JD McPherson and Charley Crockett prove that revivalism can still be fresh AF

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THIS LITTLE UNDERGROUND
JD McPherson and Charley Crockett, The Social, Dec. 11
JD McPherson at the Social - MIKE DUNN
  • Mike Dunn
  • JD McPherson at the Social
Of all the American roots neo-traditionalists, hotshot Okie JD McPherson is without a doubt one of this generation’s most distinctive. He’s retro, but he ain’t cute. There’s a big difference. Although he rocks the stuff your grandparents got down to, he does it with peerless flair and taste that’s as good as it is literate, drawing the seminal marrow of early rock & roll and its mighty rhythm & blues headwaters. It’s a perfectly calibrated balance between deep reverence and hot-blooded conquest.
JD McPherson at the Social - MIKE DUNN
  • Mike Dunn
  • JD McPherson at the Social
Though not the most prolific artist out there, McPherson’s been doing strong, distinguished work since splashing onto the scene in 2010 with the instant knockout of his debut Signs & Signifiers. But now freshly on the fitting New West Records with this year’s album Undivided Heart & Soul, he’s currently in his brawniest, most expansive phase yet, one that shares some of the same pedigree DNA with the Black Keys.
JD McPherson at the Social - MIKE DUNN
  • Mike Dunn
  • JD McPherson at the Social
McPherson’s Orlando debut was lit both onstage and off, with a crowd nearly fervent enough to match his own natural fire. Even though he could no doubt ignite it just on his own, he rolled deep with an airtight, high-functioning band, a quintet loaded up with stand-up bass, organ and sax to juice their traditional rock & roll setup with some jump-blues bona fides.
JD McPherson at the Social - MIKE DUNN
  • Mike Dunn
  • JD McPherson at the Social
JD McPherson at the Social - MIKE DUNN
  • Mike Dunn
  • JD McPherson at the Social
Live, his players were absolutely pro, practically flawless, achieving every ounce of the golden, lived-in warmth and patina that he captures so exactingly on record. But amid all that wingspan, the undisputed engine is McPherson. And testament to the sheer soul and horsepower he’s packing is how he’s able to throw all that heat with such little sweat.
JD McPherson at the Social - MIKE DUNN
  • Mike Dunn
  • JD McPherson at the Social
JD McPherson at the Social - MIKE DUNN
  • Mike Dunn
  • JD McPherson at the Social
JD McPherson at the Social - MIKE DUNN
  • Mike Dunn
  • JD McPherson at the Social
Classic but never quaint, McPherson’s vision is the kind of revivalism that looks to tap the original nerve and electricity of rock & roll and make it swing anew, not bathe in the golden afterglow of its memory. Though he’s always stayed closer to his roots than the Black Keys ever were to theirs, he may just be the most compelling heir apparent to their defining New American Roots crown. By getting less literal with his references and becoming increasingly expansive in his sound, JD McPherson is showing a horizon that’s deep, wide and really just unfolding.
JD McPherson at the Social - MIKE DUNN
  • Mike Dunn
  • JD McPherson at the Social
Charley Crockett and the Blue Drifters at the Social - MIKE DUNN
  • Mike Dunn
  • Charley Crockett and the Blue Drifters at the Social
Supporting act Charley Crockett is a new Texas artist who’s starting to perk radars and bears more than a little likeness to McPherson as a roots romancer who’s also retro-smart with considerable dash. Although Crockett’s particular recipe is different – a New Orleans-spiced bouillabaisse of blues and country that’s equally as comfortable in the juke joint as it is the honky-tonk – his angle is remarkably similar.
Charley Crockett and the Blue Drifters at the Social - MIKE DUNN
  • Mike Dunn
  • Charley Crockett and the Blue Drifters at the Social
Crockett’s a relative newcomer but he’s stepping out strong, coming live as a five-piece band with his Blue Drifters, who look the part with vintage Western wear and – most crucially – play the part with pure faith and rollicking stomp. Their stage show is made extra deluxe with a fifth member who handles keys, horns and squeezebox.
Charley Crockett and the Blue Drifters at the Social - MIKE DUNN
  • Mike Dunn
  • Charley Crockett and the Blue Drifters at the Social
Roll the clock back 50 or 60 years and probably the only thing that would change about this spectacle is that the dance floor would’ve been popping with couples swinging. Crockett’s band are a throwback but not a novelty. These guys do it with true belief and guts.
Charley Crockett and the Blue Drifters at the Social - MIKE DUNN
  • Mike Dunn
  • Charley Crockett and the Blue Drifters at the Social
Beyond all the getup and overt influences, however, Crockett packs some brilliant young soul that’s timeless and could translate well even on into modern pop with scary ease. Not that anyone should ever suggest he go all Maroon 5 or some shit like that, but he’s got a shine that’s beyond any particular style or trappings.

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This Little Underground is Orlando Weekly's music column providing perspective, live reviews and news on the city's music scene.

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