I recently found myself walking the halls of the historic RCA Studio B in Nashville, which was like a second home to Elvis Presley and the catalyst to over 200 of his hall of fame song catalog. As I stood to bask in the glory of the legendary recording studio, I found myself wondering if anybody still recorded there. If the answer was yes, I shook my head at the enormous intimidation one would feel from the artist who had set the bar before them. It was then that this updated rockabilly sound came barreling in from the loudspeakers down the hall. It was an unmistakable song from JD McPherson’s new album, Undivided Heart and Soul from New West Records and it confirmed that yes, people are still making magic there.
The album feels like a fresh take on American rockabilly. Still harken to the past, but carries a new sonic mood with it. The album is a bit more Rock ’n Roll than his previous efforts, but he still keeps it true to his roots. The standout track “Lucky Penny” really hits hard with a lo-fi blues-weary guitar riff that rides alongside Mcpherson's sincere, anguished vocals. The track really drives home a killer sound akin to an earlier The Black Keys style of work but delivered in a way that's unique to McPherson.
Undivided Heart and Soul’s new sound could be a reflection of whom JD McPherson worked with. Queen’s of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme helped McPherson with the writing and Butch Walker helped out on the beautiful song “Crying’s Just a Thing That You Do”. The songwriting on this record is the start of a new era for McPherson, leaving behind fictional characters and traditional sounds for more intimate stories and louder, more high energy vibes that even gives his live shows a bit more of an edge. It's that balance that artist who exploring new sounds and incorporating new production techniques try to find. And McPherson boldly took on a sound intended to get people moving on their feet without losing the heart and soul behind his earnest storytelling songwriting. Undivided Heart and Soul is a triumph for American music and a step in the right direction.