local beat 

With unreviewed local releases piling up, we're devoting Local Beat this week to what could be a recurring feature.

Local Listening Log

A Bothered Mind --R.L. Burnside (Fat Possum): Burnside's music is like George Bush's political philosophy: It never changes and it never flags, which is a better trait for hill-country blues than national leadership. On his umpteenth album, Burnside's hypnotic guitar and authoritative voice sound as masterful as ever, with sidekicks Cedric Burnside and Kenny Brown providing unfailing support. Burnside's Fat Possum patrons try to vary the approach with guest stars and novel "concepts" (and throw a bone to thrill-seeking indie kids with an unfortunate liner shot of Burnside pissing on the side of the road), to predictably mixed success: A hip-hop-funk take on "Shake 'Em On Down" squeezes a bit more life from the most ubiquitous title in the hill-country canon, while the always-welcome appearance of Bay Area MC Lyrics Born (whose gravelly voice meshes well with Burnside's) on "Goin' Down South" totally redeems the second most ubiquitous. And then there's Kid Rock, whose name might garner the record some press but who drags Burnside into beer-commercial territory. ("Shake 'Em On Down," "Goin' Down South," "Someday Baby")

Grade: B+

Memphi$ Plat Presents Mr. Meek aka Platinum Child --Mr. Meek (Hard Nard Productions): On this local rap product, the hood-repping "South Memphis Pt. 3" and the believably autobiographical "Bedtime Story" boast the kind of knowing detail that can convert otherwise questionable content from exploitation to reportage. Unfortunately, those songs are the exception. Elsewhere, there's not a personality here distinct enough to distinguish Mr. Meek from countless other local contenders. This isn't to say that the received woman-hate would be redeemed by wit or detail, mind you, but it would certainly be more listenable. (Mr. Meek, like so many rappers and Republicans, seems to think the worst thing you can possibly say to a man is to compare him to a woman.) So my advice is to listen for the music, which is sometimes forgettable but sometimes rises above, especially with occasional production that buries Memphis menace beneath more Lil Jon-style hornlike synth stabs and colors the margins with adept scratches. ("Back Up Off Me," "South Memphis Pt. 3," "Bedtime Story")

Grade: B-

Man From Out of State -- Dan Montgomery (Fantastic Yes): Despite the sharply used presence of accordion, mandolin, pedal steel, and other instruments to add color to the basic acoustic singer-songwriter palette, this tends to fade into the background if you're not hanging on every word. And that's a problem, because this isn't the kind of record meant for musical wallpaper, especially without drums to keep you awake. But when you are paying attention, you'll find a clear-eyed perspective that feels appreciably grounded in lived experience. Montgomery's vision of the "Seventies" sounds like an actual memory, not something he saw on TV. ("The Seventies," "So Naturally," "When I Was Drunk")

Grade: B+

Instores & Outtakes -- The North Mississippi Allstars (Tone Cool/ATO): This agreeably relaxed stop-gap product goes acoustic on a couple of Polaris cuts and pays respect to the Allstars' respective masters: righteous gospel-flavored romp of the Stones' most deliciously sleazy record; honest effort on uncoverable Band classic (no one else can do justice to "The Weight"'s harmony vocals); lovely reading of Replacements chestnut Papa Dickinson originally produced. ("Stray Cat Blues," "Skyway," "Meet Me in the City")

Grade: A-

Lace, Leather & Chrome --Slam Hound (Young Ave. Records): The title of this six-song EP doesn't lie when it implies that Slam Hound embraces straight-up metal sans hip-hop or grunge or any other transforming or diluting influences. Normally, I'd say that bodes well, but the problem here is that the music's too slow. For me anyway. But as a rock fan who never could stomach true metal bands like Iron Maiden or Judas Priest, I'm not the target audience. If you're the kind of music fan who equates Dokken with rockin', however, here's a local band you should check out. ("I Want My Turn," "Coming Down")

Grade: B

E-mail: localbeat@memphisflyer.com

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