Music Reviews
Red Hot: A Memphis Celebration of Sun Records

Red Hot: A Memphis Celebration of Sun Records

Americana Music Society Records

Whenever the history of rock ‘n’ roll music is debated, Memphis is sure to loom large. This, to a large extent is due to one man – Sam Phillips. With his Sun Studio and Sam Phillips Recording, he gave the world Elvis, Howlin’ Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and dozens more. He recorded the blues, rockabilly, gospel, pop and early rock, and the reverberations are still echoing today, and thanks to Tamara Saviano (author of Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark), and Memphis hotshot guitarist Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars), another tribute to his genius awaits us.

These 10 selections range from a sultry Valerie June on “Sure to Fall (In Love With You)” which was recorded by Carl Perkins in 1955 to Shawn Camp’s take on the Charlie Rich hit “Lonely Weekends”. Featuring a house band of Luther Dickinson, guitar, Cody Dickinson, drums, John Paul Keith on guitar with Amy LaVere, bass and Rick Steff (Lucero) on keys, you get a great look at Phillips contributions to popular music.

Starting off with John Paul Keith on “Red Cadillac and a Black Mustache” – a rockabilly standard first recorded by Warren Smith on Sun in 1957 and recorded since by everyone from Bob Dylan to Brian Setzer – and continuing with Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers) with Jerry Lee Lewis’ “High School Confidential”, this collection is no hide-bound tribute. No, these folks have Memphis in their blood, and it shows. Take Alvin Youngblood Hart’s down and dirty take on Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” which sounds even more anguished than the original or the great Howlin’ Wolf song, “Moanin’ at Midnight” which is transformed into a holler by Luther Dickinson and Lightnin’ Malcolm.

Red Hot pays tribute to one of the most influential figures in rock history, Sam Phillips, and one listen to the ten cuts shows that whatever Phillips cooked up in Memphis all those years ago still holds sway today.

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