Jimmy Thackery
& the Drivers,
True Stories
(Telarc, 2003)

In this thoroughly likable record, Jimmy Thackery & the Drivers put forth a roadhouse sound, based in straight-ahead blues to which soul, R&B, rock 'n' roll and hints of country are dropped into the mix. This is electric roots music of the sort one would be thrilled to encounter in a honkytonk or juke joint off some rural southern highway. There is, as well, the acoustic country blues "Snakes in My Mailbox," which is a worthy addition to the small but honorable genre of snake blues ("Black Snake Moan," "Rattlesnake Daddy," "Crawling King Snake," "Fattening Frogs for Snakes"). Though it doesn't mention snakes, "Dancin' with the Dawg" has the sort of eerie, irresistible rhythm to which the adjective "snaky" is often attached.

Guitarist Thackery, a former member of the now-defunct Nighthawks and in recent years leader of his own small and splendid band, doesn't waste a note. He can play as many as he wants to, but being a gentleman, he doesn't. The guitar serves the voice and the story, stinging, crying, sighing, chuckling, but never lapsing into bombast -- the occupational hazard of so many white, usually young electric bluesmen. Then again, Thackery, who is not a young man, knows better. If he doesn't have a great voice (though it's certainly not bad), he knows how to use it to maximum effect, for example in the moving soul ballad "I Think I Hear the Rain."

"Rain" is one of nine satisfyingly written originals. Of the remaining two cuts, Buddy Johnson's "Crazy 'bout a Saxophone" gives Driver Jimmy Carpenter a chance to blow upfront and the rest of us a chance to grin contentedly. The disc concludes with a 9-1/2 minute instrumental, "The Messiah Will Come," a somber, almost mystical instrumental reflection composed by the late Roy Buchanan. Fittingly, an album that includes "Blues Man on Saturday Night" ends, as so many rowdy southern weekends do, in church.

- Rambles
written by Jerome Clark
published 20 March 2004