Greg Cartwright won't come right out and say it, but rumors are flying that his band, The Reigning Sound, winners of this year's Memphis Flyer local music poll, have called it quits. "I'm not gonna commit to anything one way or the other," Cartwright says. "I do know we're not gonna play for a while."
"I like playing in a band, but I don't like being anyone's employer," Cartwright continues. "We all have responsibilities beyond the Reigning Sound, and I can't secure enough money to make the band really worthwhile. I don't want to ask anyone to quit their day jobs."
Problems within the group can be traced back to last summer, when organist Alex Greene left, citing family issues. "We recorded an album at Easley-McCain last January, toured some, and mixed the record, then Al told us that he couldn't continue with the band," Cartwright says. "As a three-piece [bassist Jeremy Scott and drummer Greg Roberson round out the band], there was no way we could faithfully reproduce the new album live."
"I was angry," Cartwright admits, "but Al had his reasons. We're still good friends."
The Lost Sounds' Alicja Trout and Jay Rensley then engineered several Reigning Sound sessions in Cartwright's store, Legba Records. Those tracks were mixed along with several songs from the earlier session, and a new album, Too Much Guitar, was born. "Fate has a way of dealing you the right hand," Cartwright muses, "because I think this record is better than the one we'd first cut."
Too Much Guitar will be released on In the Red Records in January. Meanwhile, run, walk, or crawl to the Hi-Tone CafÇ -- just don't miss what could be the Reigning Sound's last two gigs. They'll open the show for Cleveland's seminal Rocket From the Tombs next Tuesday, December 16th, then headline the club's New Year's party with The Tough & Lovely and The Cool Jerks on December 31st.
Jetty Webb, an Ultra Cat, three Nice Digs, The Paper Plates, and a Villains reunion: It sounds like something you might read about in a comic book, but it's actually the line-up for a show at the Hi-Tone CafÇ this Friday, December 12th.
"Jetty Webb started back in 1998, when Stuart Sikes [drums] and Brian McKay [guitar/vocals] moved from Dallas to Memphis," says bassist Tripp Lamkins. "Stu worked as an engineer at Easley-McCain Recording Studio, and we had band practice there. We named ourselves after a lady who used to live in their rental house on Manila. They kept getting mail addressed to Jetty Webb."
Eventually, however, Jetty Webb broke up, its members going separate ways.
But Lamkins continued to tinker with some recordings the band had cut at Easley-McCain in mid-2000.
Lamkins formed Lamar Records three years ago with Shangri-La Records' Jared McStay with the intent of releasing Jetty Webb's album. But now the pair, joined by a collective that also includes Jetty Webb's Sikes, McKay, and Jerome Brock, the Ultra Cats' Lori Gienapp, and local drummer/engineer Andy Saunders, have made their fledgling label a reality and will hold a launch party Friday at the Hi-Tone. The Jetty Webb record will be available as the label's inaugural release.
"Jetty Webb's album is one of the best indie-rock records to come out of Memphis since the mid-'90s," McStay, who will substitute for McKay at Friday's show, insists. "It stacks up with the Grifters' music any day."
"Of course, we're not gonna make any money on Lamar Records," McStay says, referring to the current slump in independent record sales. "Luckily, we can distribute the label through Shangri-La, and we have a good local market. It's not as if we're trying to sell 10,000 CDs. We're doing very limited runs on our catalog, plus we can defray the manufacturing costs between seven people."
Lamkins and McStay will be pulling double and triple duty on Friday night: Lamkins also plays with the Paper Plates (featuring the Joint Chiefs' Joey Pegram on drums and Trusty's Bobby Matthews on guitar), while McStay's new group, the Nice Digs (with Andy Gienapp, Lori's brother, on bass and Saunders on drums), will make their debut. "It's a power-pop thing. We'll probably remind people of the Simpletones," McStay says.
Both musicians will also anchor the Villains, a popular cover band that Lori Gienapp fronted on the local indie scene last year. "We broke up because Forrest [Hewes, the band's drummer] moved to Nashville," McStay says. "He was a really integral part of the group. We're excited that he's gonna be in town for this gig."
Upcoming releases on Lamar Records will include albums from the Villains, the Paper Plates, the Nice Digs, and Tim Prudhomme's group Staff. "We all like each other's bands," Lamkins explains. "Rather than wait around for somebody to put out our records, we decided to do this on our own."