by Mark Jordan
Taking Stock of Bluestock
If the crowds were an indication, the first annual Bluestock was
a great success. Granted, downtown itself was particularly packed
last Saturday, with the throngs from the Elton John concert, Phantom
of the Opera, and the next days Oilers game jockeying for room
on the chilly streets. But Beale Street and Bluestock were particularly
busy, with the event being the place to go after your concert
or whatever was over.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF BLUESTOCK
Hi Records legend Otis Clay per-forming at the Hard Rock Cafe
Most club owners described it as their best November night ever.
One club that was especially busy was B.B. Kings, which had the
hot young guitar-slinger Kenny Wayne Shepherd as its headliner.
The line out of B.B.s stretched all the way to Blues City Cafe
across the street, and at one point the wait to get inside was
rumored to be two hours. But while were glad the club owners
had a good night during a traditionally dead time, we hope they
can see through their euphoria enough to realize that part of
their success lay in booking big-name entertainment.
There were a lot of great acts besides Shepherd, however. And
though the Malaco revue and Junior Kimbrough were no-shows, audiences
could still enjoy the likes of Denise LaSalle at Elvis Presleys
Memphis and, at the Hard Rock Cafe, the awesome Hi Records revue
featuring Ann Peebles, Otis Clay, and the Hi Rhythm Section. Plus
there was the thrill of discovering new, emerging artists like
the winner of the International Blues Talent Competition, Chris
Cameron from Fort Smith, Arkansas, or the extraordinary Houston
bluesman by way of Japan, Richard Johnston.
But Bluestock was about more than the bar scene. All during the
day Saturday, organizers presented a program of educational panels
and sessions. There was a Blues Camp for schoolchildren, mentoring
sessions where struggling artists and industry people could pick
the brains of industry professionals.
The thing about Bluestock is that it can be helpful if it remains
current and timely, said Harry Duncan, a San Francisco-based
producer, promoter, radio host, manager, and harmonica player
whose credits include working with Otis Clay, the Neville Brothers,
and Boz Scaggs.
Duncan took part in several mentoring sessions and thinks they
should be an integral part of Bluestocks future: I really think
Bluestock, as it grows and as it matures, can provide a much-needed
vehicle for not only exposing deserving blues, soul, R&B, and,
hopefully, gospel artists to a receptive audience but also as
an international and professional base for serious discussion
and work on the blues.
Next years Bluestock (the street has already been reserved) should
benefit greatly from a lot more lead time; this first one was
literally slapped together in just a few months, from inception
to execution. Already there is talk of adding another day, and
there are definite plans to expand the scope to include a greater
variety of blues and R&B-based acts like the Neville Brothers
and bluesy alt-rockers like Morphine and Jon Spencer.
Charting Their Courses
Its been far too long since a Memphis artist made a dent in the
music charts. (Were not sure, but we think youd have to go back
to Al Green, who last charted in 1988, hitting number 9 with his
and Annie Lennoxs remake of Put A Little Love In Your Heart.)
So, it was joyous news indeed a couple of weeks ago when Memphis
made its long overdue return to the Billboard 200. In the November
22nd issue of Billboard, Memphis rappers Three 6 Mafia debuted
at number 18 on the R&B chart and came in at an impressive 40
on the Top 200 chart of all records sold across the country. If
you want to see for yourself what all the fuss is about, check
out the Mafia this Friday at the New Daisy with special guests
Stoned at the Moment and Clinched Fist.
New Stuff In the Bins
Though hes best known as the guitarist in the North Carolina
swing outfit the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Jim Jas. Mathus is a
Mississippi boy, born and raised. In fact, he was partly raised
by the daughter of the legendary Delta bluesman Charley Patton,
Rosetta. Now, it dont get much more Mississippi than that. Well,
Mathus recently returned to his roots in Clarksdale to record
a tribute album to Patton, whose proceeds will go to help Rosetta
pay some medical costs. Jas. Mathus And His Knock-Down Society
Play Songs For Rosetta is a reverential take on Pattons blues,
featuring a lineup that includes the DDT boys: Luther and Cody
Dickinson and Paul Taylor.
And now for something completely different. Besides being a horn
player for the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Robert G. Patterson
is an accomplished composer of contemporary orchestral music.
His new CD Prisms is the product of his work with the Rhodes College
faculty woodwind quintet. An admittedly derivative work, the compositions
on Prisms are explorations of the various woodwind styles of composers
like Stravinsky and Debussy filtered through Pattersons own style.
We dont claim to know a lot about classical music, but Pattersons
work shows tremendous skill and makes for provocative listening
to even our dumb ears. n
New Orleans Galactic work to help keep the Southern groove thang
alive and well.
by Mark Jordan
n the 60 and 70s, two bands from Memphis and New Orleans duked
it out for tightest, funkiest band honors. Actually, there was
no real rivalry between Memphis Booker T. & the MGs and New
Orleans the Meters, but the two bands were undeniable counterparts.
Both were the studio soul bands nonpareil in their respective
cities. And though both occasionally featured vocals, they were
both primarily known for their ensemble instrumental prowess.
The one key difference between the two may have been in the way
they approached their distinct but irresistibly thick grooves:
Booker T. & the MGs usually stuck to the deceptively simple,
lazy backbeat that many say typifies the Memphis sound, while
the Meters employed the syncopated, second-line rhythms that characterize
so much of New Orleans music.
Saturday, December 6th
Booker T. & the MGs and the Meters still pop up to play in various
forms to this day, something which, along with their recorded
work, has gone a long way toward spreading their influence across
a new generation of funk bands. In particular, there are two young
groups out right now that could be called the Booker T or the
Meters of their generations.
Memphis Big Ass Truck is a clear descendant of Booker T. and
the MGs, though still apt to launch into some lengthy jams and
more than willing to throw some alternative rock and Memphis hip-hop
into the mix.
Meanwhile, in New Orleans another young group of musicians, Galactic,
is taking the Meters legacy to new heights.
Galactic and B.A.T. have more in common than being young and funky.
Original Galactic guitarist Rob Gowen is a Memphian who used to
play in a band with B.A.T. drummer Robert Barnett. And the two
groups have teamed up for shows here and in N.O.
They used to come down here and open for us in New Orleans, and
weve been up maybe once or twice to open for them in Memphis,
says Galactic drummer Stanton Moore.
Besides Moore, Galactic also includes keyboardist Rich Vogel,
guitarist Jeff Raines, bassist Robert Mercurlo, a succession of
horn players, and vocalist Theryl deClouet, a 30-year veteran
of the New Orleans jazz scene who gives his much younger bandmates
a sense of their musics history and an experienced voice in business
The great thing about Theryl is he can look back and say, Yeah,
I remember when I was all excited about that, but heres what
going to really happen, Moore says. He instructs us without
being too preachy.
Formed in 1994, Galactic is just the latest in a long tradition
of bands that have taken the myriad sounds of the Big Easy Caribbean,
Latin, blues, jazz, Native American, Cajun and turned them into
their own recipe for funk.
Weve been trying to digest and understand whats been done before
us, and now were trying to do our own take on the history of
groove music and funk, Moore says. Were trying to incorporate
every kind of music we can find and bring it into the realm of
We never really play any reggae, but you can hear
Latin and Caribbean influences in there. A lot of those influences,
we try to make more subtle. We try to make more of a gumbo out
of it, so that you cant actually discern the individual ingredients.
The bands debut album, Coolin Off, was released in 1996 and
won raves from several national publications, including Billboard,
which called the band a sensuous, swampy, and plenty-tight source
of pan-cultural acid jazz like only the Crescent City could supply.
Despite its warm reception, the members werent happy with the
production on Coolin Off and instead are much more excited about
the batch of recordings they are currently shopping to a number
of interested record labels.
A lot of people like [Coolin Off], but we always thought we
could do better. And this new record has really given us the opportunity
to grow, Moore says. We felt like the energy that the band has
live wasnt captured on the first record like it is on the new
And make no mistake, it is as a live band that Galactic has made
its reputation. The band has rightfully earned a number of high-profile
opening slots with some of their idols, including Maceo Parker,
the Meters, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood. In addition, theyve
gotten to jam with members of Widespread Panic and Fishbone.
We really get off on the groove, Moore says about the bands
guiding principle. As long as thats happening, it doesnt matter
what else is going on onstage, everything will be all right.