I think Billy Bob Thornton's great. As a screenwriter, he's helped illuminate the world I came from (small-town Arkansas) with more insight than any filmmaker ever has or that I ever thought imaginable in a Hollywood film, first with the great modern noir One False Move (which tracked a band of killers from L.A. to Star City [!!], Arkansas), then with his proudly unschmaltzy racial reconciliation piece A Family Thing, and then with his breakout Sling Blade, which may have been a geek show of sorts at the center but included a periphery filled with finely drawn characters and settings. And, as an actor, I think Thornton's one of the most entertaining character players of his era, enlivening films such as A Simple Plan, Primary Colors, and The Apostle with sharp supporting turns.
The problem is that this column is called Sound Advice, not Sight & Sound Advice, and I can't say I've got quite as much enthusiasm for Thornton's nascent music career. Thornton released a not-so-well-received debut record, Private Radio, a couple of years back, which was sort of a countrified take on Tom Waits, produced by Nashville mainstay Marty Stuart. Thornton's follow-up, The Edge of the World, is due in stores this week, and he'll be making his Memphis debut in support of the record Thursday, August 21st, at the Gibson Lounge, which will reopen that night after suffering damage in what has apparently been trademarked Windstorm 2003.
But Thornton isn't the only rootsy, regional bet this week. Sweden-by-way-of-New Orleans' Theresa Andersson will perform at Young Avenue Deli Wednesday, August 27th. A violin-toting melder of rock, funk, and other sounds, Andersson has made quite a splash in her adopted home, winning the Big Easy Award for the Crescent City's best female artist this year and garnering a ton of press for her provocative set (she performed in a string bikini and body paint) at the city's annual Jazz Festival. Also at the Deli this week, on Monday, August 25th, is roots-revival fave Deke Dickerson, a Columbia, Missouri, native and a swing and rockabilly guitarist par excellence.
As for locals, WEVL-FM finishes up their annual Blues on the Bluff series at the National Ornamental Metal Museum Saturday, August 23rd, with a string triumvirate of local blues stalwarts: Mississippi Morris, Daddy Mack, and Robert Belfour. And, finally, back at the Lounge, a diverse selection of local artists --folk-rockers Native Son, college-rockers Ingram Hill, plain-old-rock-and-roll-rockers The Subteens, and second-generation singer-songwriter Planet Swan -- will join forces in a fund-raiser for local film production company Low Brow-HiJinx, which will be reshooting their debut full-length, The Fixer-Upper, later this year, with a soundtrack featuring all the above artists. -- Chris Herrington
That crazy garage-rock sound is alive and well in Memphis, Tennessee, thanks in part to The Break-ups. Now there's nothing particularly original about the Break-ups' sound. This trio's music follows the time-honored path of taking traditional 12-bar blues and tearing it apart with rock-and-roll. But this ferocious trio comes on strong, referencing leather boots, pretty mouths, and drunken mistakes along the way. On Friday, August 22nd, at Young Avenue Deli, the Break-ups will debut their first EP, the fuzzy, lo-fi rocker Break Yourself, an eight song collection that sounds like a cross between classic regional favorites like the Reatards and vintage White Animals. It's impossible to listen to the bouncing, ever-danceable garage-pop of a Break-ups song like "You Got to Me" without being reminded of the White Animals in their heyday, when they were singing about things like leather boots, pretty mouths, and drunken mistakes. It's good to hear a band like the Break-ups, who manage to bring on the pop and the punk in equal measures. They will be joined by St. Louis garage rockers Thee Lordly Serpents. --Chris Davis