J.D. McPherson "Let the Good Times Roll"

McPherson's superb sophomore album builds on his unique brand of rock & roll.


J.D. McPherson’s 2010 debut album Signs and Signifiers wore its 1950s-era rock and blues influences on its sleeve but displayed enough originality to keep it from sounding redundant. Five years on his second album builds off that base but expands beyond it, pulling in psychedelic elements, punk, and old-time rebel country. The songs burst with controlled energy – nothing sloppy here – and a maturing singer and songwriter.

McPherson opens with the title track which picks up where his debut left off. It’s a soft landing for loyal fans, but from there he opens the reins. The second track “Bossy” exhibits arrangements that are subtle yet more complex; the production is raw and immediate. McPherson and co-producer Mark Neill create lots of surprises without distracting from the music’s roots – rock and roll. “It’s All Over But the Shouting” is plumped out with strutting bass sax and staccato piano. McPherson co-wrote “Bridgebuilder” with Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach. It’s twangy bass guitar, dripping piano chords, and stand-up bass are lovely companions for McPherson’s tender vocals. It’s a back-of-the-car make-our ballad.

Speaking of moving vehicles, here’s fair warning to you. If you’re going to drive while listening to this album I suggest you use cruise control to maintain your speed. Otherwise your foot’s likely to pump away at the break during propulsive numbers like “It Shook Me Up,” a rocking song with a terrific Duane Eddy-esque guitar line.

“Head Over Heels” sounds like a revved up Black Keys track. “You Must Have Met Little Caroline?” is another song that features plinking piano and heavy guitar riffs.

It’s stunning to hear how much McPherson and his band have grown since that first album. Every aspect of the music, while not being hugely different, has developed. There is a confidence in the music that allows the quintet to expand and play with what they do best.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)