Mean Old Man (Deluxe Edition)
Verve Forecast, 2010
REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/03/2010
If ever two album titles described an artist at a specific point in his career, Jerry Lee Lewis’ Last Man Standing (2006) and Mean Old Man (2010) are it. He is the last of the major Sun Label artists still alive, as Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash are all gone. Now in his mid-seventies, he still has the attitude and fire of his youth.
Jerry Lee Lewis burst upon the music scene during 1957 with such hits as “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls Of Fire.” His rock ‘n’ roll career came to an abrupt halt when he married his thirteen year old cousin. He made his living as a noted country artist for the next three decades, as he charted 65 songs on the C&W charts in the United States during 1957-1989. He was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1986. Today, the “Mean Old Man” of rock ‘n’ roll continues to record and tour.
Mean Old Man is similar to his last release in that except for one track, it is an album of duets. Let me also say that I am reviewing the deluxe edition, which contains 18 tracks as opposed to the regular version, which contains only ten. A word of advice is spend the extra couple of bucks and buy the longer one.
He really brings his sound into the modern age with his selection of songs and partners. Ronnie Wood, Kid Rock, Slash, Eric Clapton, John Fogerty, Mick Jagger, Sheryl Crow, and a host of others all lend a hand here.
His voice may not have the suppleness of his youth, but he still more than gets by. He can still play his piano with skill and ferocity when needed.
“Rocking My Life Away” features some nice boogie woogie piano by the old master, plus guitar work by Slash and vocal assistance from Kid Rock. The best vocal fit is with Sheryl Crow on the old standard “You Are My Sunshine.” He combines with John Fogerty on his classic “Bad Moon Rising.”
He goes in a country direction on a number of tunes. “Whiskey River” with Willie Nelson and “Swinging Doors” with Merle Haggard return him to one of his comfort zones.
There are also some inspired choices. The old Roy Hamilton tune, “You Can Have Her,” features two of the great living guitarists, Eric Clapton and James Burton. The most eclectic choice was the somewhat obscure Rolling Stones song “Dead Flowers” but Mick Jagger’s presence gives it legitimacy. The most poignant combination is with Solomon Burke on “Railroad To Heaven.” Burke recently passed away and this is a final reminder of his talent and vocal skill.
The album comes to a fitting conclusion with just Lewis and his piano with a performance of “Miss the Mississippi And You.”
Mean Old Man proves that Jerry Lee Lewis is alive and still kicking in his mid-seventies. If this album is any indication, there is hope that his story will have more chapters in the future.