20 MAY 12 DAVID SHANNON
Following the well-trodden path of famous Oklahomans Woody Guthrie and Merle Haggard, J.D. McPherson has some big shoes to fill, but he finds his footing with ease on his Rounder debut Signs & Signifiers, a collection of raw country blues, spooky ballads, and stomping rock 'n roll that would make his predecessors proud.
Alongside standup bassist Jimmy Sutton and drummer/pianist Alex Hall as well as a host of accomplished guest musicians, McPherson's guitar work and vocals stand astride two eras, sounding both modern and retro at once.
Still, while the authenticity in McPherson's music and voice clearly hearken back to an earlier time, he deftly eludes any labeling with his fresh take on an old tradition, especially on rollicking numbers like "Wolf Teeth," "Scratching Circles," "I Can't Complain" and "Fire Bug," which bring a raucous energy to the album. The slower tunes are particularly affecting, such as the haunting title track and "A Gentle Awakening," both of which make good use of simple piano lines that lend an eerie vibe.
Other songs on the album are more direct links to the rock 'n roll sounds of the late-'50s and early-'60s, including "Dimes For Nickles," "B.G.M.O.S.R.N.R.," and opening track "North Side Gal," which has become something of a single for McPherson and a much-viewed video on YouTube.