Personnel: Percy Wiggins (vocals); Joe Restivo (guitar); Jonathan Kirkscey, Beth Luscombe, Jessie Munson, Priscilla Tsai (strings); Kirk Smothers, Art Edmaiston (saxophone); Scott Thompson, Marc Franklin (trumpet); Mike Sweeney (trombone); Archie Turner (piano); Al Gamble (organ); Howard Grimes (drums, percussion); Scott Bomar (percussion); Reba Russell, The Masqueraders, Susan Marshall (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Scott Bomar.
Recording information: Electraphonic Recording.
Photographer: Bill Steber.
Harlan Howard wrote "Heartaches by the Number" back in 1959 and it swiftly became a country standard, taken toward the top of Billboard's country charts by Ray Price, who was the first of countless artists to sing it. George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buck Owens, and Dwight Yoakam are among the artists who have covered it, so it's not entirely a surprise that Scott Bomar's Memphis-based retro-soul uses it as the album title and touchstone for their 2016 excursion into country-soul. Heartaches by the Number relies heavily on classic country tunes -- Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," Freddy Fender's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights," and Floyd Cramer's "Last Date" are all here -- but there are a handful of originals scattered throughout, along with sharply chosen obscurities like Merle Haggard's "The Longer You Wait," a cut buried on one of his earliest Capitol albums. The album's anchor might be a rendition of "She's All I Got," a song written by soul maverick Swamp Dogg and popularized by Johnny Paycheck, which provides a clear intersection of the two stylistic paths, but the joy of the record is how the Bo-Keys stay true to the southernness of both country and soul. All the grooves on Heartaches by the Number are deeply southern -- they stem from the sound of American Sound Studios and Hi -- and the inflections are proudly country, a sensibility that underscores how all this music flows from the same southern origins. In a similarly all-inclusive spirit, the Bo-Keys invite Stax legend Don Bryant to sit in on the title track, and the American Studios vocalists the Masqueraders to sing on "She's All I Got," while guitarists John Paul Keith and Al Gamble pop up elsewhere, and the result is a joyous, open-hearted celebration of the American south. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine