Jerry Lightfoot & the Essentials with Jerry LaCroix Better Days
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Dec. 3, 1999
Jerry Lightfoot & the Essentials with Jerry LaCroix
Better DaysThe word for this album is "sleeper," and that's a damn shame. It's a potent dose of Gulf Coast soul, a regional genre that has suffered in recent years. The Texas-Louisiana nexus once produced musical wonders on a regular basis and the names on the marquee here are seasoned musicians of that ilk. Jerry Lightfoot brought in Jerry LaCroix to sing on seven of the album's 10 cuts, and his presence alone should spark some interest. LaCroix's got one of the classic rock & roll voices; he fronted Edgar Winter's Roadwork-era band, has sung with Louisiana's Boogie Kings for decades, and deserves mention with Gregg Allman whenever great white blues singers are cited. Not to say that Lightfoot's own voice isn't perfectly respectable. It certainly is -- whiskey-toned with a Delbert McClinton edge to it. Combine that with his unself-conscious guitarwork, and Better Days delivers 10 smokin' tunes about life, love, boozin', cruising, and occasionally running from the law. It also has a retro je nais se quoi that starts with the Jim Franklin artwork on the cover and is piqued by a contingent of Austin notables including Mary Hattersley, Benny Rowe, Mike Kindred, Charlie Prichard, and Maryann Price. The common thread lies in a liner-notes nod to Houston White, former Vulcan Gas Company proprietor and spiritual guide to this effort, but whatever the source, Better Days is a no-frills work of rich inspiration, soulful and bluesy and unpretentious. Lightfoot's originals range from Robert Crayish soul ("Don't Turn Your Back on Me") to country-tinged ballads ("Always Sometimes"), and those songs fit comfortably with covers from Blind Willie McTell ("God Don't Like It") and R.P. St. John ("(I Will) Forever Sing the Blues"), one of Austin's original and overlooked singer-songwriters. The word for an album like this may be "sleeper," but it ought to be "sublime."