Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis Wild! Wild! Wild!
Published Aug 10, 2018Before there was bragging in hip-hop, there was boasting in rock'n'roll, and Wild! Wild! Wild!, Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis's collaborative album, is full of some epic ones. On opener "Round Too Long," for instance, Lewis sings, "Down in Flagstaff, Arizona there's a tavern where I'm barred / They say I caused a riot in '78 by rockin' the joint too hard / If you can't take the beat, get out of my kitchen now / 'Cause there's fire on my fingers and fever on my brow."
Wild! Wild! Wild! shows off Lewis's fiery piano chops combined with Fulks' songwriting ones. It's a minor crime how little known Lewis is compared with her older brother, Jerry Lee — she's put out over two dozen records.
Fulks wrote/co-wrote eight of the songs on this 13-song album, drawing inspiration from Lewis's life, which has included touring with her brother and marrying eight times. It's hard to say whether it's a rock'n'roll album — "Round Too Long," "Wild! Wild! Wild!" and "Boogie Woogie Country Gal" are pure rock'n'roll — or an Americana one; what places this album firmly in 2018 while hearkening back to the '50s is the melting pot nature of its music. The Fulks-sung "I Just Lived a Country Song" is a wonderful meta-country song, while duet "That's Why They Call It Temptation" and "Till Death" (an "I'm going to kill you" threat to a cheating husband complete with a reverberating gun shot at the end) seem to pull from specific eras of country music; the first is an almost saturated countrypolitan duet and the second wouldn't be out of place on a classic Loretta Lynn album.
Then there's the New Orleans-style ode to Memphis ("Memphis Never Falls from Style") with a groovy clarinet solo care of Eric Schneider (who played with Count Basie); Staxy Fulks penned "Foolmaker"; and covers including jazzy "Your Red Wagon," and "Who Cares" (think classic Patsy Cline here), sung by Lewis and ending with the album's most sublime guitar solo, care of Redd Volkaert.
Wild! Wild! Wild! was a spontaneous, live-off-the-floor recording, with some enthusiastic chatter left in after "It Came From the South" that points to the relaxed, fun vibe. But while it's tempting to say it's a rock'n'roll album about continuing to rebel as you get older, it's also a love letter to all the music Lewis grew up with, including gospel ("On the Jericho Road" is a song Linda and Jerry Lee sang together as kids). And luckily, Wild! Wild! Wild! isn't all piano-pounding boogie woogie; closer "Hardluck, Louisiana" shows off another, more painterly side of Lewis's musicality.
One small quibble though: the Fulks-penned, Lewis-sung "Memphis Never Falls from Style" promises: "In no other city will each passing pretty girl greet you with a hospitable smile." Let's put that in the retro pile along with the shot sound of "Till Death." (Bloodshot)