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Mean Old Man

Jerry Lee Lewis

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Album Review

Jerry Lee Lewis made his first Steve Bing-produced comeback in 2006 with Last Man Standing, an all-star duets album that packed a surprising punch. With Jim Keltner replacing Jimmy Ripp as co-producer, Bing leads the Killer through the same basic formula for 2010’s Mean Old Man, even retaining many of the same all-stars from before — Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Ron Wood, Merle Haggard, Robbie Robertson, Ringo Starr, John Fogerty, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Kid Rock all return, because who wouldn’t want them all to return for seconds? — but the vibe on this record is a little more subdued, with Keltner favoring a welcome muddy Sun murk over the crisp snap of Last Man Standing. So, there’s nothing that rampages like his take on Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” — although “Roll Over Beethoven,” with Ringo and John Mayer in tow, comes close — but the slower tempos suit the 74-year old Killer, letting him dig into the contours of the songs, and he gets into the nitty-gritty of the Stones’ “Dead Flowers” and “Sweet Virginia” (the latter cleaned up so Jerry Lee is cleaning the shine off his shoes), sounds invigorated to be singing gospel with Solomon Burke, and finds an ideal harmony partner in Gillian Welch, whose presence elevates “Please Release Me” and “I Really Don’t Want to Know.” On these last two, Jerry Lee Lewis doesn’t quite sound like the Mean Old Man of the title — old, yes, but sorrowful, not spiteful — but the record does find the Killer reviving his old snarl thanks to the title track, the Kid Rock and Slash-graced “Rockin’ My Life Away” and, best of all, a terrific reading of “You Can Have Her” featuring Eric Clapton and James Burton. With each track designed as a showcase for the featured guest, Mean Old Man winds up playing a little like a collection of moments, but it’s hard to complain when the moments prove that you can still be vigorous and vital at the age of 74. [An 18-track Deluxe Edition was also released.]

Biography

Born: 29 September 1935 in Ferriday, LA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Is there an early rock & roller who has a crazier reputation than the Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis? His exploits as a piano-thumping, egocentric wild man with an unquenchable thirst for living have become the fodder for numerous biographies, film documentaries, and a full-length Hollywood movie. Certainly few other artists came to the party with more ego and talent than he and lived to tell the tale. And certainly even fewer could successfully channel that energy into their music and prosper doing...
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Mean Old Man, Jerry Lee Lewis
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