Jimmy Hall – Ready Now
11 tracks – 49 minutes
Mobile, Alabama native Jimmy Hall started working with Capricorn Records which led to the formation of southern rock group Wet Willie in 1970. The group released nine albums before breaking up in 1979. Many hit songs came from the group including “Keep Smilin’ ” and “Dixie Rock”. The group briefly reformed in 2004 for one more album High Humidity.
After the breakup of Wet Willie, Jimmy moved to Nashville and started a solo career. He released his first solo album in 1980 with five more albums ending in 2007 prior to his latest. In 2008, he briefly joined the Brothers of The Southland , a group of southern rock performers that included American Idol winner Bo Bice on vocals.
Let’s establish that Jimmy Hall is a harmonica wizard. If you have never seen him in concert, he generally brings out a large case containing a huge array of harmonicas of all different sizes and types and over the course of the concert will demonstrate his absolute mastery of many of them. But Jimmy is also an excellent vocalist having been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocalist for his performance on Jeff Beck’s Flash album
Joe Bonamassa identified the fifteen-year gap in Jimmy’s solo recording career leading to this release on his KTBA blues label. Joe and Josh Smith co-produced the album with Joe playing lead guitar on most cuts with Josh also adding rhythm and taking the lead on a few cuts. The group is rounded out with Reese Wynans on keyboards, Michael Rhodes on bass, Greg Morrow on drums and percussion, and Jade MacRae providing background vocals.
“Jumpin’ For Joy” opens the album in rousing fashion and quickly proves the former Wet Willie leader has not lost any of his panache over the years as he delivers pure southern soul. He says “Wow oh! I feel alright”, a feeling you will quickly gain listening to the song and will not lose as you listen to the rest of this album.
Next up “Risin’ Up” offers some southern soul as Jimmy states “Only love can lead the way. Lead us to a brighter day” and his harmonica rings throughout the song. “Dream Release” offers a gospel touch with a dedication to Gregg Allman. “Girl’s Got Sugar” is an all-out rocker led by Josh Smith’s guitar as Jimmy notes how sweet she is but adding “She’s got a sweet left hook”. Warren Haynes guests on slide guitar as Jimmy cites that he is “Ready Now” “…to stare my demons down”.
“Holding On for Dear Love” is a paean to his wife noting “Love is a long, long road, when you’re starting out. Every step of the way, you may have doubts. But you and me honey, we’ve seen it all.” with Jade MacRae providing strong harmony vocals and Joe adding some tasty licks. “A Long Goodbye” is a slow, solemn lament about failing love. “Will You Still Be Here” is a question to his audience as he gets back on the road noting “Been away so long, hope the house is packed”, but it is also a question to his wife who has been by his side since 1979 asking “Honey, will you still be here when I get back?”. Jimmy’s harmonica provides a strong lead on this one.
“Without Your Love” continues his love story stating “I can’t live without your love” with Jared James Nichols adding guitar. A soulful cry on “Love for It” says “If it means enough to ask the good Lord for it, then you’ll find it in your heart to love for it” The album ends with Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr providing acoustic guitar on “Eyes in the Back of Your Head” as Jimmy provides the advice “Don’t you forget where you came from. There ain’t nothing like them good ol’ days”.
The album proves Jimmy Hall still has all of the power that he showed backed in the 1970’s and certainly provides a welcome addition to his significant recording career.