When the word went around that there was another volume of unreleased Hinton material about to hit that was amazing enough - but not enough to prepare for just how good it was going to be. 18 studio tracks and two ‘bonus’ live recordings with nare a dud among them from the ill-fated white soul boy now brings to three the tally of posthumous releases, only one shy of his effort while alive and all of them of equally high quality. Actually it’s even stevens pre/post his demise if you include the Coleman-Hinton Project CD, a late 60’s recorded excursion with the poppier influenced guitarist/singer Jim Coleman that has three or four outstanding Hinton vocal tracks but remains a fairly elusive purchase.
Like Gram Parsons, Eddie is just getting more and more important as time goes on. Unlike Gram, Eddie’s fan base started a lot smaller and he didn’t have an Emmylou to propagate it. He also hung around long enough not to leave a particularly good looking corpse and have his eccentric latter day behavior stretched out over a period of years so that most associates were worn down from dealing with his unpredictable nature - few stayed the distance.
John Wyker, Dick Cooper and Johnny Sandlin where among those who always believed and that belief has been vindicated in the fine ongoing work of UK label Zane and its boss Peter Thompson.
Once again, this material is taken primarily from the years directly before and after Eddie’s first album Very Extremely Dangerous (1978) when he could have and should have been a bigger star. The reasons he wasn’t have often been blamed on the malaise of the Capricorn label around that time but have as much to do with fashion and timing as anything else. Eddie was at once a throwback to the golden days of soul as well as having something mystical and otherworldly going on in many of his guitar rhythms and lyrics. So he is able to effortlessly ‘channel’ the great Joe Tex on his songs “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “A Man Ain’t A Man” (both late 60’s demos.) You know what he’s doing and it is a celebratory cloning - not a rip-off. On the other hand his intimate, stripped to the bone confessionals such as “That’s The Way Love Is” and the John Lee Hooker style rhythmic “Something Heavy” (both recorded at Muscle Shoals in ’77) are the essence of the savant, testifying, intensity that sets Hinton apart from virtually every other blue-eyed soul boy.
The album opens with another overlooked Hinton soul ballad “Big City Woman.” Wayne Cochran did a nice version of this on the only release I am aware of but it becomes evident hearing Eddie that Cochran really only gave it a reading pretty close to the demo and Eddie apparently played the guitar licks on Vegas soul showman’s version anyway. Down In Texas also received an at the time cover from Don Varner, it became a sort of regional hit, while others versions came from the pre-Allman Bros Hour Glass, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, most recently Muscle Shoals group The Decoys and most interestingly a version released as ‘the unknown soul’ which was in fact Johnny Townsend - a contemporary of Eddie’s and later half name of chart group The Sanford-Townsend Band.
Another interesting cut is Eddie’s take on Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business” recorded at 3614 Jackson Highway in 1971 for a projected MSSB album that Island Records were to release. The Hood/Hawkins rhythm section here is a killer.
By 1980, Eddie had a band in Macon called The Rocking Horses and some demos cut by them were on the previous release from Zane Dear Y’all. Here is another beauty Help Me Make It (Power Of A Woman’s Love) which saw light of day courtesy of Mick De Ville on his 1981 album Coup de Grace. There are three cool Donnie Fritts co-write demos from the 70’s including “Have A Little Mercy On Me” with Eddie holding down a Levon Helm like rhythm on drums. Then a version of The Beatles “You Can’t Do That” with The Minutes from ’65 with of the period horn lines makes for a fascinating precursor of Hinton’s full on soul vocals. “Still Water Runs Deep” finds the same embryonic outfit deep in ‘frat-rock’ territory while the closing studio track is the ‘A’ side of a single produced by Dan Penn on Eddie in Memphis and released on Penn’s own Pacemaker label. “Railroad Trestles in California” is a Ronnie Self country/soul song that obviously Dan thought could work for Hinton and does as far as I’m concerned too.
The final two live tracks, Eddie’s “The Well Of Love” and his version of Otis Redding’s “Mr. Pitiful” are taken from his appearance at the Porretta International Soul Festival in Italy 1991. Backed by The Memphis All Star Band this was also filmed and may come out at some stage as a companion to the only other known Hinton video – a sort of ‘redneck Wayne’s World’ at home effort currently being cottage marketed by his ubiquitous co-conspirator Johnny Wyker.
So, another fascinating installment in Hintonography with no chance of scraping the bottom of the barrel because to coin an obnoxious expression ‘it’s all good.’