Jerry Lee Lewis, Sun Recordings, vol. 2

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Even after he hit with "Whole Lotta Shakin 'Goin 'On," Jerry Lee continued to record every kind of material imaginable. Doubtless he did so as a way to represent different sides of himself, which he couldn't do through writing (his take on Johnny Cash's "Rock and Roll Ruby" is downright leering while Carl Perkins '"Turn Around" induces one of his most vulnerable vocals). He probably also felt that the song didn't matter — if Jerry Lee cut it then it sounded good. And maybe he just had so much energy to burn that he was always going into the studio to keep himself occupied.

Here, in music from sessions circa 1956-1957, the Killer dips back into the songbooks of Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams, two of the three singers he considered peers (the third was Al Jolson). But he also delves further into rock & roll and rhythm & blues, including one of his most manic piano solos ever — on Ray Charles '"Mean Woman Blues."

Many of these tunes were done first by other Sun artists, and while to some extent it's a matter of personal taste, his rollicking take on "Drinkin 'Wine Spo-dee-o-dee," complete with a stinging Roland Janes guitar solo, seems much more in the spirit of Sticks McGee's R&B original than Malcolm Yelvington's country swing version. The gospel rave-ups are just gravy — or insurance.