Break This Record
Deering & Down
Although an awful lot of familiar names in Memphis music — including Lucero bassist John C. Stubblefield and sideman supreme Rick Steff on keys — make key contributions to Break This Record, the second album (and first local release) from Deering & Down, the album is primarily a testament to that ostensible duo. Singer Lahna Deering's scratchy, soulful voice is the band's charismatic calling card. It evokes Janis Joplin without the blues power, or Christine McVie dressed in Stevie Nicks' lace gowns, or a post-sex-change Rod Stewart. And inventive guitarist Rev. Neil Down matches her, hammering and twanging and darting around Deering's vocals like a true duet partner.
Because Deering's guitar exploits lend the music such a charge, giving the songs a sonic element that can actually equal Deering's ear-catching vocals, Break This Record is at its best on the rave-ups: classic-rock numbers that shuffle like the Stones instead of stomping around like a mundane bar band, though with an idiosyncratic feel that flaunts comparison. ("Finally Found the One," "Whatcha Thinkin' Of," "Oh So Good") — Chris Herrington
Sounds of Fire and Light
This debut from five-piece local rock band Rind Stars is straightforward alt-rock with echoes of alt-country and late-'60s British Invasion. If this versatile band has a sonic signature, it might be harmony (or sometimes just shared) vocals, which suggest power-pop or even country, but the effect is layered over fairly hard, sometimes skronky guitars. This dynamic is perhaps most noticeable on "Estupid Country Song," where a catchy, harmony-driven chorus comes rising out of a heavy, swirling guitar bridge. They dabble in a bit of Southern rock with "The Tick," which boasts boogie rhythms and a clanking cowbell, but the vocals remain more indie-pop. "I Don't Wanna Die First" roots around in what seems to be a moody love song, then ends with a blast. Lyrically, the band is all over the place in a good way, with songs that take on tangible topics from indirect vantage points. In all, Sounds of Fire and Light introduces a very solid rock band that evokes lots of comparisons without ever sounding like imitators. ("The Tick," "No Way," "I Don't Wanna Die First") — CH
Recorded at Sun Studio, where he works as a tour guide, Obsessed is David Brookings' fourth album, his third since moving to Memphis. The style is melodic rock-and-roll and power-pop with a sincere, optimistic outlook and a light, sweet vocal touch. Brookings' rollicking, rockabilly-fied cover of the Beatles' "I'll Cry Instead," with Amy LaVere and Paul Taylor backing him up, was the highlight of the third installment of local label Inside Sounds' third "Memphis Meets the Beatles" compilation last fall, and Brookings' commitment to the rock-and-roll verities is on display immediately on Obsesssed: The opening "I'm Not Afraid" ends with a "sha-na-na" vocal outro that segues into a "1-2-3-4" countoff that opens "Get Behind Me."
Conceptually, Obsessed seems to be a record about being a struggling, committed musician, with the title track an autobiographical tale of first getting hooked on the music ("It's gonna be hard when you're playing one-man gigs/You gotta be strong or you're never gonna make it big"). Other songs that hit on this topic are "Tough Crowd" (the kind that sit stone-faced through your originals and then ask for "Brown-Eyed Girl") and "The Festival" ("They wouldn't let me be in the festival/There's not enough spots to go around"). ("I'm Not Afraid," "Get Behind Me") — CH