Jerry Lee Lewis, Mean Old Man

Posted on September 14, 2010 by

Artist: Jerry Lee Lewis
Title: Mean Old Man (Deluxe Edition)
Label: Verve/Forecast B001-4675
Release Date: September 7, 2010
Genre: Rock, Country

“Got to scrape the shine right off your shoes,” sings Jerry Lee, backed by Keith Richards from the Stones number, “Sweet Virginia.” Jerry Lee, you might as well say “shit,” like it was done in the original version. You ain’t fooling me. You may be too late for the redemption bandwagon.

Mean Old Man is the follow up to 2006’s special guest-packed, Last Man Standing, with many of the same artists returning. Mean Old Man isn’t the rocker the Last Man was, but that’s all right. With Lewis’ vocal range becoming more narrow and less fortified, the country songs bring out the nuances of his delivery.

One thing that isn’t suffering is Jerry Lee’s piano playing. It is still signature Killer keys, not as pounding as it used to be, but the rhythm still pumps. You can witness it on the cover of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.” Lewis shows he’s still not ready to roll over and play dead. He may be an old dog, turning 75 at the end of September, but he can still provide us with a few tricks.

“You Can Have Her,” rocks hard too, featuring Eric Clapton James, Burton and three other guitarists. Yes, five guitarists. With Clapton and Burton and their reputations, I can’t imagine why five guitars are necessary. This isn’t the Wall of Sound.

Kid Rock’s contributions on “Rockin’ My Life Away” are a cloud on an uncloudy day.  As much as he would like to think he’s got an attitude similar to the Killer, Jerry Lee’s got more evil in his pinky that tickles that eighty-eighth key than Kid Rock has in himself and his entire entourage.

The two country numbers backed by Gillian Welch shine brighter than any of the rock offerings. The two standards, “Please Release Me” and “I Really Don’t Want To Know,” sound like they’re handled with care. Even though they are standards that have been covered numerous times – even more than once by Jerry Lee – their harmonies still pack some emotion.

Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” provides the best soundtrack for Jerry Lee. The Killer sounds reflective and weary when interpreting the song. It the most personal reading you’ll hear on the disc.

The other songs that work best on the disc are contrary to the title, Mean Old Man. The two gospel songs, “Railroad To Heaven” and “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” get support from Solomon Burke & Mavis Staples, respectively. I don’t know how many times Mavis as recorded “Circle,” but every time she does, she delivers.

The album finishes with Lewis, solo at the piano, singing “Miss The Mississippi And You.” The track was recorded at Philips Recording Studio, Memphis, Tennessee. Jerry Lee even attempts a bit of the old country yodel, which he doesn’t quite pull off, but that’s okay. The sentiment is there.

The songs that work best here are not reflective of the title, Mean Old Man. The gospel tunes and country ballads make this disc worthwhile. It’s Jerry Lee’s personal conviction behind those songs. Maybe I should have taken it to heart that the Killer didn’t want to sing the word “Shit.” I still don’t believe in a kinder, gentler, Jerry Lee Lewis, but I do believe the man is aware of his legend and legacy.

Many proven songs and artists, but all that talent just doesn’t add up.

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