If my math is correct, "Wide Open" marks the 22nd album released by Jimmy Thackery both during and since leaving the legendary D. C. based blues band, the Nighthawks to pursue his own career with various side projects like the Assassins, duos with the likes of John Mooney and David Raitt and fronting his backup band the Drivers. At 61 years young, Thackery shows no sign of slowing down with one of his strongest efforts in years and even more impressively, his first cd of all original material.
Jimmy's voice is in fine form on "Wide Open" and his playing has never sounded better. The tracks were recorded over a period of about a year at Tony's Treasures in Cadiz, Ohio, and from the sound of it, it is no wonder that Jimmy calls it his favorite studio of late as the production is simply gorgeous. However, it's the material on "Wide Open" that sets this one apart.
Clocking in at a generous hour and 12 minutes, "Wide Open" opens with a tasty shuffle, "Change Your Tune", that is reminiscent of some of the strong lyrical material he co-wrote with the great Keith Sykes back on "Sinner Street" but with a more nuanced delivery. The strong opener is followed by the beautiful uptown jazz of "Minor Step", one of three tracks on “Wide Open” that illustrate why every young guitar player should listen to his playing. “Wide Open” features some of his most mature and realized work to date. Young players could learn much from tracks like “Minor Step” , “You Brush Me Off “and “Swingin' Breeze” which showcase Thackery’s virtuoso jazz phrasing and dynamics which are on par with the greats, not for showy gimmicks, but rather a tone that goes straight to your soul, simply beautiful.
After “Minor Step” Thackery changes gears and subjects on the next track , "Coffee and Chicken", a knock off ode to gastronomy on the road which will surely cause Feat and Butterfield fans to grin with its lyrical homages (which I leave up to the listener to figure out). Next up is about the only track on the disc of suitable length for radio play, the 3:49 minute “King of Living On My Own”. Jimmy hits just the right spot lyrically and music wise on a topic that should be familiar to his fans, dealing with suddenly finding yourself single again and trying to put a brave face on it. “King of Living On My Own” weds light hearted, humorous lyrics set to rootsy Americana music that should, if there is any justice, garner it some commercial radio play.
For fans whose tastes lean more toward the hard stuff and power chords, Jimmy lets rip with “Hard Luck Man” complete with a fat, fuzzy guitar sound and his trademark sonic sculpting towards the track’s blistering end.
I won’t ruin the surprise by previewing every track on the disc but will simply state that there is not a clinker in the lot. If you had to be critical about something one could question the length of a few of the tracks on an album where the majority are in the 6-8 minute range. I for one like the flow and pacing on the album which gives continuity as opposed to so many of today’s cds that seem to be just a compilation of singles thrown together.
All in all Mr. Thackery & his Drivers (Jimmy never bothered to get a driver’s license over the years, hence the name) comprised of Mark "Bumpy Rhoades" Bumgarner on bass and George Sheppard on drums (in addition to their chauffeur duties) have good reason to be proud of this great sounding disc of all original material. For fans of guitar driven American roots music with the right tone, “Wide Open” would make the perfect soundtrack to your summer road trip!
This review initially appeared on my music blog at:
"Wide Open": An all Original Testament to the Immense Talent Of Guitartist Jimmy Thackery