Legendary organist and bandleader Booker T. Jones continues his feverish pace, releasing new music even as Stax classics with his former band the MGs are being re-issued (Green Onions, McLemore Avenue).
Sound The Alarm follows his 2011 release The Road From Memphis and like that release features a host of younger guest stars. Jones is joined this time by Gary Clark Jr., Vintage Trouble, Mayer Hawthorne, Anthony Hamilton, Estelle, and Sheila E., just to name a few.
Young pup Mayer Hawthorne joins Jones on the title track to open the record and the two successfully balance a contemporary, hip hop energy with a solid foundation of the vintage Memphis soul Jones helped pioneer. It's a great marriage of new-meets-old with a strong hook and great beat.
"Austin Blues Idea" marries easy soul from Jones and tasty blues accents from Gary Clark Jr., providing a teachable moment to guitarists everywhere: you don't have to shred to shine. Instrumental pairings are often a series of swapped solos but on "Austin," these two men play together rather than off of one another.
Vintage Trouble and Booker T. Jones performed together on Conan O'Brien, playing VT's "Nancy Lee," a song frontman Ty Taylor wrote for and dedicated to his parents. They pair up on "Your Love Is No Love" and it's a natural fit and a great song. Jones doesn't need to be anyone's sideman but one wonders what these two could do together over the course of an entire album. Vintage Trouble has easy soul and gospel elements in their sound and Jones would find plenty of room to weave his signature organ lines.
The Latin flavor supplied by guests Poncho Sanchez and Sheila E. on "66 Impala" shake things up and bring welcome sonic diversity to the record. "Father Son Blues" is a special track featuring Booker T. and Ted Jones (you do the math on this one, kids) and serves a nice closing to the record.
Jones doesn't eclipse his landmark work on Sound The Alarm but deepens his catalog, reassuring us this master still has his touch. Let's hope he continues to find inspired musical partners and keeps working at this brisk pace.