A.J. Croce – Just Like Medicine

Following a successful demo session with producer Dan Penn, A.J. Croce decided to make Just Like Medicine — the singer/songwriter’s ninth record — his first full-fledged soul album. Croce and Pennassembled a world-class crew of musicians — Steve Cropper and Vince Gill are the superstar cameos but the entire band comprises pros — and then settled into a well-worn groove that recalls the supple Memphis soul of the ’60s. Much of the pleasure of Just Like Medicine lies in its sheer sonics: it’s smooth and soulful, evoking the past but fleet enough to feel fresh. Listen long enough, though, and the variety within Croce‘s ten songs becomes apparent. He opens proceedings with the swampy R&B of “Gotta Get Outta My Head,” which gives way to the sprightly beat of “The Heart That Makes Me Whole,” and by the time the tight half-hour wraps up with the open-ended “The Roads,” he’s touched upon simmering ballads (“I Couldn’t Stop”) and nimble, rolling New Orleans-inspired pop (“Full Up”). Croce also unearths the fine “Name of the Game,” a previously unrecorded song by his father, Jim, but for as good as it is, it’s ultimately a grace note on an album that’s among his very finest.

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