Ooooohhhh-weeeee, enough of your chillwave, hipsters, we’re heading back to 1956 for our kicks at this year’s Great Escape, courtesy of Oklahoma’s JD McPherson.
His 2011 debut album “Signs and Signifiers” proved that McPherson is more than just an admirer of the rockabilly era, he’s a living, breathing, hip-shaking, yelping, bona fide rock’n'roller in his own right. The album’s kick off point is the kind of evocative ’50s rhythm and blues that soundtracks an American era when anything seemed possible, and McPherson nails everything from Little Richard (”North Side Gal”) to Jackie Wilson (”Scratching Circles”) while “A Gentle Awakening” conjures up an inspired moment of era-defining mood-gospel – the kind of music that might soundtrack the ’60s civil rights movement.
Recorded on authentic analogue equipment, the album shakes and shimmers with an authenticity guaranteed to put a spring in your white bucks, but also liberally enlivens the music with some considerably more contemporary influences. McPherson, who was previously a middle school art teacher, is as fond of the Smiths as Buddy Holly, and that famed guitar opening from “How Soon is Now” is re-imagined on the album’s title track.
Such a note perfect recreation of music from a bygone era might seem redundant – until you hear it. After the last few years of ’80s synth overkill, it’s refreshing to hear an artist doing it old school, with old equipment, and simple songs that fizz out of the speakers. Any danger that McPherson is spreading himself too thin and heading for pastiche is booted out with the bobby socks by the quality of the songwriting – there are two cover versions on the album but you’d be hard pressed to pick them out. Which only leaves one problem for Great Escape: do any of you cats know how to jitterbug?
Jivers head here for more JD.