You might know Booker T. Jones from his star turn fronting Booker T. & The MGs in the 1960s, or from his days backing and producing soul legends like Otis Redding and Bill Withers. But the 64-year-old Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Famer has called on friends old and new to help write a new, more rock-oriented chapter to the legend of Booker T. On Potato Hole, Jones teams up with frequent collaborator Neil Young, who plays lead guitar on nine of the 10 tracks, while Athens, Georgia, rockers Drive-By Truckers have been recruited to lay down a swampy groove for the all-instrumental set.
From the opening notes, it’s clear this is not your father’s Booker T. “Pound It Out” starts with a mix of thundering drums, crashing power chords and Booker T. on the Hammond B3, before Young bangs out a simple eight-bar riff that seems to focus and snap the mix into alignment. Jones’ Hammond often stands in for the vocals, carrying the melody and providing a narrative, even if it only exists in the mind of the listener. On “Reunion Time,” the organ plays off John Neff’s pedal-steel to create a sound that’s at once warm and wistful, while the title track is a dark honky-tonk rocker carried mostly by deft guitar work from Young and the DBTs’ Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley.
The set includes a cowbell-driven cover of OutKast’s megahit “Hey Ya,” as well as original takes on Tom Waits’ “Get Behind the Mule” and the Truckers’ own “Space City,” all of which fit nicely into a rock-soul mash-up that’s hard to describe but even harder to ignore.