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Jimmy Hall: Rady Now
(Keeping The Blues Alive Records, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 9/28/2022)
It used to be that rock & roll was a young person’s game. But the seasons pass and what were young upstarts are now aging, or shall be say mature and experienced rockers. And quite a few of them continue to good work and make new music. This week we have another example, the new recording by blues-rock-vocalist and harmonica player Jimmy Hall, whose new release is called Ready Now.
Born and raised in Alabama, Jimmy Hall helped to define the Southern Rock sound from his years in a band he led as vocalist front man, Wet Willie, starting around 1970. They had a hit single, Keep on Smilin’ in 1974. He released his first album under his own name, called Touch You in 1980, and has been recording intermittently every since, often collaborating or singing vocals in different groups, including with guitarist Jeff Beck. Hall’s last solo album was in 2007.
Now at age 72, he is out with Ready Now and it’s kind of classic blues-rock and Southern rock, backed by an impressive cast, including guitarist Joe Bonamassa, who by the way, co-founded the record label that released this album. Also appearing are former Stevie Ray Vaughan keyboard player Reese Winans, Allman Brothers and Govt. Mule guitarist Warren Haynes, guitarist Josh Smith, who co-produced the album with Bonamassa, plus Michael Rhodes on bass, and Greg Morrow on drums. They are a tight group that really gets it right, with the requisite mix of blues, hints of Gospel and straight ahead rock.
The material is almost all original, mostly co-writes by Hall with others, including Bonamassa.
Opening is a track that sets the pace for the album. Jump for Joy is an energetic boogie rocker that lives up to its title. <<>>
The album’s blues facet is highlighted on the following track Risin’ Up which has a great Memphis-style groove and hints of Gospel in its lyrics. <<>>
Dream Release is a kind of big rock production number with horns and backing vocals, that the band handles well. <<>>
Hall and company crank it up for Girl’s Got Sugar which recalls the classic Southern rock sound of Wet Willie. <<>>
Ready Now is a first rate song of redemption, about overcoming one’s demons and pressing ahead. <<>>
Hall and company do slow bluesy tune called A Long Goodbye. It’s about the classic blues subject of the end of a love affair, but the angle of this song is to try to stretch out that separation. <<>>
Another of the highlights of the album is Will You Still Be Here inspired by the pandemic taking musicians like Hall off the road, and celebrating getting back before audiences. <<>> Hall gets in a nice harmonica solo. <<>>
One of the more distinctive tracks on the album is Love for It whose Gospel-influenced backing vocals are an interesting contrast to the almost hip-hop sequenced rhythmic line. <<>>
The album closes an acoustic version of a cover tune by Charlie Starr, Eyes in the Back of Your Head. Again, it’s done with a lot of class. <<>>
Jimmy Hall’s new album Ready Now, his first in 15 years, is an outstanding blues-rock project by seasoned veterans still playing at the top of their game. The prominence of contemporary rock guitar icon Joe Bonamassa adds a lot, and he gets a chance to do his stuff on the various guitar solos he is given, but Warren Haynes, Jared James Nichols and Josh Smith also get their turn in the guitar spotlight. Septuagenarian Hall himself is also in great form, and has also penned some worthwhile new music for the album.
Our grade for sound quality is close to an “A” for a good punchy rock sound, with no inappropriate studio effects. It makes good listening at low or high volume.
One of the distinctive qualities of the blues is that it attracts some hot young prodigies, but it’s also a music form in which age adds depth. Jimmy Hall’s new album is a very good example of the latter. I think it’s one of the best of his 50 year recording career.
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