John Paul Keith

Memphis Circa 3AM

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John Paul Keith's tuneful songwriting, a mix of power pop and rockabilly with a dose of country tossed in, makes him sound, at his best, like a blend of Marshall Crenshaw playing with Creedence Clearwater Revival, with maybe Rodney Crowell at his 1990s commercial peak sitting in, and it's a bright, uncluttered vision that may not actually get him time on the big radio stations, but it should, at least in a fair and equitable world. Memphis Circa 3AM is his third solo album, and it doesn't differ much in approach from his previous outings, which is far from a bad thing. Produced by Roland Janes and recorded to two-inch tape (with no computers in sight) at Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis, Keith's adopted home town, the album tosses off track after track of sharp pop melodies and crisp playing, all with a warm, joyous veneer that makes this outing Keith's best so far. Keith writes unassuming, uncluttered love songs with the best of them, and tracks like "We Got All Night" and "Everything's Different Now" seem like timeless, pure pop gems, while "True Hard Money" bounces along on a "Roll Over Beethoven" rhythm that would make Chuck Berry proud. The two-step country shuffle "There's a Heartache Going 'Round" recalls Buck Owens' country-pop Bakersfield sound, and probably should be immediately covered by Dwight Yoakam, while the set closer, "Baby We're a Bad Idea," bubbles along with an echoing surf guitar feel, so even though Keith's style is identifiable and consistent, there's a lot of variety within his songwriting and playing approach. Janes' production catches it all perfectly, and this is another fine outing from an artist who deserves a much wider audience.

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