Jimmy Pritchard – Meet Me in Memphis
11 songs – 47 minutes
Veteran bass player Jimmy Pritchard spent the past three years holding down the bottom for blues-rock heavyweight Albert Castiglia, but steps out of the shadows as a front man for the first time in a decade to deliver this rock-solid collection of pyrotechnic-free, straight-ahead blues.
Now based back in New Castle, Del., where his career began in 1980 in support of heavy metal guitarist Vinnie Moore, a longtime member of the band UFO, Pritchard turned to the blues at the tail end of the decade and hasn’t looked back, building an impressive resume in the process.
In the ‘90s, he toured the world with West Coast lap steel legend Sonny Rhodes, Philadelphia-based Georgie Bonds & the Blueskeepers and Lonnie Shields, the Arkansas-based bluesman who cut his teeth with the famed Jelly Roll Kings. In the 2000, he hit the road with Big Jack Johnson, harmonica player Mikey Junior and others.
This is Pritchard’s third self-produced album, following Shoppin’ for the Blues in 2004 and Goin’ Down 9 in 2010. His Jimmy Pritchard Band represented the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation in 2014 and were semi-finalists in the International Blues Challenge. He recently relocated north after calling Florida home after hooking up with Castiglia in 2016.
Despite the title, Meet Me in Memphis was recorded at Man of War Studios in West Palm Beach, not the Bluff City. The all-star lineup includes guitarist J.P. Soars and his longtime percussionist, Chris Peet throughout, as well as guest appearances from all three original members of the Paul DesLauriers Band – Paul on guitar with Greg Morency on bass and Sam Harrisson on drums, Castiglia, harp players Rockin’ Jake, Mikey Junior and Albert “Big Daddy” Lambertson, former Allman Brothers keyboard player Johnny Neel and Rachelle Coba on vocals.
A simple, heavy guitar riff opens “Too Hard to Love Her” before Pritchard delivers the first of eight originals and three covers, laying down an unhurried beat that carries forward steadily throughout the disc. This one describes a woman who won’t make breakfast, drinks all his booze and complains all the time.
A deep baritone with a smoky delivery and limited range, which doesn’t detract from the presentation, Jimmy picks up the pace slightly for the medium-paced shuffle, “Beds Too Big,” which finds him crying all night long after his lady’s left home. The title cut, “Meet Me in Memphis,” features choral duets with Coba and Neel on keys as recounts great nights on Beale Street.
A cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Commit a Crime” shines with Pritchard powering through the lyrics atop stellar fretwork and additional vocals from J.P. before Albert and the DesLauriers rhythm section join the action for the original, “Daddy’s Comin’ Home,” a pleasant acoustic ballad with Delta feel that asks a child to make up the singer’s bed and his lady to start cooking his stew and change into her fancy underwear.
Soars’ jazzy original instrumental, “Whammy Shuffle,” shifts the sound back to full-on electric and swings from the jump before Pritchard dips into the catalog of Louisiana legend Boozoo Chavis and takes listeners to the bayou for the final cover in the set, the familiar “Uncle Bud.”
The sound shifts toward New Orleans for the medium-fast, organ-driven shuffle, “Gimme What You Got,” a sexually charged rocker with a request for lovin’ concealed ever-so-slightly in the words, while the down-home feel returns with the acoustic pleaser “Eatin’ Fish Tonite.” Next up, “Big Daddy” is an intense, driving shuffle that features the subject, Lambertson on harp, throughout aided by a ripping six-string solo from DesLauriers. The action closes with “Jive in My House,” a countrified, ‘50s-style rocker that sings out against folks talking trash when they drop by.
If you’re familiar with Jimmy Pritchard’s heavy duty work in support of Castiglia, this album probably will come as a complete shocker. It’s a surprising treasure that sticks close to the traditional blues root throughout. Pick it up via a direct purchase from the artist’s website (address above).