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John Paul Keith

Heart Shaped Shadow – 2018 (Last Chance)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by John Paul Keith

John Paul Keith mixes straight-ahead country with rock n' roll with hard driving approach on "Heart Shaped Shadow." The disc sometimes features twin guitars as Keith duels with his producer, Will Sexton. This is Keith's fourth solo effort, following his critically acclaimed "Memphis Circa 3AM," and his stirring turns on the tribute album "Red Hot: A Memphis Celebration of Sun Records" and Don Bryant's "Don't Give Up on Love."

Keith features some of Memphis' best as Scott Bomar of the Bo-Keys handles the recording and engineering, bringing in his Bo-Keys bandmates Marc Franklin on trumpet and Art Edmaiston on sax for select tracks. Keith's bandmates from the quartet Motel Mirrors, Amy LaVere (bass) and Shawn Zorn (drums) contribute along with Memphis studio stalwarts Rick Steff and Gerald Stephens on keyboards.

Keith is a veritable triple threat, writing, singing and slinging his guitar. His dozen originals run the gamut from stylish honky-tonkers ("Leave Them Girls Alone," "Ain't Letting Go of You") with some down in the gut heartbreakers ("Someday Someone's Gonna Love Me," "901 Number') and a couple that bring in some shades of blue ("Do You Really Wanna Do It," "Throw It On me Baby").

The spirit and ghosts of the Memphis greats echo throughout. He opens with some Memphis soul on "Something So Wrong" featuring the horns and the acclaimed Memphis backup singer Susan Marshall. "Miracle Drug" is a crooning ballad: one you could envision Elvis singing. "All I Want Is All of You" is a funky dance tune, featuring stinging guitars from both Keith and Sexton. The closer "Pink Sunsets" is another crooner, taken at mid-tempo with Keith and Sexton trading guitar lines without a full band accompaniment.

Keith is having a major creative resurgence since his last album that was released five years ago. It's great to have John Paul Keith back. He belongs on the forefront of today's Americana artists.