Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Bargain Bin Review #4: JD McPherson - "Signs and Signifiers"

This one seems to be an odd album to be in a bargain bin, as it doesn't feel like it's been available for all that long. However, when you consider it was recorded and first issued independently in 2010, and reissued by Universal Music in 2012, then yeah, it has been a while.

I don't imagine an album with such an authentic retro sound would have found much of an audience in 2012. It is a faithful reproduction of the kind of sound that was created in small studios in places like Chicago and Memphis for labels like Sun and Chess during the 1950s. Heavy on the rockabilly feel, recorded on analog reel-to-reel tape with roof suspended microphones, with double bass and analog tremolo effects on the guitars, this album sounds simultaneously out of step with modern music and yet so fresh.

Former Art student JD McPherson has created a record that is so enticingly great that it is irresistible. The problem is that this album was so off the radar that it wouldn't have scored much radio play. But since when is that important when the music is this good?

"Signs and Signifiers" possesses a sound that would make Brian Setzer and the Stray Cats green with envy. JD McPherson nails the retro feel of the songs perfectly while the Stray Cats are still looking for the hammer. The title track sounds like a lost Bo Diddley number, while the lead single "North Side Gal" has a sound that is reminiscent of the sides Ike Turner made for Sun in the early 1950s (under the moniker of Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats).

A rare album is this that is recorded all analog and yet sounds warm and inviting in the digital sharpness of compact disc. It deserved to find a wider audience, considering that this is music for people who think that "they don't make music like they used to".

Take a listen for yourself below. Enjoy.

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