Booker T. Jones returns with attitude

Tue Apr 14, 2009 2:03pm EDT
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By Robert Levine

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Two years ago, Booker T. Jones went to the South by Southwest music conference and ended up performing with his old band and connecting with a new one.

After playing a showcase with the MG's -- the Stax Records house band that backed Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and others and became famous for instrumentals like "Green Onions" -- Jones met a member of the group that would back him on his first solo album in almost two decades.

The band he found is one that few would associate with soul music: Southern country-rock outfit the Drive-By Truckers.

"I knew I wanted that attitude before I found the band," Jones, 64, said over a glass of red wine at a bar in Manhattan's East Village. "This album has a lot to do with attitude. The MG's were never an in-your-face band -- the MG's is a groove band. But this is in your face, this raw, gritty sound that's too loud."

"This" is "Potato Hole," Jones' new album, which Anti- will release April 21. It's every bit as raw as Jones says, thanks to layers of guitar from the Truckers and Neil Young, who plays on nine tracks. The title track has five guitarists -- three Truckers, Young and Jones, who writes on guitar even though he's famous for playing organ.

Like classic Booker T. & the MG's albums, "Potato Hole" consists entirely of instrumentals. And like those classics, "Potato Hole" includes instrumental covers of pop songs -- Tom Waits' "Get Behind the Mule" and a down-home take on OutKast's "Hey Ya!"


Jones hasn't released an album since "That's the Way It Should Be," his 1994 reunion with the MG's. But he never stopped performing -- as a backup musician for singers like Young, as a solo artist with his own group and as a member of the MG's, who have served as the house band for high-profile gigs like Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions. And he never stopped writing, at least "not mentally."   Continued...