Album Review

Down and dirty with Booker T.

April 20, 2009
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Booker T. Potato Hole
ESSENTIAL "Warped Sister"

As part of the house band at Stax Records and leader of Booker T. and the MGs, organist Booker T. Jones helped lay the soul music's foundation. "Potato Hole," his first solo album in 20 years, makes clear that he isn't done building on his legacy.

Refreshingly, he does so without compromise. There are no chart-baiting superstar guest vocalists or gimmicks, just gut-punching, funky, loose-limbed, rock 'n' soul jams recorded in down-and-dirty sessions without an inch of fat.

There are big names to be found in the liner notes, including Neil Young, who plays guitar on nine of the 10 tracks, and backing band the Drive-By Truckers. But both prove simpatico collaborators, backing off to showcase Booker T.'s sultry, lyrical organ melodies. Young doesn't duel for supremacy but engages in an easy back and forth with his peer, providing hot fuzz and stinging licks to opener "Pound it Out" and "Native New Yorker" and a gentler touch to the sensual "Nan." And the Truckers are as adept at churning up steam on a fun cover of OutKast's "Hey Ya" as they are providing slinking, head-bobbing accompaniment on "Warped Sister."

Booker T. may not be a singer, but his "voice" comes through loud and clear on these tracks in both simple, memorable melodies and heartfelt chordal testifying. (And be sure to check him out tonight when he begins a three-night residency on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.") (Out tomorrow)