The Norman Transcript

N-town reviews

May 9, 2014

Music review: Jim Suhler serves up the South in Panther Burn

NORMAN — Musician: Jim Suhler

Album name: Panther Burn

Why you should listen: In addition to being a whiskey brand and small Mississippi town, Panther Burn is now title for a memorable blues album. Jim Suhler may be best known for being a member of George Thorogood’s band The Destroyers. This is Texan Suhler’s fifth record with his own combo called Monkey Beat. It’s difficult to tell from the liner notes who are included in Monkey Beat because no one track shares identical personnel. There are a few familiar names here and there including Carolyn Wonderland on back-up vocals who performed here in Norman recently at Jazz in June’s Blues Night.

This baker’s dozen of Suhler original compositions, plus one cover, is a southern slither through swamps, hill country and mysterious pine forests where you still might find white lightning in clandestine distilleries. For your ears Suhler’s guitar is the equivalent of a shot of that high-proof liquid fire.

“Between Midnight and Day” calls forth a double guitar blistering that threatened to melt the Bose speakers it was coming through. “I do my best work between midnight and day/ Yes I do,” Suhler sings. “Across the Brazos” is a mighty hymn to the longest river in Texas. Accordion reminiscent of Sir Douglas Quintet will carry you across the current running from headwaters up north to the Gulf of Mexico.

Although the states share no common border at any point, Suhler musically joins Mississippi and Texas in “Texassipi.” He affirms that’s where he’s from and the lyrical result is confirmation that it’s a state of mind rather than physical location. “Sky’s Full of Crows” is creepy southern Gothic at a gallop. You probably have to live down here to relate to this Flannery O’Connor short story set to music. “Oklahoma chrome and painted silver ladies/ by me on the left on a semi doing eighty,” Suhler sings in “Dinosaur Wine.” It’s an ode to that go-juice we’re all about here in the oil patch. The sanctified liquid that makes wheels turn and engines burn. From moonshine to Texas tea, Suhler serves up the south in a shot glass.

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