Album Reviews

John McNamara

Rollin’ With It

Artist:     John McNamara

Album:     Rollin’ With It

Label:     Bahool

Release Date:     05-20-2017

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Australian blues and soul musician John McNamara decided to record an album in the land where it all began, Memphis, Tennessee. Together with a backing band that includes several STAX veterans, McNamara performs a set that’s steeped in the sounds of classic Memphis soul. He may hail from the land down under, but McNamara knows what makes this uniquely American style of music special. Even when he’s pushing his voice and guitar to the limit, McNamara never overshadows the rest of the band. Rollin’ With It is clearly the work of a well-honed ensemble.

Tracks like “Bad Reputation” and” Wild Out There” are an energetic mix of blues and classic soul. McNamara’s piercing guitar licks add a touch of attitude while the horns’ stabs and crescendos flesh out the sound. “Ask Me Nothing” is a stately ballad in the great Memphis tradition. The grit and passion in McNamara’s voice never sounds forced, and his clean, biting guitar leads on this track recall the legendary Albert King. The horn arrangements channel the spirit of the late great STAX horn men Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love. A raw and honest take on Otis Redding’s “Security” is another ballad which showcases McNamara’s vocal chops. McNamara wisely avoids trying to imitate Redding – instead, he incorporates Redding’s dynamics and unrestrained emotion into his own performance.

McNamara isn’t trying to fill the shoes of Memphis’ soul legends – he’s happy just keeping them shined. For all its deep roots, Rollin’ With It never feels like a museum piece. McNamara’s music is a powerful reminder that Memphis soul is still a living, breathing musical genre..

—Jon Kleinman

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