Schnapf of Beck fame.
And just when you thought Potato Hole would be similar to his work with the MGs, Booker T pairs up with alt-country/Southern rockers Drive By Truckers and makes a big, muscular ROCK record. Just to emphasize the ‘rock’ portion of it, Neil Young is aboard on nine of the ten tracks playing lead guitar. Potato Hole pulls off a unique trick: It’ll please fans of his earlier work, but will draw in new ones as well. His Southern-fried cover of ‘Hey Ya’ actually blows away the original. The title track has so much swagger to it, but also has an almost cinematic feel to it at the same time. This is one of those CDs you can put on when you’re taking a drive, doing stuff around the house or just walking down the street. Nearly 50 years after ‘Green Onions’, Booker T is still setting new standards for us to follow.
—Reviewed by Earl Douglas