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ACL Fest review: JD McPherson

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By John T. Davis

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 11, 2013

For a guy who used to make ends meet as a grade-school art teacher in Broken Arrow, OK, JD McPherson sure knows his way around a catchy guitar lick.

Though he has just one album to his credit, McPherson throws off the sparks of a seasoned professional, and his fusion of rockabilly, soul and R&B in his original songs manage to pay homage to their origins without sounding slavishly imitative.

Working the Zilker Tent like a rockabilly revivalist, McPherson and his crack band mixed up a cocktail of Link Wray-style guitar tremolo, Booker T. B-3 organ, hot sauce tenor sax and walking upright bass to power thorough songs like “Signs and Signifiers” (full of voodoo and portents with a guitar part borrowed from, of all people, Wu Tang Clan), the moody slow bop of “Country Boy,” a Jerry Lee/George Jones rave-up called “Fire Bug” and the insanely listenable Elvis-in-Memphis “North Side Gal”.

And just by the way of a whiplash-inducing contrast, he even threw in a Jamaican rocksteady gospel number. Just to keep things interesting, I guess. McPherson is no mere retro act, and his canny, sharp blend of roots music sounds modern and timeless, all at once.