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Monday, May 2, 2016

Can't say no to John Paul Keith's new album

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

From the opening bars of John Paul Keith's "Never Could Say No," the opening track on his latest record "The Man That Time Forgot," it's clear the record's a keeper. A cranked-up mix of rockabilly and garage rock, it opens the album the way a show should open -- get things moving.

It's a fitting way to open the sophomore record from Keith and his band the One Four Fives. For more than half a decade, they've built a following in Memphis for their frenetic live shows. The energy of "The Man That Time Forgot," released June 21 on Big Legal Mess Records captures the band's reputation perfectly.

Keith's story is all too common in the music industry. Back in the 1990s, he had signed to a major label by the age of 21. Industry types had their eyes on him early, but the general public never got a taste. A combination of bad luck and stubbornness/integrity kept Keith's career from getting off the ground.

Listening to the music Keith makes today, one wonders if Nashville missed on him or if the years of struggle have made him the songwriter and performer he now is. Either way, it's worth cranking up. This guy may not sell out any arenas, but he doesn't exactly make arena music anyway.

Instead, this is the music of dive bars -- a combination of rock, blues, rockabilly, country, soul and a bit of jazz. It's dirty music driven by Keith's outstanding guitar work.

After opening the album with the energy of the opener, Keith slows it down with "You Devil You," a classic country sound straight out of the '60s.

It goes on like that throughout, with Keith changing speeds nicely. For all the energy of numbers like "Anyone Can Do It" and "Dry County" he shows some tenderness with the title track and "Songs for Sale."

While the whole album has the feel of something out of the past, listening to "I Think I Fell In Love Today" and "Bad Luck Baby," similar to "You Devil You," are blasts from the past. Keith isn't concerned with following any trend, just his muse.

That muse tends to lead him all over the map in terms of eras and genres. The result is one of the strongest albums of the year.

My spin: A-

John Paul Keith's "The Man That Time Forgot" really doesn't belong to the era of the MP3. For that matter, it's not of the CD era either. It has a dirty sound that's proper for vinyl, with its crackles and occasional skips.

Even the album cover looks like something from the past -- the name of the artist and album along with the entire track list. Keith's face is also on the cover, but it's obscured by smoke from his cigarette -- a move much too un-PC for 2011.

But who says this is an album for 2011 anyway? This record would be outstanding no matter the year.

John Paul Keith, The Man That Time Forgot

Released: June 21 on Big Legal Mess

Producer: Bruce Watson

The band: John Paul Keith-vocals, guitar; John Argroves-drums; Mark E. Stuart-bass; Al Gamble-organ, piano.

Learn more: johnpaulkeith.net or biglegalmessrecords.com