Neither Lahna Deering nor Rev. Neil Down — the principle duo behind the rootsy local outfit Deering & Down — is from the Memphis area originally, but for both the city is a musical and cultural cornerstone, as well as home.
"I have always felt like more than part of me grew up in Memphis because of the music I listened to," Down says. "There have been so many absolutely incredible things that have been born out of this place, where all the people have seen and heard just about everything. What better place to check and see if there's actually a bit of proof in the pudding?"
Deering and Down started their musical partnership some 3,000 miles across the map, in Skagway, Alaska, back in 1998. Deering's mother approached Down, an established musician and bandleader in the area at the time, at a gig to see what he thought of her daughter's budding musical talent.
"She told me she had a daughter who sang and played guitar. I thought, doesn't everybody?" Down says. "When I saw Lahna, I thought, well, she's visually blessed; how could she possibly sing and play? Then I heard her and I thought, I guess she's audio and visually blessed."
The two formed a fast friendship and began performing music together — initially billing themselves as Rev. Neil Down featuring Lahna Deering before settling on the more succinct Deering & Down.
"Rev really insisted on that," Deering says. "He always says give the people what they want, a little more beauty and a little less beast."
The duo released their first album together, Coupe de Villa, in 2001 and began touring around the United States and Canada. And those travels brought them to Memphis.
"Back in 2006, we made it a point to drive through Memphis on our way to some gigs in Los Angeles," Deering says. "We really fell in love with the city and stayed a little longer to cut a couple songs at Sun Studio. It was a truly magical experience. It was like love at first visit."
By 2007, after recording their second album, Break This Record, in town at Yellow Brick Studios with local producer/engineer Chris Scott, the duo decided to set up shop in Memphis full-time.
"To us, being in Memphis felt like an opportunity to be part of something big, something important. It's a city full of great music and friendly people," Down says.
In 2009, Deering & Down entered the legendary local recording facility Royal Studios to lay down tracks for what would become the duo's most ambitious and Memphis-centric project to date, Out There Somewhere, which officially hits the shelves this week. The album features musical contributions from a host of well-known local players, including the late Willie Mitchell and his son, Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell, the Hi-Royal Rhythm Section (Charles Hodges, Mabon "Teenie" Hodges, Leroy Hodges, and Howard Grimes), Lester Snell, Louis Meyers, as well as Lucero's John C. Stubblefield, Roy Berry, and Rick Steff.
"We love this record," Deering says. "It's unlike anything we've done before. With all the Memphis musicians supporting it, the finished product is just wonderful."
"One of the great things about being a duo is that we often cross paths with some amazing players, and when we do, we've got room to invite them aboard. It works well, both for us personally and for our music."
Deering & Down will celebrate the release of Out There Somewhere with a show on Saturday, February 18th, at the Hi-Tone Café. Doors open at 9 p.m., and admission is $5. For more information, visit deeringanddown.com.