Wild Honey Records [Release date 19.02.21]
The over-riding descriptor of John Paul Keith’s fifth solo album is, “Vintage”. With twelve years’ experience as part of the Memphis music scene, plugging away as a session player and live act, there is a pleasing bluesman authenticity to The Rhythm of the City. Recorded mostly live-to-tape at Electraphonic Studios, the album is awash with classic Stax soul arrangements, electric blues licks and even a hint of Merseybeat swagger. Pleasingly, these throwbacks don’t feel like pretension or self-conscious hipster appropriation, rather John Paul Keith is just an old soul.
Proceedings kick off with ‘How Can You Walk Away’, a moody question posed by a spurned lover. Call and response backing vocals, gospel organ and an echoing guitar solo all work together to provide a confident opener. On ‘Love Love Love’ Keith does his best Buddy Holly impression, to create an effective 50s rock & roll pastiche, with a deceptively simple and catchy melody.
In the album’s press release Keith notes; “Most cities have one sound, but there are many Memphis sounds. I tried to make a record that honors that” and by the third track, the listener understands what he means. ‘The Sun’s Gonna Shine Again’ plays with a different sonic palette again; Al Green style horn-lines (with a hint of electric sitar) adorn this innocent ballad about looking to the future. While ‘The Rhythm of the City’ reveals the extent of John Paul Keith’s musical geekery, a guitar coda that wails on a B.B. King level.
Perhaps most impressive about John Paul Keith’s production approach is the way he takes “a bit of this, a bit of that” travelling across musical eras. Take, ‘Keep On Keep On’ which has the construction of an early Beatles song but imports horn-lines squarely from the Motown era. Frequently Keith inadvertently evokes a British rock & roll act; as a Tennessee native this is probably coincidental, yet the similarities are there. Record standout ‘If I Ever Get the Chance Again’ could easily fit in the repertoire of The Hollies, with a chorus begging for the listener to stick a lighter in the air and sway.
Closing out with slow-burning torch song ‘How Do I Say No’, The Rhythm of The City finds a studious musician that can effortlessly dial into musical history and conjure nostalgia for yesteryear but still sound genuine. ***
Review by Phillip Beamon
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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 14 March 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
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Featured Albums w/c 5 April 2021 (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 GARY HUGHES Decades (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 METALITE A Virtual World (AFM Records)
14:00-16:00 KAT DANSER One Eye Open (indie)
Power Plays w/c 5 April 2021 (Mon-Fri)
ALTZI Point Of No Return (RA Music)
DIRTY LACES Breathe (Golden Robot Records)
ASHEN MOON Ashen Moon (Golden Robot Records)
ANDREWW Shadow Love (indie)
JORDAN RED Freak Show (indie)
HAYES & Y Empty Orchestra (indie)
KELSEY BOVEY Another World (indie)
NEPTUNE RAIN We Breathe The Same (indie)
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