AJ Croce’s newest release, Just Like Medicine, started with a collaboration between Croce and Dan Penn. You may not know that name, but you know his music. Dan Penn co-wrote “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” with Chips Moman for Aretha Franklin, and he produced “The Letter” for Alex Chilton and the Box Tops. Dan Penn wrote, recorded, and produced soul music in its 1960s heyday at American Studios in Memphis and FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. You could try to write any kind of song you wanted with Dan, but it’s gonna be a soul song. As it turned out, Penn’s home studio in Nashville was also ideal for the project AJ had in mind: an honest-to-goodness, live-to-tape, soul album.
So, AJ got a producer and a studio— then what? If it’s recording and producing soul music, the mind must consider Steve Cropper. Want to make an analog record with cats that can get it done in one take? Get the Muscle Shoals Horns! And if he ain’t busy, why not get Swamper David Hood to move the back beat along? What about some powerful harmonies? The Reverend Sam McCrary of the Fairfield Four had four daughters… The McCrary Sisters could make a milk cow sound like Marvin Gaye. Get Bryan Owings on drums. He’s worked with Bonnie Bishop, Justin Townes Earle, Buddy Miller, Shelby Lynne, and Colin Linden—yeah, get Colin Linden to play guitar too! And when in Nashville… Is Vince Gill available?
If you’re father was one of the greatest songwriters of the 1970s, you might be tempted to dig into that catalog. Jim Croce (shame on you if you have to pull out your phone to identify that name) wrote some of the most clever, direct, and honest songs to ever emit from a radio (further shame if you don’t know every word to Operator.) He died in a plane crash in 1973 when AJ was only 2-years-old. Jim was on tour and about to release the album I Got a Name, but he’d already begun writing his next project– or at least one song. “Name of The Game” was an unfinished bootlegged demo that gets the all-star treatment it deserves from AJ and company– Vince Gill and Colin Linden even trade licks on Jim’s actual 1933 Gibson LO. Leon Russell had originally planned to appear on Just Like Medicine before his passing, but he did co-write “The Heart That Makes Me Whole” with AJ. The record has a comfort and immediacy about it that only a soul album could posses.
Jim Croce was only 30 when he died. At 45, AJ has already spent 25 of his years recording and touring with the greatest– B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, The Neville Brothers, Willie Nelson, and even his hero Ray Charles. AJ Croce is a piano man. He can lead the night or ease off to the side and get you where you want to be. He’s got a name, but he’s got his own voice. His songs are therapy. AJ sees music for what is– a cure all for the soul.
AJ Croce will be performing live at the Cox Capitol Theatre on September the 15th