Album review: Jerry Lee Lewis, ‘Mean Old Man’

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It’s hard to think of another artist who could bring together so many collaborators from disparate corners of the music world as those who turn up on the Killer’s latest outing, which include Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ron Wood (on separate tracks, natch), Tim McGraw, Sheryl Crow, Gillian Welch, Solomon Burke, Willie Nelson, Robbie Robertson and Jon Brion.

But the Muhammads of pop music apparently are only too happy to come to the mountain that is Jerry Lee Lewis, who turns 75 at the end of this month and demonstrates that he’s still eminently capable of pumping those 88 black and white keys.

It’s a similar route to the one he took in 2006 with “Last Man Standing,” that one focusing on his stature as one of the founding fathers of rock ’n’ roll, this one emphasizing his second career in the late-’60s and ’70s as a master of country music.

He reprises a couple of his key hits from that period — “Rockin’ My Life Away” (aided by Kid Rock and Slash) and Sonny Throckmorton’s anguished “Middle Age Crazy” (with McGraw and Brion) — and puts his indelible stamp on the title track, written for him by Kris Kristofferson.


Creedence Clearwater’s “Bad Moon Rising” is one of the few missteps — Fogerty is underutilized simply offering harmonies, and in a key that’s too low to show Lewis’ voice at its best.

Conversely, the pairing of Lewis and Richards is a made-in-heaven meeting of two of rock’s most surprising survivors for a wonderfully woozy slide through the Stones’ “Sweet Virginia,” which Richards says he originally wrote with Lewis in mind.

Multimillionaire Steve Bing, who has championed the latter-day resuscitation of Lewis’ career with Shangri-La Music, has said he simply wants to get as much of the Killer on record as he can while he’s still playing and sounding this vibrant. May the digital memory continue to roll.

—Randy Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis

“Mean Old Man”

Verve Forecast/Shangri-La

Three stars out of four