Potato Hole – Booker T.
Well, I certainly hope Booker T. Jones is happy. Does the man realize how many speeding tickets are going to be doled out this summer to people who innocently pop his new Potato Hole into the player and head on down the highway? Things might be okay for the first few tracks, but by the time they hit “Warped Sister,” that’s it. Hammer down, bang the gears and if you don’t have a convertible, at least roll the moon roof back and open up every window in the vehicle whatcha got right here, folks, is the ROAD SONG of 2009. You heard it here first.
I’m serious: the thing kicks in with a WHAM! of drums and cymbals, then a bevy of fuzzed-out guitars (that would be the Drive-By Truckers and a nice ol’ fellow named Neil Young, thank you very much) lay down just the right amount of on-ramp tension. By the time Booker T.’s keys start cruising the main theme, you’re gone. There’s a sweet, lonesome highway bridge about a minute and a half in (this would be the point in the movie when our hero squints into the sun, pushes his mirror shades up his nose, and tightens his grip on the wheel), then a return to the central riff. Everything threatens to grind to a halt just shy of the three-minute mark, but just as Booker and the Truckers’ last big chord is starting to fade, drummer Brad Morgan slams things back into motion with some neat double-clutched bass pedal and off you go again in a squall of crazy Neil guitar and crunching Truckers, Booker T.’s smooth organ riffs making the ride so smooth you don’t realize how fast you’re going til the blue lights are flashing in your rearview. That’s the deal. It’s just about guaranteed.
Other than corrupting the highways of America (heck all over the world, for that matter), Booker T. has accomplished a great feat with Potato Hole – capturing enough of his classic sound to remind you of who he is, but doing it in a way that’s fresh and interesting. The Truckers are just right on Potato Hole. At times, you’d swear you were hearing recently-unearthed M.G.s’ treasures. (Could anything be cooler than Shonna Tucker’s bass line on “She Breaks”? And somebody gets an A+ in Croppertone for the guitar work on the title track.) Other times, when the Truckers need to get meaner and crunchy, well, that’s certainly not a problem. And Mr. Young? Well, he weaves in and out of things for all but the last track, laying down fills and accents that sound, well like Neil Young. (All you Rusties out there can amuse yourselves by playing “Where’s Neil?” when you listen.)
But let us not forget whose album this is. Though Potato Hole is strictly instrumental, you may catch yourself thinking there’s a vocal at times. Nobody sounds like Booker T. Jones the man has a way of personalizing the keyboard that is all his own: it’s truly his voice. Booker T. simply snaps out the “vocal” over the driving rhythm guitars on “Hey Ya”; he snarls and slurs the “lyrics” to Tom Waits’ “Get Behind The Mule”; and on the album closer, a cover of the Truckers’ “Space City”, Booker T.’s phrasing is such that you swear the organ is taking a breath between lines.
All in all, Potato Hole is a great album a fun ride with a veteran musician who still has plenty to say.
The speeding ticket’s worth it.