Thursday, May 30 2024

Jefferson McDonald is a living, breathing, reincarnation of Jerry Lee Lewis, a showman of boundless energy, a musician of infinite talents and apparently, by all accounts, a pretty good actor. OK, that may seem hyperbolic, but it comes with some qualification. Firstly, Jefferson starred as Jerry Lee Lewis in, ‘Million Dollar Quartet’, and his portrayal of rock and rolls first wildman earned him plaudits across the board. Seriously, YouTube it, watch it and then cross reference with early Jerry Lee Lewis footage; it’s staggeringly brilliant. 

Secondly, just listen to his extensive and wide-ranging back catalogue; his energy flows seamlessly through the keyboard and into the speakers, like liquid lightning. It’s rock and roll from way back when.  But not just rock and roll. It’s rockabilly. It’s bluegrass. It’s country. It’s psychedelic rock touching upon The Doors. Check out ‘Bang Bang (Shoot My Baby Down)’ – nice Nancy Sinatra nod – and the Fender Rhodes is receiving some Manzarek-esque abuse. 

Enough background, let’s tackle the main event; the new track, ‘Another Damn Train Song’. A galloping, rip-roaring, rock and roll / rockabilly / country / skiffle classic that rollicks along like a steel hog along the pacific railroad. The song’s backbone is a rockabilly shuffle / train beat companioned by a skiffle / stand-up bass hitting the roots. They’re both razor sharp, locked in, and allow Jefferson freedom of expression to weave his narrative around Jason Borisoff’s incredible guitar playing. Which there is much of; fingerpicking, finger-licking, Merle Travis infused lead, as well some very solid rhythm playing. I’m sold. This is good. It’s also fun, in a self-deprecating way.

In fact, it would be remiss of me not to mention Jason’s weighty contribution. Not only did he play every damn instrument on the track, other than piano, he also mixed and mastered it. And, the mix is perfection. Granted, he’s not wrestling with super-distorted guitars here, but have you ever tried getting a clean, balanced sound from a stand-up bass, piano and kit, with minimal overspill? It’s like herding cats. 

On first listen, ‘Another Damn Train Song’, immediately took me to ‘Live at Folsom Prison’, there is an inherently live feel to the song. An energy all of its own; that briskly resonates through its compact 2 minutes and 45 seconds. Paradoxically, both tightly constructed with a loose jam feel. It’s a song that requires repeat after repeat to fully appreciate every nuance, whether ‘glissy’ piano, velvety vocal trill or playful guitar lick. It’s simple and effective. Just like the songs of yore; almost timeless. 

Vocally, there’s more than a hint of Johnny Cash in Jefferson’s dulcet bass tones. It’s a voice made for storytelling and one that doesn’t immediately correspond with Jefferson’s physical appearance. I mean, I’ve not been that surprised since I first saw Rick Astley and Puddles the Clown. But that has absolutely no bearing on anything other than highlighting that I’m prone to tangential thought processes. 

If you love Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis, and if you don’t, then you’re dead to me anyway, you’ll love this. It’s catchy, funny and beautifully played. Jefferson McDonald has delivered a new rock and roll masterclass.

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Jefferson McDonald has delivered a timeless and fun Bluegrass / Country Classic. If you love Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis, you’ll love this!
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About Author

Gareth Johnston

Gareth Johnston is a Lancashire based musician and producer who studied music at MMU. He is a former reviewer for 'Glitzine' and when not writing for 'The Indie Grid' can be found restoring old furniture whilst listening to obscure alt-rock. He has too many favourite bands to pick one and insists it's easier to pick a favourite child.

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