When it comes to Hammond B3 players, there is Booker T. and then everybody else. After erupting onto the music scene in the 1960s as leader of Booker T. & The MGs, establishing himself as a producer extraordinaire (he was behind the boards for Willie Nelson’s Stardust and records by Neil Young, Levon Helm, and Bill Withers, among others), and gaining admittance to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, Booker T. has returned with Potato Hole, his first solo record in two decades.
And what a return it is. Backed by the Drive-by Truckers and Neil Young, Booker T. and his Hammond B3 explode on Potato Hole, a collection of seven original tunes and three covers. The album opener, “Pound It Out,” serves notice that this record isn’t going to be a nostalgic soul trip – this is straight up rock and roll, served with a healthy dose of gritty Neil Young guitar and Truckers’ swagger. “Native New Yorker” positively grinds with monster reverb, the cover of Tom Waits’ “Get Behind The Mule” is a funky shuffle, the title track, at nearly seven minutes long, is an old school Booker T. groovefest, and long time Drive-by Trucker fans will delight in the new interpretation of “Space City.”
Perhaps the most entertaining track on the record is the cover of Outkast’s “Hey Ya,” where Booker T.’s organ mimics Andre 3000’s vocals on the original. Showing he is most certainly not out of touch with contemporary music, this particular choice of covers will undoubtedly turn younger music fans on to the contributions Booker T. has made to American music over the last 40-plus years. Explore they should, as Booker T. is an institution in American music whose cross-genre contributions are nearly unrivaled.
Potato Hole is out now on Anti- Records.