Killer Country

Jerry Lee Lewis

Mercury Nashville, 1995

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Jerry Lee Lewis is best remembered as the frenetic rocker who recorded for the Sun label during the latter half of the 1950s. Hits such as “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On,” “Breathless,” and “Great Balls Of Fire” not only climbed to the upper reaches of the American singles charts but helped to provide the foundation for rock ‘n’ roll itself.

His career came to a screeching halt in 1958 when he married his thirteen-year-old cousin. He was blacklisted by radio stations acrosst the United States, and his concert opportunities dried up as well. While he continued to record, he practically vanished from the music scene. It was not until he returned as a country artist during 1968 that he made a personal and commercial comeback.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Killer Country gathers the best of his country material (1968-1977) recorded for the Mercury label and its subsidiary Smash. He issued four number one country hits and five more that reached number two.

Many of his big country hits are sung with passion and sincerity, and his voice took on a new maturity over the years. Songs such as “Another Time, Another Place,” “What Made Milwaukee Famous,” “She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye,” and “Who’s Gonna Play This Old Piano” represent the best of late ‘60s and ‘70s country music.

His take on the Kris Kristofferson classic “Me And Bobby McGee” was brilliant. In a sense, he deconstructs the song and reinvents it with a honky tonk interpretation.

His early material was stark and basic country with the emphasis upon storytelling ballads. During the early ‘70s, he began to fill out the sound with strings and backing choruses. “He Can’t Fill My Shoes” and “Middle Age Crazy” are representative of this change, which also reflected the evolution of American country music at the time.

He last track for the Mercury label was “Pee Wee’s Place,” which brought to mind the smoky juke joints he had been performing in for the past fifteen years. The line “If the barbecue don’t get you, the music will” was a fitting conclusion to the most prolific period of his country career.

Killer Country finds a far different Jerry Lee Lewis from his rock ‘n’ roll days. Not many artists would have had the talent or resolve to reinvent themselves as he did.

Today, Jerry Lee Lewis is the last man standing of the major artists who recorded for The Sun label during the ‘50s. Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash are all gone, but Jerry Lee plays on.

Rating: A-

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