With last year’s release of Undivided Heart & Soul, Oklahoma’s JD McPherson swaggered into new sonic turf smeared with Garage Rock crunch, bad-ass grooves and soulful shake and shimmy. It’s ironic that it took a recent move to Nashville from his native state to leave behind some of the retro-Rockabilly of his first two records in favor of a harder rocking sound.
When starting work on the album, McPherson found himself stymied with his latest batch of songs, until his friend Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age invited him to his California studio to reinvent the material. With his modern, metallic edge, Homme’s musical influence might seem an odd fit with McPherson’s rootsier music, but something clicked and inspiration blossomed. McPherson returned to Nashville and recorded the new songs at RCA Studio B, where many classic Country sessions (often produced by Chet Atkins) have taken place through the decades. He’s quoted in press materials saying that Undivided Heart & Soul “was difficult to make, difficult to write, difficult to record.” One of those studio difficulties was that McPherson and Co. had to move their equipment in and out and record only at night, due to the daily tours given of the historic studio. But those troubles are not reflected in the finished mix; it’s an exhilarating blend of feisty arrangements and greasy Rock & Roll power.
Featuring co-writes with musician Parker Millsap, Butch Walker, and Aaron Lee Tasjan, Undivided Heart & Soul feels like much less of a vintage throwback than McPherson’s previous albums. “Crying’s Just a Thing You Do” jitter-steps in with wild flanges of guitar and a cheeky chorus that summons you to the dance floor and will stick in your head long after you hear it. Showing his range, McPherson evokes early ’60s R&B within the slow, sultry scorch of “Hunting for Sugar.” From opener “Desperate Love,” a brooding stomper that sets the tone for much of what follows, to magnetic single “Lucky Penny,” an infectious, stuttering, Black Keys-style Blues bender that features Jimmy Sutton’s burbling upright bass and JD’s aggressive guitar, every song on Undivided Heart & Soul is a gold nugget.