by Robert Bell
JOHN PAUL KEITH & THE ONE FOUR FIVES
10 p.m. White Water Tavern. $7.
It's easy for contemporary bands that traffic in retro sounds to tumble from the cozy confines of the lovingly refashioned into the gaping maw of cornball pastiche. One wrong step and all you want to do is go back and listen to the original.
On his latest album, "The Man That Time Forgot," Memphian John Paul Keith deftly avoids the everything-old-is-old-again pitfall through a mixture of rock-solid songwriting, tasteful restraint, expert playing and great production. He doesn't try to come on as some sort of larger-than-life character a la Rev. Horton Heat or a louche rock 'n' roll badass like Jon Spencer.
Keith just seems like a hardworking, normal dude who knows how to write a good tune and likes to dig around at the intersection between rock 'n' roll and R&B and country. Think Buddy Holly, early Doug Sahm and Hammond-driven '70s power pop in the vein of Elvis Costello's twangier moments. "Dry County" is a rollicking country burner that gives a big nod to Hank Williams, but Keith can go for understated too, especially on "Songs for Sale" and the gentle AM lilt of "Somebody Ought to Write a Song About You."