Review: JD McPherson updates classic rock and roll sounds
JD McPherson, “Undivided Heart & Soul” (New West Records)
JD McPherson writes and performs songs steeped in the sounds of classic rock and roll, updated with thrilling sonic details that place his third album, “Undivided Heart & Soul,” firmly in the now.
While musicians can carry virtually whole orchestras and thousands of sound effects in pocket-sized digital devices, bricks and mortar can still make a difference.
After false starts and a search for direction — and some assistance from Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age — the album was made in Nashville’s legendary RCA Studio B, where the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Dolly Parton created some of their greatest hits.
McPherson, who received much critical acclaim for his first two records, expands those albums’ molds instead of breaking them and each listen to “Undivided Heart & Soul” leads to the discovery of another benchmark, from Link Wray, the Black Keys and Dave Edmunds to the Kinks’ Dave Davies, Motown and even Supergrass.
McPherson sings wonderfully, with a measured abandon. He doesn’t over-emote to sell a song but dabs enough passion on the tracks to ensure his commitment comes through clearly.
“Crying’s Just a Thing You Do Closer” has the drive of “Summertime Blues” in acoustic mode, while the lead guitar on “Lucky Penny” creates a squealing, overdriven fuzz that makes it immediately clear there’s no good fortune in that coin.
“On the Lips” has bursts of reverb to spare and the yearning “Jubilee” has an air of Amy Winehouse’s version of “Valerie” that goes beyond the rhyming titles. Closer “Let’s Get Out of Here While We’re Young” evokes Eric Burdon and The Animals at their raw best.
JD McPherson’s “Undivided Heart & Soul” deserves your undivided attention.