Jessica Lee Wilkes is a singer/songwriter and bassist from Paducah, KY who plays “raw, rhythm & blues-tinged rock & roll from a bygone era yet to come”, according to her website. Well-known as the upright bassist and co-vocalist for JD Wilkes & The Dirt Daubers, Wilkes’s fans include Wanda Jackson, JD McPherson, and even Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys. Her new EP Lone Wolf which is out on Free Dirt Records features Jason Smay on drums (JD McPherson), Eddie Angel on guitar (Los Straitjackets), and Kellie Everett on saxophone (The Hooten Hallers). These six songs are a short blast of fun ’50s rock n’ roll, which leave behind the blues and rockabilly grit of The Dirt Daubers, but keep plenty of energy and swagger.
At first listen, Wilkes sounds like a harder rockin’ Amy Winehouse, with her gum-snapping alto vocals, especially on the delightfully retro “Love Like Crazy” which sounds like it’s blasting out of an old jukebox. She has more snarl than Winehouse for sure though; the title track, “Lone Wolf”, is darker and slinky with shimmering guitar, while “Groove’s Too Shallow” is a funky toe-tapper with a fittingly circular groove and pointed lyrics like “When that record’s scratched, I know it’s never gonna last” and “You’re a 45, I’m a 33”.
“Go Ahead Baby” jumps back to the jukebox and makes you want to start swingin’ and jivin’ (assuming you know how). At the very least, you can bop your head and snap your fingers. The repeated, and closing, line, “At least we’ve got this old rock n’ roll” is certainly appropriate for the entire set. “Something’s Going On” has some nimble Chuck Berry-sounding guitar, and mysterious lyrics about a premonition and fire in the streets, ending with the repeated line, “It just ain’t right”.
Wilkes is on tour now through August, but unfortunately there’s no L.A. stop this time. Hopefully, she’ll come out our way before too long, because these songs sound like they’d be a lot of fun live.
Image courtesy of Fly PR