The Bo-Keys – Heartaches By The Number (Rating 4 out of 5)

bokeysWhile this record might not be the album of the year, we are calling our shot now. Heartaches By The Number, the latest record from the Memphis Country Soul band The Bo-Keys, will be the Retro-Country album of the year. Or maybe, the Retro-Soul record of the year.  Or maybe, both. Darn tootin’.

The album travels the intersection of Country, Soul, Rock, Folk and Blues and features first-rate country hits, some deep cut covers, and a couple of original songs as well. All of the songs are carefully curated, and if you close your ears and let the songs wash over your brain, you will be transported back to the deep South circa the 1960’s.

The band itself was formed by Scott Bomar who formed the group in 1998 using under appreciated session musicians from the golden era of Memphis Soul after Stax, Hi Records, and American Studios all shut down. The bands first two records The Royal Sessions and Got to Get Back featured mostly originals with tons of Soul legend guests the likes of Otis Clay and William Bell, and includes the stellar songs “Got to Get Back To My Baby” and the funky instrumental “Just Chillin’.” For extra credit, search these out.  Your ears will thank you.

The title track “Heartaches By The Number” lays down the Country Soul groove that never lets up throughout the song.  The tune features Stax legend Don Bryant along with a subtle Hammond B-3, which is never a bad thing. Here, you are introduced to Percy Wiggins, the singer of the group who has the perfect tonal quality and down right chops to pull off a Hank Williams Song right next to a Freddy Fender classic. The cover of “I threw it All Away,” a Bob Dylan song from the Nashville Skyline album, is quite simply a deep-track, Otis Redding inspired stunner.

“The Longer You Wait” is an obscure early-days Merle Haggard song, that places the Soul right next to the pedal steel in perfect harmony. Sure you’ve heard the Swamp Dogg penned classic made famous by Johnny Paycheck “Don’t Take Her (She’s All I Got)” tons of times, but you definitely have not heard it covered as soulfully cool as you will find here. The end of the night vibe of Floyd Cramer’s Last Date, is a band stretching, soul soothing way to polish off the proceedings.

Memphis Meets Nashville, all day long.