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Linda Gail Lewis (from A Tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis on Cleopatra Records) (by Lee Zimmerman)
It hardly takes any effort at all to know what Linda Gail Lewis has in store with this new salute to her big brother, Jerry Lee Lewis. After all, she was there early on in his career, and though she was just a child, she easily absorbed his overriding influence. She performed alongside him on several occasions as he always encouraged her to pursue her own prowess. In that regard, he also nurtured her early on — the 1969 LP Together featured brother and sister sharing the same set.
That’s not to say that Linda Gail doesn’t possess a credible career of her own. She’s recorded more than two dozen albums over the course of a 50 plus year career, scored huge success in Europe and recorded alongside Van Morrison, and, more recently, Robbie Fulks. Suffice it to say, she needn’t hang her reputation on anyone other than herself.
Still, being the sister of an icon does bring with it certain expectations. Given that she’s also a frenetic piano pounder, it’s only natural that audiences see her as Jerry Lee’s heir apparent. She lives up to those expectations in concert by whooping up classic rock and roll revelry in the style her brother helped originate.
Consequently, the tracks in this tribute replicate and replay the bulk of Jerry Lee’s classic catalog, with songs such as “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On”, “High School Confidential”, “You Win Again”, “Crazy Arms”, and, naturally, “Great Balls of Fire”, are the standouts of a 13-song set. With daughter Anne Marie Lewis, son-in-law Danny B Harvey, and former Stray Cat drummer Slim Jim Phantom providing added octane, Linda Gail is able to retrace the template, sharing a rowdy and rousing sound that combines the frenzy and finesse essential to those initial incarnations.
So too, the fact that A Tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis was recorded at the iconic Sun Studios, where her brother laid down his early efforts, provides obvious additional credence.
Obviously, the comparisons will come quickly. So too, it’s an unenviable task trying to compete with a larger-than-life legend and the enduring legacy he created. Needless to say, the expectations are immense. Fortunately, she manages to scale that high bar, and while she doesn’t necessarily create an original impression, the pull and the power of the music manages to maintain its grip.
Five additional songs by Lewis’ cousin and kin Mickey Gilley — offered under the aegis of the bonus EP, Gilley’s Last Ride — add to the overall revelry, but Linda Gail is still the one who steals the spotlight. Suffice it to say, big brother would be proud. (by Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Linda Gail Lewis on AMAZON
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