By Mike O’Cull
Legendary Wet Willie frontman Jimmy Hall shows he’s still got the goods and then some on his new solo album Ready Now.
Set to drop on September 16th, 2022 on Joe Bonamassa’s KTBA Records, the record features vocalist/saxophonist/harmonica man Jimmy Hall throwing down on 11 new tracks done with his signature blend of old-school R&B and Southern Rock. Co-produced by Bonamassa and Josh Smith, the album was recorded with an absolutely stomping all-star band featuring Bonamassa and Smith on guitar, keyboardist Reese Wynans (Stevie Ray Vaughan), bassist Michael Rhodes, and drummer Greg Morrow.
As if that weren’t enough, guitar monsters Warren Haynes and Jared James Nichols each make guest appearances that crank the level of play up even higher. Hall remains in fine voice throughout these sessions and still displays the strutting confidence that led him to stardom.
Jimmy Hall first became famous as the lead vocalist, saxophonist, and harmonica player for the Alabama band Wet Willie, an excellent outfit that cracked the Billboard Top Ten Singles Chart with the song “Keep on Smilin’” in 1974. Wet Willie made seven albums for Capricorn Records before moving to Epic Records. The group’s successful run continued there. They put two more singles into the US Top 40 and five additional songs made it into the Billboard Top 100.
Hall’s original songs have also been recorded by major artists including Gregg Allman, Jason Isbell, The Marshall Tucker Band, Blackberry Smoke, The Amazing Rhythm Aces, and Johnny Russell. Jimmy has also been Hank Williams Jr. ‘s bandleader and vocalist since 1992. In addition, he has worked extensively with guitar legend Jeff Beck, earning a Grammy nomination with him in 1986. If he hasn’t impressed you yet, Hall also won a Grammy Award as a guest artist on the Fisk Jubilee Singer`s Celebrating Fisk! in the Best Roots Gospel category with his rendition of the Hank Williams’ classic “I Saw The Light.”
Ready Now kicks off with the upbeat and celebratory “Jumpin’ For Joy.” Hall co-wrote the track with Joe Bonamassa and their collaboration was a smashing success. It begins with a crisp, Chuck Berry-informed groove but starts to sound more gospel as it gains momentum. Hall is fully activated on the vocal mic, giving out a sense of pure happiness that feels genuine and spreads quickly. Bonamassa inserts some hot guitar work and we’re off to the races. It’s a wonderful song that will lift your heart up high.
“Risin’ Up” is lowdown and funky. It’s a mid-speed, spirit-filled jam that Hall belts out with fire and feeling. The track is another Bonamassa co-write that lets us hear Jimmy’s sweet harp licks complimenting Joe’s guitar work. Both men give us everything they’ve got on it and the studio band rocks with them step-for-step.
The live-sounding blaster “Girl’s Got Sugar” brings Josh Smith into the mix on guitar and he doesn’t disappoint. Smith’s stinging lines cut through the band like a lightning bolt and his tone is suitably epic. Hall lets all of his energy out on this vocal take and he could seemingly out-rock most singers half his age with style and fury. All involved make this one of the most high-octane cuts on the record.
The real gem on this new set is its title track “Ready Now.” It’s the song of a man who has been down the road to nowhere as far as it goes and lived to tell his story and relinquish his weakness-driven ways. Hall testifies about not being ready to face his real self and make the life-saving changes he needed to make. Every fiber of his being fills up each line he sings and he will make you believe in him. Warren Haynes drops in to contribute a ripping slide solo that makes the vibe here even more Southern than it already is. Other album highlights include “Will You Still Be Here” and “Love For It.”
Jimmy Hall is one of the Southern Rock era’s best singers and Ready Now should do much to increase his public visibility. It’s a fine, highly musical effort that’s packed with some of the USA’s premium roots music players and sublime new songs. Miss it and you’ll be sorry. Highly recommended.
Listen to “Ready Now”
Pre-order Ready Now HERE