Harmonica maestro Billy Gibson is a multiple Premier Player Award winner and in-demand session player, having appeared most recently on bluesman Michael Burks' Memphis-recorded, Handy-nominated I Smell Smoke album. He is also on a currently broadcast television commercial for Chili's restaurants.
But this week he does his own thing with a release party for his latest album, In a Memphis Tone, recorded for local label Inside Sounds. A former member of the local blues band the junkyardmen, Gibson will celebrate the release of his third solo album Thursday, January 22nd, at downtown's Bon-Ton CafÇ in a show scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Gibson will be backed by musicians who play on the record, including bassist Kevin Sheahan, drummer Jeff Burch, and organist Charlie Wood.
In a Memphis Tone is a smoky, all-instrumental collection of jazz and blues tunes, mixing covers from the likes of Jimmy Smith and Thelonious Monk with originals from collaborators Sheahan and Wood. Gibson shows off his tremendous range, delivering a feverish solo on Monk's "Straight No Chaser" and then segueing into the elegant tones of the standard "Body and Soul," but still allows room for his collaborators to shine as well.
-- Chris Herrington
Andrew Bird is the kind of artist who completely reinvents himself every few years. That can be bad news for fans who aren't ready to let go of past incarnations and step into the future. Bird started out as the violin-playing sideman for the Squirrel Nut Zippers, easily the best of the swing-revival bands and a group that (while still a little irritating) often transcended the zoot-suit fad.
But Bird was nobody's sideman. His first solo recordings, Thrills and Oh! The Grandeur were hard to pin down. They tapped into the spirit of American pop before 1950, but they couldn't be lumped in with the glut of neo-swing bands that, in the late '90s, were just beginning their long-deserved march to the cutout bins. Bird has a gift for constructing brilliantly deranged lyrics that walk a fine line between earnestness and sheer novelty.
But not anymore. These days, Bird, a member of the stable at Ani DiFranco's Righteous Babe record label, has dropped Bowl of Fire (his band's name) from his records. Now, he is a neo-folkie with something to say. His newest CD, Weather Systems, is a mere nine songs long. That's nine SLOW songs, by the way. But am I complaining? Not a bit. Bird's music may not be as fun as it once was, or as self-conscious, but Weather Systems is a gorgeous offering front to back, filled with Tom Waits-style rumbas, atmospheric alt-country, and lots of creepy whistling. Catch him when he plays the Hi-Tone CafÇ on Thursday, January 22nd.
And now a word about The Country Teasers. They aren't country, and they don't tease. They are a rock-and-roll noise band that manages to be adored by many even though they make some of the most irritating music in the history of sound. But I must confess, after trashing their last recording thoroughly, they have grown on me. Why? Because they are some funny guys, and they write some funny songs. And I can see why, in spite of missing melody lines, nonexistent harmony parts, and total disregard for rhythm and coherence, some people just can't get enough. They are playing the Hi-Tone Sunday, January 25th, with The Unicorns. Be sure to take some earplugs. -- Chris Davis