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August 2003

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Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers
True Stories

Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers - True Stories

When I reviewed Jimmy Thackery and the DriversWe Got It last year (Blues Bytes July 2002) I called it their best work to date. I am going to have to retract that statement because; with the release of True Stories (Telarc), it is completely false.

The latest from one of the hardest working quartets in the blues started out as a simple album of blues ditties, but evolved through both music’s natural progression and its players into a selection of tunes that both collectively and individually took on a life of their own, according to Thackery. Jimmy leaves no doubt that he has arrived as a songwriter, writing nine of the album’s 11 tracks, three of which were co written with his lovely wife Sally. All have an anchor in true events and life experiences. This is the first time Thackery has purposefully made an effort to do so through his writing, and the results are superlative.

The album’s opening gritty number, “Got it Going On,” finds the whole band kicking things out in high gear, with Thackery tearing things up with some blazing riffs and saxman Jimmy Carpenter blasting out a most impressive solo. The cool bop of “Bluesman on Saturday Night” may very well become the anthem for all blues musicians, with its tale of the working gentleman who lets it all hang out once Saturday night rolls around, and let it hang out he does with a few invigorating crisp solos.

The mellow “Baby’s Got The Blues” and “ I Think I Hear The Rain” are the album’s two most poignant numbers on which we hear a gentler dimension to Thackery’s playing, leaning more to the melodic side of things. Jimmy is joined on both numbers by the gorgeous voice of Reba Russell on background vocals for the third consecutive album (Oh, just put her in the band already; Jimmy, it’ll work perfectly!).

 “Snakes In My Mailbox” is a rarity because of its acoustic nature and is highlighted by some fine picking and slick lyrics along with a honky tonk flavoring. The first time I heard “Dancing With The Dawg,” it became an instant favorite, as it is one of those numbers that quietly sneaks into your senses and overwhelms you with its subdued but intricate guitar riffs and silky percussive rhythms. If anyone has ever been fed up with anything, then “Too Tired,” is sure to strike a nerve with its “enough already!” attitude, and it works hand in hand with the following track, “Being Alone.”

It wouldn’t be a Thackery and The Drivers album without a tune featuring the vocals of one of the hardest hitting drummers known to blueskind in the form of Mark Stutso, punching out his usual high energy, passionate vocals on “Putting Out Fires,” a slightly pessimistic story of a man looking for the blues when there are none to be found. It is nonetheless a catchy fun tune.

Two covers wrap up this tasty biscuit very nicely. Buddy Johnson’s jiving “Crazy ‘Bout A Saxophone” is a showcase for Jimmy Carpenter, who rises to the occasion splendidly, blowing the roof off (pun intended) with his soulful phrasings and the entire band falling into an intensely hot groove. The lone instrumental, “The Messiah Will Come,” closes things out as a tribute to friend Roy Buchanan (who we lost entirely too soon) and might be familiar to Buchanan fans as “The Messiah Will Come Again.” Thackery’s treatment of this number is beautifully stunning, as he wrings every emotion know to man from his guitar, along with bassist Ken Faltinson pulling double duty on the B3.

True Stories is a dazzlingly captivating album in both content and execution, as there is not one bad or “filler” tune to be had here in its close to an hour running time. I’ve had the pleasure of watching the evolution of Thackery and The Drivers since 1992’s Empty Arms Motel, and it seems that switching labels completely agrees with Thackery. His playing, which has always been fabulous, and his writing have taken on a more creative edge with each endeavor.

I won’t be quite so hasty this time and call this their best work to date, because I have a sneaking suspicion that I will only have to retract it again with the next release. One thing for sure is that True Stories is one great blues record.

--- Steve Hinrichsen

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