Of all the surviving southern-rock stars of the ’70s, Jimmy Hall seems the least affected by the passage of time. He may shout a bit less than he did with Wet Willie, but otherwise he’s just as charismatic a blues and R&B singer, and just as welcome a presence — when he is a presence. Build Your Own Fire is his first album since Rendezvous With The Blues, his terrific 1995 effort for Capricorn, and that one came out of the blue, too.
Released on Zoho, mostly a jazz label but one that also has resurrected Bonnie Bramlett and Ike Turner, Hall’s latest is cause for celebration on two fronts. It not only brings him back into the spotlight, agreeably teaming him on one cut with Delbert McClinton; but in featuring songs written by Eddie Hinton, it also honors an unsung legend who was poised to become the white Otis Redding before bad choices, bad luck and bad living took him down a different path. Hinton died at 51 in 1995.
Backed by a band including bassist David Hood of the original Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, with guitarist Greg Martin of the Kentucky Headhunters overdubbing lead parts, Hall eases through the soulful changes of “Cover Me” (a Percy Sledge vehicle), and, characteristically resisting overstatement, nails “I Found A True Love”. Even on Martin’s blues-shuffling, ZZ Top-style alternate mix of “Coming After You”, the music seems to come out of the past, without missing a beat but without sounding dated.