It could be said that Sun Records was where rock & roll was born. The little label from Memphis birthed the careers of Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, oh and some kid named Elvis.
More than 60 years later fans and musicians are still lining up to sing Sun Records’ praises.
‘Red Hot: A Memphis Celebration of Sun Records’ is a collection of 10 artists curated and co-produced by singer, guitarist Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, and Tamara Saviano, the Nashville-based writer, producer, and author of “Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark.” The roots-based songs went right back to where it all began and recorded their tracks at the studios founded by Phillips — the original Sun Studio, opened in 1950 as Memphis Recording Service, and the Sam Phillips Recording Service, opened in 1959. What makes this compilation even more important is that all the proceeds from the Americana Music Society will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Backing the singers on ‘Red Hot: A Memphis Celebration of Sun Records’ is Luther Dickinson, his North Mississippi Allstars bandmate and younger brother Cody (drums); Amy LaVere (bass, vocals); John Paul Keith (guitar, vocals); and Rick Steff (keyboards).
The album opens with John Paul Keith rocking a swinging version of Warren Smith’s “Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache,” while Valerie June’s take on Carl Perkins’ “Sure to Fall (In Love with You)” features the signature Sun two-step beat and lonesome lyrics. Other standout tracks include the cast of Sun Records featuring Chuck Mead who does a fantastic cover of the rockabilly jam “Red Hot” by Billy Lee Riley & The Little Green Men. Bobby Rush brings the compilation some smoking blues on his own song “Tough Titty,” featuring a killer harp solo and Amy LaVere’s version of the Miller Sisters’ “Ten Cats Down” is everything you can imagine when you think of dancing at the local VFW Hall. Her voice is just exquisite.
The greatest of all Sun recording artists, Johnny Cash, is represented on the album by Bryan Hayes, who cover’s the Man in Black’s “Ways of a Woman in Love” it is spot on 1950s-era country, while Alvin Youngblood Hart takes on the tall task of covering the legendary track “Folsom Prison Blues” giving it an electrified blues sound which works quit well. This stunning compilation closes with Luther Dickinson covering the greatest blues man that ever was, Howlin’ Wolf, and his classic blues number “Moanin’ at Midnight”
‘Red Hot: A Memphis Celebration of Sun Records’ was recorded entirely live and it sounds out of this world compared to the over polished, over produced albums we are hearing today. I’d like to think Sam, Johnny, Wolf, and the others would greatly approve.