Until a few months ago, I’m pretty sure I’d never heard the name Eddie Hinton. Now, I don’t know much more. But what I do know is, a Drive-By Truckers song that I’ve liked for a long time, Where’s Eddie, is really cool. I also recently found out that a few tracks on the Truckers Go-Go Boots album, including Where’s Eddie, are Hinton covers. So while I may not know much about Eddie Hinton, I know the Drive-By Truckers rate him pretty highly, and I can’t think of as much better recommendation. So here I am, diving into Letters From Mississippi.
The opening, title track lets me know that Hinton is one of those vocalists who makes up for any short comings in his vocal range with pure feeling. When his voice brakes, it doesn’t detract from the song. In fact, it makes it all the more affecting. It also lets me know that Eddie Hinton dealt in a pretty dirty, southern rock kind of sound. This is some Credence Clearwater / Lynard Skynard type stuff, and it’s a more than promising start to the album.
But straight away, Hinton lets me know it’s not all about the shit kicking southern rock. Everybody Needs Love betrays his Muscle Shoals origins with its soul roots. Complete with a spoken word story verse, Everybody Needs Love is a white dude sounding cooler than any white dude ever has any right to sound. Then it’s time for some boot scootin’ country rock with Uncloudy Days. It’s simple, to the point and kind of cool, even when it borders on corny.
On I Believe In Our Love, things get a little more slick, and that’s not really a good thing. Sure, if I had heard this song first, I’d probably like it a lot more. But coming after the raw, gritty realness of songs like I Will Always Love You, the extra polish takes some of that raw and gritty reality away. It’s also just kind of rambling and boring. Aimlessly shuffling nowhere for over four minutes.
Thankfully, the lull doesn’t last long, and Hinton is back, with Letters From Mississippi firing on all cylinders again with Ting-a-Ling-Ling and It’s All Right. They sound like a band all playing together, warts and all. Not individual tracks produced to perfection, then meticulously put together.
Complete with its dancing horn section, My Searching is Over sounds like it comes straight off The Blues Brothers soundtrack. I’m not sure if I mean that as a compliment or criticism. On the one hand, I love that movie and pretty much every song in it. On the other, I’m totally aware of the fact that it’s the ultimate clueless white guy idea of rhythm, blues and soul music.
This kind of soul and R and B is right up there with the genres of music I have the least amount of experience with. Its peak years happened long before I was born and it’s a genre I’ve never really had any interest in. I never actively avoided it, I just never sought it out either. Hearing Eddie Hinton on Letters From Mississippi is the perfect kind of entry level stuff to make me want to hear more and dig deeper.