Fans of the phenomenal Too Much Love, Harlan T. Bobo's recent solo release, will be happy to hear that the Midtown-based indie minstrel has booked a Monday-night residency at the Hi-Tone Café for the remainder of December. It might be wintertime, but songs like "Left Your Door Unlocked" and "It's Only Love" are capable of defrosting the most hardened hearts in Memphis. And Bobo, an enigma to many of his fans, doesn't make too many local appearances.
That's probably because he's too busy serving as a sideman in Nick Ray's Viva L'American Death Ray Music, which just returned stateside after a two-month sojourn in Europe. "We played 54 shows -- Holland, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, France, and England," Bobo recalls. "It was exhausting but well put together. People treated us very well. We played every type of venue, from tiny caves to huge arenas, and we always got a decent place to sleep and good food."
As soon as he returned home, Bobo ordered 1,000 copies of Too Much Love from a CD manufacturer. Based on feedback he's gotten from friends and via NPR's Open Mic program, he'd sold out of his handmade edition of 600, and, he explains, "I couldn't make them myself anymore. I'd lose my eyesight if I continued."
Resuming the conversation on a more serious note, he adds, "I had no idea that people were gonna respond the way they did. I was scared to death when I first started handing the CD out. I'm still looking for a record label, but I do have a distributor who's been talking with me lately. I got a lot of nice e-mails this year. A lot of people seemed to like it, but that was about it."
Bobo's kept busy with other projects as well, including Clowns, a group he put together with Tim Prudhomme and Alex Greene for last month's presidential election. Local filmmaker Joel Rose shot a Clowns video, which can be viewed at the Live From Memphis Web site (LiveFromMemphis.com). "Joel and I traded favors," he says. "He helped me put together our video for 'George W. Hitler,' and I helped him arrange a song for his film." Rose's flick, titled Orpheus -- with Bobo appearing in a minor role -- should premiere at the end of January.
Bobo also plays guitar in Shawn Cripps' band Limes, which will be celebrating the long-awaited release of a debut CD, Tarantula, at the Buccaneer this Thursday, December 16th. "I'm not the star of the show when I play with Death Ray or Limes. Shawn is such a musical anomaly, while Nick's music is really visceral," he says of each band. "I find it all satisfying in very different ways."
While the core for Bobo's Monday night gigs will include Prudhomme, Reigning Sound bassist Jeremy Scott, drummer Paul Buchignani, and organist Andy Grooms, musicians such as cellist Jonathan Kirkscey, his string-bass playing friend Chang, and Mr. Airplane Man guitarist Margaret Garrett are expected to drop in on a regular basis.
"Hopefully, the line-up for my own band will change every week," he says. "I'm firing things up in hopes of recording a new album at Easley-McCain next spring."
Viva L'American Death Ray Music wasn't the only regional group to make it to Europe in November: Oxford garage-rockers the Preacher's Kids played 11 shows on the Continent last month while touring with Germany's Redondo Beat.
"It was really, really great," Preacher's Kids frontman Tyler Keith says. "We traveled from Germany to Austria, Slovenia, and Belgium in two weeks. People loved it. We got a bunch of encores every night so we had to play every song we knew. They just wouldn't let us off the stage," he adds. "We're trying to go back over there in the spring. Until then, we're waiting for our record to come out [the upcoming The Devil's Hit List, recorded at Easley-McCain] and playing locally."
Search the bins for these new releases: Oxford's Wiley & the Checkmates' debut album, Introducing, was released a few weeks ago on guitarist J.D. Mark's Pickmark label. Recorded at Fat Possum's Money Shot Studio, these 10 originals hearken back to the classic soul and R&B sounds of the '60s and '70s.
Closer to home, Memphis' Ruffin Brown Band just dropped Mowgli, an eight-song CD on their own Novox Records. Amazingly heavy riffs anchor the group's lengthy tracks, which draw on instrumental "post-rock" styles before departing for funkier ground. Cellist Jana Misener sings most of these numbers, including the lovely "Misogyny for Short," while other songs, like the rhythmic "Poi" and the epic "Yosa," are strict instrumental affairs. •