Jerry Lee Lewis has had enough stomach trouble, gunplay and marriages to kill a man twice, but at 59 he still pounds the piano like a train wreck and sings with the vigor and venom of a punk rocker. Assuming this album title’s not alluding to transfusions, I’d say it’s Lewis’ elemental nature that has kept him howling at the moon the same way he did four decades ago when he cut his string of classic rock & roll singles for Sun Records. And when he turned to country music, he wasn’t mellowing. The Killer was revisiting his twisted Louisiana-hayseed roots; his dozen Top 10 country hits between ’68 and 77, from “Another Place, Another Time” to “What Made Milwaukee Famous,” were about obsession, compulsion, regret.
On Young Blood, Lewis’ first album in nearly a decade, he straddles rock & roll and country as easily as he does his piano bench. Whether reclaiming Hank Williams’ wry “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” or bragging about his hot rod — or is it his woman? — on “Crown Victoria Custom ’51,” Lewis is in high gear. He revels in the signatures of his fine madness, tossing random glissandi from his piano and shouting lyrics in a voice scuffed yet steel tipped.
These 14 songs are mostly chestnuts, but they’re roasting. James Burton, who defined rock lead guitar, and ex-NRBQ fret burner Al Anderson get their licks in, and Lewis works like a demon — hammering a fanged solo into a racing overhaul of “Poison Love,” turning loose his best Professor Longhair on “High Blood Pressure,” spraying hot boogie-woogie all over “Down the Road a Piece.”
In a nod to Lewis’ Sun years, producer Andy Paley — who also aided Brian Wilson’s resurrection — gets a little heavy-handed with reverb. Its slavered-on antiquity is occasionally distracting (hey, pal, Sun is a museum now). But that’s nitpicking. With just one sentimental ballad, this is a party album — and Lewis remains one hell of a host.