Jerry Lee Lewis

Rock & Roll Time

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There's a different feel to 2014's Rock & Roll Time, the third album Jerry Lee Lewis has made with benefactor and producer Steve Bing. Once again, superstar drummer Jim Keltner co-produces (as he did on 2010's Mean Old Man), and the pair bring the Killer back where he belongs -- right at Sun Studios. In case anybody missed the point, Jerry Lee is placed directly in front of the old Sun building itself on the cover of Rock & Roll Time, underscoring a point the music makes perfectly plain: Jerry Lee is once again singing some of that old-time rock & roll. It's a back-to-basics move, and to that end, Bing and Keltner made the canny decision to dial back the superstar cameos that threatened to overwhelm Lewis on Last Man Standing and Mean Old Man. Some familiar names join Jerry Lee in the studio -- Keith Richards and Ron Wood, Neil Young, Robbie Robertson, Nils Lofgren, Doyle Bramhall II, Derek Trucks, and Jon Brion all are here -- but only Shelby Lynne shares the microphone with him, which means the album belongs to nobody but the Killer. He sounds his age, as he should at 79, but he still sounds vibrant, whether he's once again singing Chuck Berry songs he's played countless times before, or laying into Kris Kristofferson's "Rock & Roll Time," Bob Dylan's obscure "Stepchild," or Mack Vickery's "Keep Me in Mind." The emphasis is on greasy groove, an appropriate move considering the Killer's advanced age, but by placing feel first and foremost, it's possible to pay attention to how Lewis' vocal phrasing remains sly and supple. Nobody else can sing like Jerry Lee and it remains a pleasure to hear him sink his teeth into nearly any song, especially when he's supported by a team as sympathetic as he is here.

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