CD Review – Jimmy Hall – Build Your Own Fire (Zoho Roots)

Put your hands up if you’ve heard of Eddie Hinton! Damn, not too many hands there. Well, thank God Jimmy Hall, who some may remember as vocalist/harmonica player for Southern rockers Wet Willie back in the ’70’s, knows who Hinton is and has always been a fan of the enigmatic soul guitarist and songwriter. While most music fans and critics unfortunately look at the music known as Southern rock as one of the more embarrassing subgenre of rock and roll, there is a lot more to like about the genre than Lynyrd Skynyrd and Charlie Daniel’s “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”. Southern rock was more tied to blues and soul than any other kind of rock and roll at that time period (Southern Rock’s heyday was from 1972-1978) as the South was the hotbed where the best soul records were cut. The buckle of the Bible Belt, the archetypal Southern-born musician knew all about the church, and by association R&B, as the church was the genesis of the music. As the predominantly white rock and roll musicians grew up, they became well versed in R&B, soul and blues styles due to their environment. It makes sense, then that they would apply these music lessons to the rock music they would later make.

Hall was no exception. A fine vocalist and member of several bands in his teens, he was immersed in both black R&B and white rock and roll as popular bands of the time had to cover hits in both idioms. It makes sense that Hall would know Hinton’s work, as Hinton’s rep as one of soul music’s most talented guitarists and songwriters was known throughout the South.

I guess now is the time in the review for a little history!

Hinton gained his fame as a session guitarist in Muscle Shoals where he played on hits by records by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Joe Tex, Solomon Burke, Percy Sledge, the Staple Singers, the Dells, Johnny Taylor, Elvis Presley, Boz Scaggs, Hour Glass, Otis Redding, and Toots Hibbert of Toots & the Maytals. Hinton was also a gifted songwriter/producer/arranger who wrote many soul classics for the likes of Sledge and other top soul artists. When the soul scene died down in the late ’70’s due to the rise of disco, Hinton tried to strike out on his own with a solo record on the Capricorn label. Unfortunately, Capricorn was going through some problems at the time and the label folded just as Hinton’s record was due to be released. The resultant blow to his ego shattered his mind and though he later managed to record some solo albums shortly before his untimely death at age 51 in 1995, his music was never the same, though an album released posthumously of songs he was working on at the time of his death (Hard Luck Guy bittersweetly released on the revived Capricorn label) is unabashedly wonderful and showed Hinton had recaptured his former glory.
Enter Hall, who had known of Hinton’s work due to Hinton’s rep. Since Wet Willie’s demise in the early ’80’s, Hall had become a solo artist and guest singer on others’ albums, most notably Jeff Beck, with whom Hall was nominated for a Grammy for his work on Beck’s album Flash. Feeling Hinton had never gotten his due, Hall, co-producer Tallan Ware and Clayton Ivey (owner of the studio where Hinton and many famous artists cut some of the most legendary soul music ever made) have decided to recruit some of his friends and do this stirring tribute to Hinton’s work. Brought on board were a group of legendary session men, most of whom had cut classic songs right next to Hinton: Ivey volunteered to play keyboards, David Hood (Traffic, Aretha Franklin, Rod Stewart, B.B. King and many others) is on bass, Larry Byrom (Steppenwolf, Bobby Womack, Millie Jackson and Neil Young) takes the rhythm guitar slot, and Jonathan Dees takes drums. Brought in at the last minute to overdub some guitar and produce a few songs was Kentucky Headhunter Greg Martin. The legendary king of roadhouse blues Delbert McClinton also shows up to add some vocals to the song “Still Want To Be Your Man”. Man, this is a great album. Hall’s voice has deepened and aged since his days with Wet Willie and the world-weariness has done wonders for his vocals. This is real-deal, deep feeling soul on this record and it is double-dynamite!

Fans of soul and Southern rock will find a lot to like on this CD. The songs are all Hinton’s, so you’re not going to find a bunch of more soulful songs and Hall has a great voice so together that makes one hell of a great combination. Guitarist Greg Martin also does Hinton proud with his great solos and slippery fills. All in all, though it sounds more “modern” than maybe it should (I would have loved to hear this album done in a more old-school style.) it is a great representation of Hinton’s legacy andf Hall’s talent. Hopefully Hall will get enough recognition from this to build his career back up to what it was during the ’70’s. He’s kept his great pipes intact, at least, so here’s hoping.


JIMMY HALL: Build Your Own FireBuy the CD