John Paul Keith's Americana | Bleader

John Paul Keith's Americana


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John Paul Keith
  • John Paul Keith
The first time I listened to The Man That Time Forgot (Big Legal Mess), the second album by Memphis pop-rocker John Paul Keith, I was only a few tracks in when I had to grab the CD case to look up what I was sure was a cover song I couldn't quite place—but every tune was credited to Keith. Even knowing that, I kept reaching for the liner notes as I listened to the rest of the album, convinced again that I was hearing a cover—so no, this isn't the most original-sounding music made this year. What it is, though, is pure pleasure.

Keith has created a nice blend of all kinds of American roots music—rockabilly, honky-tonk, 50s dream pop, blue-eyed soul, 60s punk, Merseybeat (yes, I know that one's British, but it's based mostly on American sounds), Brill Building songcraft, power pop. I hear bits of Buddy Holly, George Jones, Mickey & Silvia, the Standells, Gene Vincent, Laura Nyro, Alex Chilton, and many others in his songs. He's clearly got good taste. Even though Keith seems to do little more than crib ideas from familiar sources, it takes craft and style to transform those ideas into something more than a Frankenstein-like pastiche. He and his scrappy backing band, the One Four Fives, have craft and style in spades.

Below you can listen to "Anyone Can Do It," which reminds of Nick Lowe's work in Rockpile; in fact, that classic quartet (with Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner, and Terry Williams) pulled off a similar approach, but with less of the soul. Keith and his band play the Hideout on Thursday night.

John Paul Keith, "Anyone Can Do It"

photo: Don Perry

Today's playlist:

OffOnOff, Slap and Tickle (Smalltown Superjazz)
Magnus Broo, Swedish Wood (Moserobie)
Thomas Ankersmit, Live in Utrecht (Ash International)
Marcos Valle, Estática (Far Out)
Willie Colon, El Juicio (Fania)