A.J. Croce was only two years old when his father, Jim Croce, died in a plane crash in 1973, leaving behind a catalog of folk songs rooted in humor, honesty and hard-won wisdom. Some of those songs became posthumous hits. Others, like “Name of the Game,” would go undiscovered for nearly 50 years.
On the star-powered Just Like Medicine, the younger Croce records one of his father’s songs for the first time. Joined by a band that includes Vince Gill, Colin Linden, the McCrary Sisters and original Swampers bassist David Hood, he unearths “Name of the Game,” turning the song into a modernized soul tune rooted in Muscle Shoals swagger and Motown strut.
“The song was meant to be on the follow-up album to I Got A Name,” he says, “although unfortunately it was never recorded or released until now – and by me. I’ve never had any intention of recording my father’s music. I like it and enjoy playing it from time to time, but this was different. This was a way that I could collaborate with my dad, who I never knew, and play an active role of interpreting the music. It felt right: a tribute and a collaboration.”
Looking for a producer whose resume matched the album’s soulful focus, A.J. Croce turned to Dan Penn, producer of the Box Tops’ chart-topping hit “The Letter” and co-writer of songs like Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.” Together, they created a sound rooted in the past but headed toward something new.
“I played [Penn] and all the musicians in the studio my dad’s guitar and vocal demo,” he says of the only recording Jim Croce ever made of “Name of the Game,” “and we listened to some other music of his. I brought his 1933 Gibson LO – the one on the demo – and handed it to Colin Linden to play for the session. I sat at the Wurlitzer electric piano and we found a way to evoke the spirit of the original while keeping it original.”
Just Like Medicine will be released August 11th via Compass Records.