I can’t name a single Booker T song off the top of my head, but I know that his organ playing is legendary. I also know that he’s a bit of a funk founding father. Well, at least I think I know these things about him. Because thinking about it, I can’t remember a single reason why I ‘know’ these things at all. But I think that’s kind of proof of his legend. His name and his area of expertise have entered my brain in a totally subconscious way. Now, I’m trying to make it conscious, buy listening to Potato Hole.
Sure, I could have gone back to one of his hallowed classic albums from decades past, but why would I do that when he has an album from six years ago, on which the mighty Drive-By Truckers played the part of his backing bad? And their contribution is immediately right out there, for everyone to hear with the crunching guitars of Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood. But as big as they are, that doesn’t stop Booker T’s organ from taking front and centre on Pound It Out.
The raucous rock of the Truckers and fellow backing band member Neil Young are all but completely abandoned on She Breaks. This is pure Hammond organ greatness in all its glory. Even when the guitars solo, Booker T’s organ on backups is the standout. An instrumental cover of the Outkast classic, Hey Ya manages to keep the fun of the original without the awesome Andre Benjamin vocals or lyrics. That’s the sign of a good musician, right there.
It’s hard to get into specifics about an album like this without saying the same thing over and over. Ultimately, it’s an instrumental album, built around a single, very specific instrument at its centre. So to say it sounds very similar from track to track isn’t totally inaccurate. But it’s also not meant as a bad thing either. That constant centre gives it a real unifying sound and consistency that I really like. It just means my reasons for liking it don’t differ all that much as I make my way through the track listing.
Can something sound extremely dated, yet timelessly cool at the same time? Yes, yes it can. And I have proof. Booker T and Potato Hole.