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First impression: New Jerry Lee Lewis single 'Mean Old Man'

Jerrylee350 It must be great, as a 73-year-old founding father of rock ’n’ roll and the celebrated “last man standing” of the stable of towering talents discovered and signed by Sun Records visionary producer Sam Phillips, to be able to snap your fingers and get new material written especially for you by the likes of Kris Kristofferson.

But that’s just what Jerry Lee Lewis has in “Mean Old Man,” the first single and title track from his forthcoming album, billed by his label, Shangri-La Music, as “his first country record since the ’70s."

That’s a tad misleading—his 2006 album for Shangri-La, "Last Man Standing," had plenty of country spirit in it, because rock as originally mapped out by Lewis, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and other Sun artists was equal parts country and rhythm and blues, primal influences those artists never fully abandoned even in their hardest-rocking recordings.

Kristofferson provides him with a song that celebrates the yin and yang of what it is to be the Killer, proclaiming himself to look like a mean old man, a good old friend, a voodoo doll and, finally, hilariously, “your uncle Bob.”

The single, which just went up on iTunes, Amazon.com, Rhapsody and most of the usual places, opens with the down-home twang of a tremolo-laden electric guitar over a midtempo martial drum beat. Conspicuous in its absence is any hint of the signature pumping piano work by the famous Fireball.

In recent years he’s appeared increasingly frail, but vocally he sounds very much himself and very much in possession of the telltale quaver in his voice and a take-no-prisoners, make-no-excuses authority over the material at hand.

“If I look like a voodoo doll/Who’d take his lickin’ standing tall/Who’d rather bite you back than crawl/That’s what I am,” he snarls. The ferocity he often tapped in his prime may be a thing of the past, judging from a certain thinness in his vocals, but the deliciously cocky attitude still evident here probably will be with him till the day he dies, and even then, it may not follow him down without a fight.

-- Randy Lewis

Photo of Lewis performing in Spain last month by J.J. Guillen / EPA

 
Comments () | Archives (7)

You got to give it to Jerry lee Lewis in his 60th year as a public performer, 74th year of life he manages to come out with a new single that sounds like a new direction! Yes looking for new markets, new fans this track is a bit controversial amongst Lewis fans. Jerry Lee controversial, you surprise me, ha.
Mean old man fits his public persona and it sounds like he enjoys the concept! The track cracks along a nice pace and has a nice 'tap foot' melody. To me the fact there is no piano fits in with this direction. So now we wait for the complete album to be released. I am sure there will be piano on that!

this reviewer needs to check his facts. Kristofferson's song "Mean Old Man" was written a long time ago...and JLL is 74...ALMOST 75 (at the end of September)...

I have a tape of Kristofferson and Carl Perkins doing Mean Old Man years ago so why are they saying he wrote it personally for Jerry Lee which I really don't care about because I am happy to be getting a chance to buy a new album of his.

Jerry Lee just turned 74 today and another post with Micki said that this song was written personally for Jerry Lee but I have it on a tape by Kris and Carl Perkins years ago.

I think the killer is right on the money with his new record!!I just love to hear the different studio sounds, ie Sun, Smash, Electra, his material and treatment of it is always great!!Being an Aussie, I constantly hear wild stories of jerry and friends on tour down-under and just think he's the greatest!!

"It must be great, as a 73-year-old founding father of rock ’n’ roll and the celebrated “last man standing” of the stable of towering talents discovered and signed by Sun Records visionary producer Sam Phillips, to be able to snap your fingers and get new material written especially for you by the likes of Kris Kristofferson." You're kidding right? Kris recorded "Mean Old Man" himself in 1986 on his Repossessed album. Do your homework.

The Killer still Rocks today. I hope he's playing at 100.


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