Those of you lucky enough to catch Jim Dickinson on stage with The Reigning Sound at the Center for Southern Folklore's recent Memphis Music & Heritage Festival also witnessed organist Alex Greene's last appearance with the band. "Part of me wanted to soldier on, but there was no way to make it work," says the 38-year-old Greene, who is giving up the garage-rock scene for full-time family life.
But it's not as if Greene -- Lorette Velvette's husband and the soon-to-be father of two -- is giving up music entirely. "I'm working on a series of dystopian ballads, songs that I wrote when I was with the Reigning Sound but never had an outlet for," Greene explains. "I've been thinking of different ways to play the organ solo, but right now I'm playing guitar."
"I just recorded with La Paloma for a new Loverly Records single. Believe it or not, [Loverly founder] Ed Porter is at it again," Greene says. The band -- drummer Sami Qreini, bassist Elizabeth Venable, and guitarists Jared Bingham and John Richie, with Greene on guitar and organ -- cut two sides at Easley-McCain Recording. "Sami did a mournful song about the late Townes Van Zandt," Greene says, "while I sang a Woody Guthrie-meets-Johnny Cash antiglobalization rant." Look for Greene in a solo show at Otherlands Coffee Bar this Thursday, September 11th.
Blues fans might want to take advantage of the fall weather this weekend and head northeast to Brownsville's Blues Festival Park, located just off I-40's Exit 56. On Friday, September 12th, the 2003 Brownsville Blues Festival will open with sets from The Remains and Dr. Zarr's Amazing Funk Monster. Come Saturday, the music will be more true to its roots (such bluesmen as the late Furry Lewis, Johnny Shines, Yank Rachell, Fred McDowell, Hammie Nixon, and Sleepy John Estes all came from the area) with performances from Memphis' own Eric Hughes and Earl the Pearl, former Memphian Mark Lemhouse, hill-country protÇgÇ Daniel "Slick" Ballinger, The People of the Blues with Fred Sanders, and headliner Delta Moon.
Just south of here in Water Valley, Mississippi, the folks at Fat Possum Records are singing their own blues. The label's most recent find, 60-year-old Coffeeville guitarist Charles Caldwell, died last week, reports label-head Matthew Johnson. "He worked for years at a fan factory in Grenada, tended a garden, and had 30 coon hounds," says Johnson's partner, Bruce Watson. "He was the most active guy you could ever meet, and then he was diagnosed with cancer." Watson, who recorded Caldwell at the Money Shot studio in Water Valley, said that his style was "totally in the hill-country vein."
"Charles lived just 10 miles from our office, and we didn't even know he existed," Watson says. "Then we noticed a picture of him in a story about Mississippi blues in The Oxford American magazine. There was no information on him, but I looked him up in the phone book, and he said, 'Come on down.'" Look for a CD of Caldwell's only recordings, titled Remember Me, early next year.
But the news at Fat Possum isn't all bad: The label just signed former Replacement Paul Westerberg -- or, as Watson explains, "his alter-ego Grandpaboy, which is a stripped-down blues-rock thing."
"He approached us," Watson says. "His music really ties in with what we do." He cites Westerberg's chugging 12-bar originals like the opening "MLPS" and his chilling rendition of Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," which are both included on Dead Man Shake, Westerberg's second album under the Grandpaboy moniker. Recorded at Westerberg's home studio in Minneapolis, Dead Man Shake will be released on Fat Possum October 21st.
Meanwhile, in Memphis, Isaac Hayes is the focus of three new reissues: an original master recording of Hot Buttered Soul on the Mobile Fidelity label, the self-explanatory Ike's Instrumentals (licensed to the U.K.-based Ace Records), and Isaac Hayes at Wattstax, released on Fantasy. Each disc showcases the Shaft man's genius and versatility, as he effortlessly glides from the groovin' "CafÇ Regio's" to the 18-plus-minutes epic "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." His hard-hitting rendition of "Soulsville" off the Wattstax disc is absolutely divine. Recorded on Hayes' 30th birthday -- August 20, 1972 -- this Southern soul lament captures the Black Moses in his prime.
Also worth checking out: Funk Soul Brother, Fuel 2000's post-Stax Johnnie Taylor collection. Backed by The Memphis Horns and the Muscle Shoals A-team, the Soul Philosopher tears through such Stax soundalikes as "I Want You Back Again" and "Sneakin' Sneakin'." Musicologist Bill Dahl (who also penned the liner notes for the Hot Buttered Soul reissue) paints an excellent picture of Taylor's late-'70s career, poorly documented until now.
Finally, Memphis musicians might want to log onto SXSW.com to fill out applications for the upcoming South By Southwest Music Festival Showcase, which will be held in Austin, Texas, March 17-21, 2004. As past festival attendees Cory Branan, Lucero, David Shouse, and Monsieur Jeffrey Evans can attest, the showcase presents an opportunity for hopeful players to shine before thousands of industry folk, including A&R reps, club owners, journalists, and radio programmers. At just $10 an entry, this may be one event local bands cannot afford to miss.