Twenty years ago, Memphis-based singer/songwriter Rob Jungklas had a breakout hit in Greater Cincinnati when WEBN-FM picked up a track from his debut EMI album Closer to the Flame, the joyously propulsive "Memphis Thing." Basically a blend of roots Pop/Rock and Stax-styled R&B, Closer to the Flame found an audience in regional markets around the country (Jungklas played a free show here on Serpentine Wall to promote the album in 1987), and he generated a good buzz and enthusiastic audience.
His subsequent album, Work Songs for a New Moon, reflected his newly born-again status and was less successful.
After a long studio hiatus, his recent work -- while still steeped in a spiritual message -- has taken a turn toward a swampy, smoky spin on Delta Blues. Jungklas' latest, Gully, much like 2003's Arkadelphia, features buzzing, burning slide guitar over a shambling rhythm section and melancholic accompaniment, highlighted by Jungklas' demon-chased vocals.
Gully is a sonic intersection of Chris Whitley and Bruce Cockburn and is every bit as haunting and powerful as Closer to the Flame was giddy and exuberant, marking Jungklas' amazingly potent yet downcast new phase. Grade: B