When people talk about “country soul,” the sound that started kicking up dust from the Southern soil with a mix of Memphis and Nashville in the early ’70s, names like Tony Joe White and Bobbie Gentry are the ones that most commonly come up, but Georgia boy Larry Jon Wilson has spent decades as an uncrowned country-soul king. The four albums he recorded for Monument in the ’70s teem with roiling R&B/funk beats and country-cookin’ licks surrounding Wilson’s charisma-dripping, how-low-can-you-go baritone pipes. When those albums failed to light up the charts and he tired of playing the game, Wilson walked away, settling into a semi-retired state that remained largely undisturbed until the release of Larry Jon Wilson, his first album in 30 years.
Produced by Jerry DeCicca of the Black Swans and Jeb Loy Nichols, who helped talk Wilson into recording again, the album was basically captured live in a Florida hotel room, where DeCicca and Nichols set Wilson up in front of a microphone and turned him loose to sing and play whatever came to his mind. The result is a mix of covers (alt-country O.G.’s like Mickey Newbury and Paul Siebel are among those whose tunes turn up) and originals, all delivered with a soulful, off-the-cuff feel.
What with the ad hoc nature of the session, this is an all-acoustic set — the only thing added to Wilson’s guitar and voice is a touch of fiddle — so the churning, gutbucket feel of bygone days is pretty much replaced by a softer, more reflective stance. But every moment of Larry Jon Wilson overflows with more soul than the entire discographies of the Joss Stones of the world.