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Snap judgments: Nick Waterhouse - Time's All Gone

These days, it's nigh impossible to swing a dead cat in San Francisco without hitting a '60s-style garage-rock band. All you need is a couple of guitar amps that go to 11 and a drummer who bashes skins like Animal from the Muppets. What former San Franciscan (he moved to L.A. after making this record) and retro enthusiast Nick Waterhouse does, however, is far more difficult. On his debut disc, the bespectacled singer-songwriter faithfully approximates the greasy, soulful R&B and jump blues of '50s artists like Johnny Otis and Johnny "Guitar" Watson, carefully arranging baritone sax honks and growls, lady backup singers who coo and purr, a swinging backbeat, a rollicking organ, and gritty, fuzz-buvket guitar licks. In the middle of it all, Waterhouse howls like a cat with a thorn in his paw, beseeching lover after lover to come back, to stay put, to return his ardent attentions. Time's All Gone re-creates the past without sounding slavish or gimmicky -- even bettering the East Bay's Raphael Saadiq and his fantastic 2008 Motown throwback, The Way I See It. Close your eyes and you'd swear you were sitting in a Memphis juke joint in the middle of the last century, the biscuits baked and the gravy piping hot.