For JD McPherson, the recording of his sensational new album, Undivided Heart & Soul (out October 6), was an especially hectic start-stop affair. In 2015, he finally gave in to the siren call of East Nashville’s music scene, moving his family from their longtime home in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. But what McPherson sought as he began working on the follow up to Let the Good Times Roll—creative competition turning into a musical camaraderie—proved to be elusive. So he ditched most of the songs he had written and canceled booked studio time. At the behest of good friend Josh Homme of psych-rockers Queens of the Stone Age, McPherson joined Homme in Los Angeles for a weekend of stress-free jamming.
Reinvigorated, McPherson set up shop at Nashville’s legendary Studio B, the home of Chet Atkins and one of the temples of the Nashville Sound. But since the studio hosts tours during the day, McPherson and crew had to book time at night, then clean out the studio each morning before the tourists showed up. Still, McPherson says, he and the band took full advantage of their surroundings—and the storied equipment it contains. “Each night, at the end, someone would invariably say, ‘You wanna put vibes on this?’,” he says speaking of an old RCA Vibraphone. “I mean, you can hear that vibraphone on Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying.’ We couldn’t keep our hands off of it.” And it wasn’t a gimmick. “[Studio B] guided some of the songs into some strange and wonderful places,” McPherson says. “We wrote several songs on the piano that Floyd Cramer played ‘Last Date’ on. We were soaking up so much of the phantom energy in that room.”
McPherson is one of music’s best reinterpreters, harnessing vintage rhythm & blues and early rock & roll into a streamlined, instantly recognizable sound. On some tracks, the fuzz-bomb guitars and frenetic rhythms feel like they might just go off the rails. Songs like the Homme-influenced “Lucky Penny” and slithery “Bloodhound Rock” are thick with tension, the soundtrack for a back-alley greaser knife fight. But McPherson also knows how to ease up on the gas, with the mid-tempo love-me-tender sparkle of “Jubilee.” “The tunes that showed up [in Studio B] weren’t always in familiar territory, but we greeted them as welcome strangers,” he says. “They have a lot of heart, and that’s what rock & roll should always have.”
Garden & Gun is thrilled to premiere Undivided Heart & Soul here. Be sure to check out McPherson’s tour dates here.