If an album's normal gestation period were nine months, you'd have to wonder what kind of kinkiness was going on in the Memphis music scene last November. In addition to the Reigning Sound's latest, Time Bomb High School, there are new releases from Viva L'American Death Ray Music, Davey & the Cool Jerks, Timothy Prudhomme, and Yamagata all hitting the racks this week.
Viva L'American Death Ray Music, the band formerly known as American Death Ray (and, before that, simply Death Ray), have just released their second full-length of the year, Smash Radio Hits. Eight songs of New York-inspired funk and grind, Smash Radio Hits is a far-superior product than their debut, sonically and stylistically. On tunes like "Miss America (What Goes On)" and "Baby Lightning," the band sounds like an updated Modern Lovers -- fun and just a little freaky.
Jack Yarber, on the other hand, prefers the simpler things in life. Yarber produces some wailin' chords on Davey & The Cool Jerks' debut, Cleaned a Lot Of Plates In Memphis, which, like Smash Radio Hits, is available from Sympathy For the Record Industry. But similarities end there: Davey & the Cool Jerks (Dave Boyer, Forrest Hewes, Yarber, and Scott Rogers) play solid, straightforward rock-and-roll that hearkens back to the days of Boyer and Hewes' stint in the Neckbones. Look for CD-release parties from both Davey & the Cool Jerks and Viva L'American Death Ray Music later this month.
Meanwhile, Fuck frontman Timothy Prudhomme has a new CD out on Smells Like Records. With the Hole Dug, recorded over the past year at Easley-McCain Studios, features a stellar lineup, including studio owners Doug Easley and Davis McCain, the Reigning Sound's Greg Cartwright and Alex Greene, and former Memphian Megan Reilly. It's a gentle album full of understated, majestic melodies, Prudhomme's whispered vocals drawing you in deep. Prudhomme rarely plays live, so make plans now to catch him Friday, August 9th, at the Hi-Tone with Dearest Darlin'.
Leave it to Yamagata to kick it up a few notches. Connect, their second album, fuses hard rock and jazz into a funky new hybrid that lends itself well to the jam-band scene. Drawing from such disparate influences as Pink Floyd and the Beastie Boys, Connect is sure to take Yamagata to new heights. You can connect with the group yourself at their CD-release party Friday, August 2nd, at the Lounge.
The Center For Southern Folklore is also hosting a party this weekend -- a birthday celebration for blues pianist Mose Vinson, who turns 85 on Saturday, August 3rd. Best known for his accompaniment on James Cotton's 1954 Sun sessions, Vinson has been a Memphis piano institution for more than half a century. He got his start in church, playing the ivories at morning services. After a chance meeting with Sunnyland Slim, Vinson moved to Memphis from Mississippi in 1932. He became a fixture on Beale Street, playing local juke joints and parties before hooking up with Sun producer Sam Phillips in the early '50s.
After cutting some sides of his own (unreleased until the 1980s), Vinson continued on the juke-joint circuit, occasionally doing session work (Cotton's "Cotton Crop Blues" benefited from Vinson's piano rolls), until he disappeared from the scene in the late '60s. In the early '80s, the pianist established himself as the resident barrelhouse star of the Center For Southern Folklore. Vinson will blow out his candles at 8 p.m.
Ready for a road trip? Put the top down and cruise over to Monticello, Mississippi (just south of Jackson), this weekend for the 4th Annual Montipaloosa Music Festival. An event similar to the Bonnaroo Music Festival recently held in Manchester, Tennessee, the Montipaloosa promises 46 jam bands on three stages for the three-day event. Headliners include regional favorites The North Mississippi Allstars, The Charlie Mars Band, Ingram Hill, and The Kudzu Kings. More than 5,000 fans are expected to converge on Atwood Water Park (located on Highway 84 East) for the weekend, where RVs and tents are welcome. Alcohol is allowed at the festival, but it's BYOB. Montipaloosa kicks off at 3:30 p.m. Friday, August 2nd. Ticket prices are $20 for a day or $30 for a weekend pass. See Montipaloosa.com for more information.
recently, the city lost another great musician: Bluesman Manuel Gales, aka Little Jimmy King, died on Friday, July 19th, of an apparent heart attack. He was just 34 years old. Memphis-born and -raised, Gales frequently performed with his brothers Eric and Eugene and toured for six years with blues great Albert King, who adopted the left-handed guitarist as his protégé.
After Albert's death, Gales reinvented himself as Little Jimmy King in homage to both Albert and fellow southpaw Jimi Hendrix. He also took on Albert's searing, soul-blues guitar style, recording four albums for Rounder Records' Bullseye Blues label. Gales' last release, Live At Monterey, captures him at the top of his game: Tracks like Willie Mitchell's "Living In the Danger Zone" and "It Ain't the Same No Mo" burn with natural aplomb. Gruff and self-assured, Gales rips through the latter like a red-hot tommy gun on its last round of ammo. Touted by contemporary blues fans as the successor to Albert King's throne, Gales will certainly be missed.
Andria Lisle covers local music news and notes each week in Local Beat. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.