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Let It Roll - Commercial Appeal

By Mark Jordan
Special to The Commercial Appeal
November 3, 2006

Let It Roll
Keith Sykes - Fat Pete Records

A new record from Keith Sykes, the dean of Memphis singer-songwriters, is always a welcome and unexpected gift, like getting a call from an old friend. A distinguished writer who has had his songs recorded by Jimmy Buffett, John Prine and Rosanne Cash among many others, he is the master of the personal epic,those songs seemingly about everyday things that turn out to be about everything. But even for the usually understated Sykes, Let It Roll, his first album on Fat Pete Records and the 12thof his 30-plus year career, is unusually languorous, a laid-back country rocker that finds him settling uncomfortably into middle age. These 12 songs reveal an artist still at odds with the world in his own small ways, but who has learned not to worry so much about it and have some fun instead.

The tone is set from the get-go on the lead track, "Midnight in Tupelo," a simple evocation of a hot, sweaty party in a North Mississippi roadhouse. It is followed by
"Let It Roll," thematically the heftiest song of the collection with its pleas for tolerance and understanding. But even here, Sykes seems to be saying love comes easy, hate is hard work. "Let's put the boys and girls together/And let their laughter fill this place/Why not take all our woes and worries/Put 'em all on a rocket and shoot 'em in to outer space,"he sings. Elsewhere, working with a songwriting partner on every track except two covers and the wrenching break-up song "Pictures," Sykes looks at the funnier side of getting older. He fights just to get out of bed on "Wake Up Sleepy Head." On "Old Rock 'n' Roller," he gently mocks himself and senior stars like the Rolling Stones, still playing the music game after all these years. And with "Tearing the House Down," co-written with Sykes old protege Todd Snider, he hilariously evokes the havoc that ensues when his wife leaves the house for a few days.

Sykes cements the album's nostalgic air with a great swampy cover of Buddy Holly's
"Peggy Sue" and rounds out the collection with a sprinkling of lovely love songs,
including "That's the Way You Do It" and "What Are We Waiting For?" that you can
just picture him playing for his longtime wife Jerene in their Raleigh backyard.

Posted on 2006-12-05 by Staph

Keith Sykes - Let It Roll