Jason D. Williams

Hillbillies and Holy Rollers – 2014 (Rockabilly)

Reviewed by Andy Turner

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CDs by Jason D. Williams

In the liner notes to his latest release, Jason D. Williams, with good-natured swagger, refers to rock-n-roll in terms of "spirit" and "soul" and the fact that he's got a lot of it, but he's worried kids today wouldn't know it if it jumped out of their Xbox and bit them in the behind. It should be noted, however, that as the son of Jerry Lee Lewis, Williams was born with a leg up (and ready to kick over a piano stool) when spirit and soul were handed out. But there's no doubt that on "Hillbillies and Holy Rollers," Williams shows he knows what to do with what he has, whether inherited or invented.

There are only two originals on this Dale Watson-produced, Sun Records-recorded affair, and they lead off the album: the instantly catchy, Jerry Lee-and-"Amazing Grace"-referencing title track, followed by a nifty call-and-response, piano-buster in which band members ask, "What is it?" and are told by Williams, "This is Rock & Roll," but he could have also said, "A cool song that shows you can put rock & roll in the title in 2014 and it still be fun and not too corny."

The remainder of the album takes on assorted standards and country classics, and Williams and company (he's more than ably backed by members of Hillbilly Casino as well as Sarah Gayle Meech and Sleepy LaBeef), go after the songs with a lot of that before-mentioned spirit and soul and are largely successful. You might think, for example, that you don't need to hear another version of "Folsom Prison Blues," but Williams truly puts his own Killer-approved stamp on it. Joe Ely's "Fingernails" gets a fully funky workout, and Williams stretches out in fine style on "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "House of Blue Lights." Throughout, Williams takes the familiar, makes it listen to "Live at the Star Club" and does everything he can to preach the power of rock-n-roll to video game zombies and anyone else who cares to listen.