Release Date: Apr 21, 2009
Record label: Anti
Genre(s): R&B, Soul
In the ’60s, Booker T. and the MGs set the standard by which all soulfully rocking instrumental combos would be measured. Fifteen years after his last full-length album with that band, organist Booker T. returns to uphold the tradition he helped create, with spirited backing by Athens, Ga.’s Drive-By Truckers and old bud Neil Young (who contributes guitar to 9 of the CD’s 10 tracks).
Potato Hole is Booker T. Jones' first solo album in two decades and the early buzz in the media has already termed it his most "audacious," but that's not exactly the case with this new set. It isn't audacious so much as it is moderately predictable, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Recorded quickly with producer Rob Schnapf in Georgia and California, Jones is backed here by Athens, GA's Drive-By Truckers with Neil Young sitting in on electric guitar for nine of the ten tracks, most of which were written by Jones.
Booker T. returns with his first album in 20 yearsEverybody has heard Booker T. & the MGs’ loping, twisting instrumental hit “Green Onions,” even if they don’t know it by name. According to Rob Bowman’s exhaustive Stax history Soulsville U.S.A., the group’s original bass player Lewie Steinberg came up with the song’s title: “To him,” guitarist Steve Cropper says, “[onions] were funky because they were stinky.” That’s a useful criterion of funkiness, defining it as a know-it-when-you-smell-it quality.
While instrumental soul music may never see a full-fledged return - and he may never see the same level of success he enjoyed with the classic Green Onions - Booker T does a great job of updating his sound for the 21st century on his newest release. [rssbreak] He's still cranking out that distinctive organ-fuelled sound, here with backing support from the Drive-By Truckers, but it's now infused with a subtle Southern twang. While both parties are legends in their own right, there's a total lack of ego, of which the playful cover of André 3000's Hey Ya is proof-positive.
Booker T. Jones hasn’t released an album as a leader since a 1994 reunion with the MG’s, the seminal band with whom he made his name recording for Memphis’ Stax Records in the 1960s. Although he’s been somewhat active as a session player in recent years, Potato Hole marks the organist’s first significant activity since his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
Vintage Stax fries up T.'s organ-donor program starring Neil Young leading the Drive-By Truckers. OutKast's "Hey Ya" cooks Shakey's bio-diesel, while his brief solo on "Native New Yorker" buffs a thoroughbred coat, and Tom Waits' "Get Behind the Mule" pushes the heated end of the beast. Title cut misses another 20 minutes of choogle, but "Space City" bundles The Big Chill soundtrack.