Best Albums of 2015: ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ by JD McPherson (No. 2)

Photo by John Briglio.

Photo by John Briglio.

JD McPherson’s first album “Signs & Signifiers” was sometimes seen as a novelty for its loving take on the vintage sounds of 1950s rhythm and blues, from a guy who looked, and sounded, the part. His second album shows that McPherson is so much more than a rock ’n’ roll recreationist.

Landing at No. 2 on my 2015 best albums list, “Let the Good Times Roll” is a riveting collection that pushes past revivalism into territory that is at once fresh and timeless. As I wrote in this review for Paste, “these 11 songs are more expansive, and also more subtly daring. It’s at once a spacious record and a muscular one, driven by a tight, locked-in rhythm section that firmly anchors the songs while giving McPherson room to let loose.”

And he does, with support from an ace band that includes bassist Jimmy Sutton. McPherson demonstrates his vocal range, switching with ease from slow-burning crooners like “Bridgebuilder” to jumped-up shouters like the title track or “It Shook Me Up.” His guitar playing here is often incendiary, but always tasteful, as he lets fly with a towering riff on “Head Over Heels,” builds up tension on “Shy Boy” that he releases with a simple, yet essential, four-note lick, or sends waves of growling guitar radiating through “You Must Have Met Little Caroline?” (He tells me about writing and recording the album in this story for The Bluegrass Situation.)

I’m not sure I listened to any album in 2015 more than “Let the Good Times Roll,” and it still sounds better every time through.

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