Musician: Jason D Williams

Label: MRI


It doesn't take long to listen to the first tracks of Hillbillies and Holy Rollers to realize Rockin' Jason Williams is waving his rockabilly flag high. And while he invocates the names of Elvis, Carl Perkins, and especially Johnny Cash, from start to finish it's more than evident he's channeling the essence of piano-pounder Jerry Lee Lewis.

That's due, in large part, to the likelihood that Williams is the son of Lewis. Publicity for Williams suggests both Lewis and Williams acknowledge the bond, although apparently no DNA test has been made to confirm what seems obvious. Beyond their physical resemblance, their music styles are so similar, Williams was the one who played the keyboard work for Dennis Quaid in the 1989 Lewis biopic, Great Balls of Fire.

The rockabilly spirit of Hillbillies and Holy Rollers is also evident because producer Dale Watson presided over the proceedings in the legendary Sun Record studios. Watson and Williams worked to recreate the ambiance of the early Sun Records with very bare-bones mixing and mic placement. The only part of this recording that distances it from a real live show is the lack of an audience. This is what Williams and his band must sound like on any Saturday night—well, any night for that matter.

Should you be in the crowd during one of those concerts, you'd likely hear old songs like "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Folson Prison Blues" arranged to suit the boogie-woogie honking tonking of Williams. You'll think another Williams, Hank by name, with “Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor,” Joe Ely’s “Fingernails,” and Hank's “You Win Again.” The latter is more orchestral than the original where J.D. shares vocals with Sarah Gayle Meech.

Williams is clearly having a good time going down memory lane in the title track, a song proclaiming his pride in his Arkansas heritage. But another track would have been just as appropriate to serve as the album's title, namely "This is Rock and Roll." Yes it is—the song proves its point from beginning to end.

The album closes out with two Gospel numbers, "Old Time Religion," where Williams perhaps has tongue firmly planted in cheek. Was "old time religion" really good enough for The Who and The Stones? Hmm. "I'll Fly Away," pulling it all together, sounds like a song crafted for the final credits to a movie about a Pentecostal tent revival.

Simply said, if you like rockabilly, the heavy piano style of Jerry Lee Lewis, and having a straight-ahead good old time, this one's for you. In fact, if Hillbillies and Holy Rollers doesn't put you in a good mood, you probably don't deserve one.

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