“If I look like a mean old man, that’s what I am,” proclaims Jerry Lee Lewis on the title track of his new duets album, fully embracing his elder statesman status in both the rock ‘n’ roll and country worlds. The track, written by Kris Kristofferson and featuring some killer guitar work from the Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood (one of three Stones to appear on the CD), is a gritty country romp that sets the tone for much of The Killer’s star-studded new album.
“Rockin’ My Life Away” finds Lewis’ piano skills recalling his 1950s heyday with some fine rockabilly playing by Slash. Lewis sounds vibrant, even if Kid Rock’s guest vocals are a bit over the top. Mick Jagger guests on a laid-back “Dead Flowers,” singing the high harmonies once sung by Keith Richards. Greg Leisz’s pedal steel adds an authentic feel, making this song arguably more country than anything on country radio today. The Stones trifecta is completed by Richards’ guest spot on vocals and guitar on “Sweet Virginia,” with Lewis’ piano adding a honky tonk feel to the track.
Ringo Starr and John Mayer guest on a rollicking “Roll Over Beethoven,” with Mayer and Lewis turning in blistering solos respectively while Eric Clapton and James Burton’s playing on “You Can Have Her” recall the rockabilly days of Lewis’ Sun years.
Country legends Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard guest on “Whiskey River” and “Swinging Doors” respectively, with Nelson adding vocals and lead guitar to the former and Haggard adding vocals to the latter, a track that also features Burton. It’s not all old school here however, as Tim McGraw joins Wood on a wistful “Middle Age Crazy,” a song that fits McGraw better lyrically these days than Lewis.
Mean Old Man: Deluxe Edition is mostly killer, little filler, with only “Bad Moon Rising,” featuring John Fogerty and “You Are My Sunshine” featuring Sheryl Crow serving as missteps. Lewis’ voice isn’t quite what it used to be, but what it lacks in prowess, it more than makes up in life experience and his piano playing, as always, remains top notch. The album ends with Lewis on solo piano on a striking “Miss the Mississippi and You,” a track that shows The Killer is still vital at 75.
Article first published as Music Review: Jerry Lee Lewis – Mean Old Man: Deluxe Edition on Blogcritics.