An Americana Heatwave: Following Lucero, Giant Bear might be the next Americana-flavored group from Memphis to break onto the national scene. The band's new eponymous CD, which was cut at Young Avenue Sound early this year, was released last weekend — look for it on digital download sites iTunes, eMusic, and Rhapsody — and Paste magazine has picked up a track for release on its CD sampler this fall.
With tracks produced by Kat Gore, Jimmy Davis, Louis Meyers, and Bill Ellis and special guests ranging from guitarist Luther Dickinson to saxophonist Scotty Gerardy, Giant Bear sounds seamless, the Davis-produced dark ballad "Clementine" effortlessly melding into the spacey "Wyoming," which was produced by Ellis and features Rick Steff on accordion. A cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Head Like a Hole" is reworked into a soaring string anthem with cellist Jana Misener on lead vocals, while the original "Devil on the Wall" evokes Nickel Creek's sweet appeal and sharp music sensibilities.
Look for Giant Bear back in Memphis later next month, when they play Otherlands on July 27th, following a series of dates that takes the group to Dallas, Shreveport, Atlanta, and Asheville.
Meanwhile, Amy LaVere's newest Archer Records release, Anchors & Anvils, is climbing its way up the Americana radio charts, viewable at AmericanaRadio.org. LaVere's sophomore album entered the chart at #67; at press time, it's climbed all the way to #9.
After a lengthy hiatus following the divorce of the group's two principal songwriters, Cary Hudson and Laurie Stirratt, Blue Mountain, one of the most popular bands on the No Depression circuit in the mid-1990s, has reunited for a series of shows this summer. There's no Memphis date scheduled, so if you missed the once-formidable Blue Mountain at Proud Larry's in Oxford, Mississippi, last weekend, your next best bet to see them is at Kenny Brown's Hill Country Picnic in Potts Camp on Saturday, June 30th. For more information on the reunion, go to FundamentalRecords.com.
And former Memphian Mark Lemhouse produced Frank Black's new album, Bluefinger, slated to drop on September 11th. Lemhouse — a founding member of The Bluff City Backsliders, who returned to Memphis to record his last solo effort, 2005's The Great American Yard Sale, released on Yellow Dog Records — and Black, the Pixies frontman, cut the 11-song album, a tribute to iconic Dutch rocker Herman Brood, in Portland, Oregon, earlier this year.
If you happen to find yourself in Paris later this month, head on over to the Cartier Foundation's contemporary art pavilion, where Tav Falco's Panther Burns will play the Soirées Nomades Series on June 28th. The concert kicks off the foundation's Rock'n'Roll 39-59 exhibit, which salutes the lifework of such Memphians as Elvis Presley, Sam Phillips, Rosco Gordon, and Jerry Lee Lewis, collectively described as a "transgressive musical phenomenon" on Cartier's Web site, Fondation.Cartier.com.
At the end of May, Bentonia bluesman Jimmy "Duck" Holmes celebrated the release of his second album, Done Got Tired of Tryin', which, like his 2006 debut, is available via Broke & Hungry Records. Legendary harmonica player Bud Spires (check out his incomparable, wheezing style on 1971's It Must Have Been the Devil, a collaboration with the late Jack Owens) returns for a cover of "Catfish Blues," while adoptive hill-country musician Lightnin' Malcolm plays drums on several tracks, recorded on site at Holmes' juke, the Blue Front Café.
Luke Sexton, aka DJ Redeye Jedi, has the musical line-up nailed down for the second annual Soul Food Graffiti Jam, slated to take place on the U of M campus this weekend. On deck: hip-hop groups Tunnel Clones, Iron Mic Coalition, Poisonious Dialect, Ptah, Deloach, Infanito, and King Otis, along with DJs Wic-It, Sol Kontrol, Chase-One, Wrek-uh, Leroy, and Hush. The free music will run from 1 to 8 p.m. Saturday, June 16th, outside the construction site for the new university center. For more information, go to MySpace.com/SoulFood2007.
Finally, don't forget the weekly residencies at area clubs this month: Lightnin' Malcolm and Cedric Burnside are at Callie's Place on Sundays, Jump Back Jake is at the Hi-Tone Café on Mondays, Monsieur Jeffrey Evans and Ross Johnson are at the Buccaneer Lounge on Wednesdays, and on Thursday nights, The Roy Brewer Trio holds court at Automatic Slim's.