Plan B, JDDistillery, Lynchburg, Tennessee
Tuesday 15 November 2011
After a couple of London-based events, the concert celebrating Jack Daniel's birthday went back to its Tennessee roots, an idyllic setting overlooking the Jack Daniel's distillery in Lynchburg. The occasion provided an ideal opportunity to check out Plan B's soul credentials as he performed highlights from his crossover album The Defamation of Strickland Banks and a smattering of classics from soul's golden era. Ben Drew's assault on the British charts and consciousness had left me rather unmoved but, backed by a crack band of Muscle Shoals and Nashville musicians and legendary Booker T & the MG's guitarist Steve Cropper, he sounded like the natural heir to the throne of the great British blue-eyed soul singer.
His trademark grey suit and geezer stage announcements might have been pure Ray Winstone but his fine voice and stylish delivery conjured up memories of Robert Palmer. A crackly microphone at the start of "Welcome to Hell" didn't put him off his stride as he simply sauntered off side-stage to join the backing vocalists and ad-libbed his way until the problem was fixed. After a confident version of "Knock on Wood", the Eddie Floyd stomper co-written by Cropper, he admitted he was nervous at the prospect of attempting the next song but his take on "Soul Man" lived up to the Sam & Dave original.
Plan B's everyman stance doesn't mean he's a fool and he wisely let Cropper front another two of his co-writes, Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour" and Otis Redding's "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay", before returning with a triumphant cover of Floyd's Northern soul favourite "Big Bird" driven by the rhythm section of bassist David Hood and drummer Craig Krampf. By then, even the burly security guys were swaying to Plan B.
Earlier in the evening, San Franciscan rapper K.Flay showed she has flow and a nifty way of reimagining other people's material, including The Zombies' evergreen "Time of the Season" and the locale-appropriate big band favourite "Chattanooga Choo Choo". Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman of Warpaint came out of their indie girl shell with their dreamy signature song "Undertow" and inspired versions of "Jolene", "Do Right Woman" and especially "Dedicated to the One I Love" which joined the dots between The "5" Royales, who originated it, The Shirelles who had the hit version, and Cropper who has recently revived it too. As country met soul, doo-wop and Sixties pop, and Kokal made hand moves like a Shirelle, I realised Mr Jack had worked his cross-genre, cross-generational blend of magic again.
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