LIVE: JD McPherson @ the Hangar on the Hudson, 9/24/16

Review by Greg Haymes

A thumpin’ doghouse bass. A honkin’ saxophone. A honky tonk piano. Rumblin’ drums. And a hot-wired guitar…

There was nothing fancy about the sound that Oklahoma rocker J.D. McPherson and his band were churning out at the Hangar on the Hudson on the first night of last weekend’s two-night stand. It was a throwback to an older era, a time before rock & roll was reduced to mere rock.

Call it “retro” if you must, but their music sounded undeniably fresh and vibrant, and the jam-packed, sold-out audience of fans kept the dance-floor hopping throughout the band’s hour-and-a-half sweat-inducing performance.

Fueled by the primal big beat of drummer Jason Smay and bassist Jimmy Sutton that swung just as hard as it rocked, the sound was an electrifying blend of Chuck Berry, Louis Jordan and Hank Williams. McPherson & Co. conjured up the rollicking sounds of early R&B, but they’re no revivalists. They didn’t attempt to slavishly recreate the music of the past, but rather drag that music into the 21st century and infuse it with contemporary elements and energy.

From the pulsating, reverb-drenched hum of the opening “Bossy” to the sax-ravished final encore of “Scandalous,” guitarist-vocalist McPherson leaned into his microphone as though he was trying to get as close to the crowd as possible. Soon he was literally bouncing around the stage while his bandmates churned up nuggets like “I Can’t Complain,” “North Side Gal” and the red-hot “Fire Bug.”

Throughout the evening, Doug Corcoran divided his time between guitar and tenor sax, as the band rolled through a vital array of jump blues, rockabilly and the intersection of rock ‘n’ roll and R&B. “Mother of Lies” was a big, bad boogie, while McPherson warned, “Alright, let’s get weird,” as the band launched into the dark, dissonant rumble of “You Must Have Met Little Caroline.”

A shimmering cover of Nick Lowe’s “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day” led into the ba]lad “Bridgebuilder,” punctuated with loud, abrasive instrumental sections. The revved-up soul-clapping of “Head Over Heels” resonated with echoes of the vintage Tex-Mex of the Sir Douglas Quintet.

Keyboardist Ray Jacildo kicked off their 20-minute brace of encores with a finger-snappin’ instrumental romp through Georgie Fame’s “Yeh Yeh,” and the band stretched the furthest outside their roots-rock bag with a firey romp through the Ska Kings’ Jamaican gem, “Keep It Burning.”

I Wish You Would (Billy Boy Arnold)
Crazy Horse
I Can’t Complain
Fire Bug
Abigail Blue
It Shook Me Up
North Side Gal
You Must Have Met Little Caroline
Mother of Lies
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day (Nick Lowe)
Head Over Heels
Let the Good Times Roll
I Got Loaded (Los Lobos)
Yeh Yeh (Georgie Fame)
Steal Away (Jimmy Hughes)
Country Boy
Keep It Burnin’ (the Ska Kings)

LIVE: J.D. McPherson @ The Hangar, 8/31/15
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LIVE: J.D. McPherson @ the Ale House, 7/24/13

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