The Central Standards, a folk-rock duo composed of Jeff Capps and Ted Horrell, have been gigging around town for the past year or so, mixing literate originals with a record geek's panoply of sharp cover tunes (Velvet Underground, Kinks, Stephen Malkmus, etc.). But this week they'll step out with the release of their solid debut disc, Refrain, a collection of 14 smart, catchy original songs on the folk side of the alt-country vein, music reminiscent of artists such as the Jayhawks and Freedy Johnston.
Recorded at Memphis Soundworks with Posey Hedges and Kevin Cubbins at the controls, Refrain fleshes out the duo's acoustic-guitar sound with an added rhythm section and a few other instrumental flourishes. The more dynamic backdrop helps flesh out the duo's sharp collection of downbeat love songs, including standouts like "Still Stay," "Otis Redding Song," and "Secrets To Sing."
The Central Standards will hold three record-release parties for Refrain this week: the first, on Friday, December 5th, at the Full Moon Club above Zinnie's East, a 21-and-over show that starts at 10 p.m. The duo will follow that show with two appearances the next day -- a 3 p.m. set at Cat's Music in Midtown and an 8 p.m. show at Borders Books & Music. -- Chris Herrington
If The Iguanas (and no, I don't mean Iggy Pop's first band) are in the house, you know it must be a party. This New Orleans roots/fusion combo has been playing in some form or another since the late '80s when singer and guitar/accordion player Rod Hodges moved from San Francisco to the Big Easy. The Iguanas are musicians' musicians and a slightly less-brooding answer to Brave Combo, blending classic R&B grooves with funk, zydeco, tejano, and -- yes -- polka. Their sound can shift in an instant between sweet, haunting Mexican soul to full-throttle, horn-driven Stax madness. Very few groups can cram so many influences into a single, cohesive sound. Check out "Flame On," a driving Stax-inspired number vaguely referencing Marvel Comics superhero the Human Torch and you'll see what I mean. The Iguanas have many Memphis connections. Several members have played with Alex Chilton and Tav Falco's Panther Burns. Drummer Doug Garrison even played on Charlie Rich's last recording, Pictures and Paintings. The Iguanas play Automatic Slim's Tonga Club on Friday, December 5th. At $12, the cover is a little pricey, but the Iguanas are worth a dozen dollars and then some. And speaking of parties
Nobody does it better than Shangri-La Records. There have been a few record shops to come into the market catering to the punk/Memphis-centric/vinyl-lovers crowd since Shangri-La opened its doors in 1989, but none of them has been able to really compete for the hearts and minds of local musicians and audiophiles. Why? There's Shangri-La's record label/publishing house for starters. Between their great new-music releases in the '90s, the CD/documentary/autobiography of beloved bluesman Wilroy Sanders, and the label's more recent garage-rock anthologies, Shangri-La has become a multigenerational touchstone for Memphis musicians and music lovers. And then there are the parties! When Shangri-La throws a shindig, you know your shins have been thoroughly dug. This year's Christmas party lineup includes Memphis' premier instrumental soul group, The Bo-Keys, and Tyler Keith & The Preacher's Kids. Since I've recently spilled quite a bit of ink on the former, let's forget about the BKs for a minute and concentrate on Tyler Keith. Who could have ever imagined that when Keith left the Neckbones, an amazing semi-local trash-rock band in the spirit of the Oblivians, that his sound could actually get nastier? With more than an occasional nod to '70s-era New York punk, Keith is almost single-handedly reinventing a style of music called "Southern rock." That is to say, Keith's lyrics are decidedly Southern, almost rural at times, but the screaming guitars fly between traditional urban punk, crazed honky tonk, and something a little swampier and lot more dangerous. When Romeo Hood first came out, I ranked it as one of my favorite local records of the year. It has since become one of my favorite local records of all time. Check into what Keith's doing these days at The Shangri-La Christmas Party on Saturday, December 6th, at the Hi-Tone Café.
-- Chris Davis