During the 1989 all-star tribute Jerry Lee Lewis & Friends, the pumpin' piano king can be seen valiantly struggling through a show glutted with big-name sidemen playing at cross-purposes. The legend's evident disgust and stupor finally lifted when Irish-rocker Van Morrison appeared. One of the few artists capable of tapping into his brand of gutbucket blues and barroom country, Morrison's rowdy duet jolted Jerry Lee to life.
Afterwards, Lewis and Morrison reportedly cut a duet of "Tupelo Honey," but no album came forth and we are the poorer for it. However, Morrison has teamed with the Ferriday Fireball's sister, Linda Gail, for this rollicking set of country, r&b and flat-out rock'n'roll. Their harmonies are somewhat erratic, but Morrison and Lewis sound genuinely enthralled with each another. Whether crooning pedal steel odes to guilt ("Crazy Arms," "You Win Again"), hillbilly remakes of r&b classics ("Cadillac," "Baby, You've Got What It Takes") or salacious blues rockers ("Think Twice Before You Go," "Real Gone Lover"), their work resonates with stormy passion and unbridled lust.
The surprisingly versatile Red Hot Pokers offer ample support for Morrison's wailing blues harp and the distaff Lewis' Jerry Lee-styled keyboard runs. Though over half the playlist is drawn from JLL's catalog, this is less a tribute than a truly satisfying roots revival disc with a lot of sex appeal.