Jerry Lee Lewis, Sun Recordings, vol. 1

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

If only Jerry Lee could have made "Lewis Boogie" — one of the few songs he ever wrote — his very first recording, rather than "Crazy Arms." Then we would have had a real statement of intent. Still, these songs, recorded in 1956 (and possibly early '57) at his first three sessions ever, reflect the early Killer quite accurately — he already had a style, but was searching for something rockin 'and original to wrap it around.

R&B hits "Honey Hush" (despite his hilarious extemporized ending) and "Sixty Minute Man" had already been done quite well by Joe Turner and Billy Ward and the Dominoes, respectively. Jerry applies his boogie piano most often to traditional material (a party-down "Crawdad Song") and country standards like Ted Daffan's "Born to Lose" (which becomes a sort-of shuffle) and Hank Williams '"I Can't Help It" (one of Jerry Lee's best vocal performances on the country updates — Hank Williams material always brought out the best in him). He's also prescient enough to cut Billy Mize's then-new "Who Will Buy the Wine," now another standard. He applies his audacious falsetto to "You're the Only Star in My Blue Heaven," and that makes it stand out over every other version.

For a real treat, check out Lewis 'solo (voice and piano) version of the old standard "That Lucky Old Sun" — it's simply drenched in blues heartache. From the beginning, as these sides make so vividly clear, Jerry Lee sought deliverance — his way.