(Storm Dog Records)
Every time I hear Jimmy Hall open his mouth to sing, I feel like I’m in church. Better yet, an old fashioned Southern tent revival. His is a voice born of gospel and blues roots, mingled with a bit of Southern rock and delivered from deep within his heart. It’s a voice that I have loved for years, and one that caused Doug Gray of The Marshall Tucker Band to name him as “the greatest singer ever” in one of our interviews. The voice I first heard coming from a skinny kid from Mobile, Alabama fronting a funky band called Wet Willie. That’s why I was so excited to hear about the formation of Dixie Tabernacle, a project that finds Jimmy Hall out in front on vocals on many of the tracks.
Of course, Jimmy is only the tip of this iceberg. Dixie Tabernacle is a collective of some of the finest musicians of the South, all coming together with a shared goal - to create some fine, often inspirational, always rocking music. Producer Larry Goad has assembled one of the most exciting musical projects I have heard in some time.
From the incredible Southern Rock remake of Jerry Reed’s “Amos Moses” with Hall on vocals, Lee Bogan on guitar, and Jack Pearson (former Allman Brother) on slide guitar, to the full on gospel of “Save The Planet,” (a song I loved so well from Edgar Winter’s White Trash) with Hall sharing lead vocals with Doug Phelps (Kentucky Headhunters), Thane Shearon and Jo Jo Billingsley White (original Lynyrd Skynyrd “Honkette”), the music is stellar.
The Tabernacle version of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman” is the best version yet, including the Deep Purple version, and Doug Phelps sings it like he has lived it.
Producer Goad contributes a handful of amazing originals, like “How Many Times,” with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Artimus Pyle (Lynyrd Skynyrd) on congas and Thane Shearon on lead vocal. Shearon also sings Goad’s “A Good Excuse #4” and “Back Door Plan,” an Allman Brothers Band style song with Jack Pearson on slide. Another of the album’s many standout tracks. It’s actually very cool the way Goad’s “A Good Excuse” raises it’s head four different times during the album, each time with a different feeling.
As one who grew up in Spartanburg, SC with The Marshall Tucker Band, I was immediately drawn to “Carolina Wind,” written by Lee Bogan and Stevie Ray Anderson. It’s a perfect tip of the hat to the original MTB without even saying it. And that just sets up the stage for the next track. Dixie Tabernacle pulls out one of Toy Caldwell’s classic album tracks with “Bound & Determined.” Jimmy Hall once again nails the vocal to the wall. It don’t get any better than this.
Dixie Tabernacle is a sheer joy. It’s my kind of Southern Rock. The kind built on country, gospel and r&b. The kind that demands repeat listenings. If you are at all like me, you will see this as a true rarity - the real deal. Can I get an “amen!?”
-Michael Buffalo Smith