Ryan Adams' wearisome bad-boy reputation has been spawned by arguing with rock critics and otherwise acting out whenever he gets the chance. But his extracurricular activities haven't obscured his music, which, from his roots in the '90s alt-country band Whiskey-town to his recent breakout Gold, has built a considerable audience.
Whiskeytown provided an outlet for alt-country fans fishing for a new obsession after the break-up of genre standard-bearers Uncle Tupelo. Since going solo, Adams has competed with Uncle Tupelo founder Jeff Tweedy's Wilco for leadership status in bringing the genre into the mainstream. Adams is perhaps the more coherent songwriter and more charismatic figure, if also a more conventional musician and less brainy. From his fawned-over indie debut, Heartbreaker, to his post-9/11 hit "New York, New York" to last year's wishfully titled Rock N Roll, Adams has developed into a relatively mainstream roots-rocker who maintains an alt-rock edge. Personally, I've never heard much there: Take away the attitude and image, and he's Tom Petty meets Billy Joel without the craft of either. But hundreds of thousands of hip young things disagree. Adams performs at the New Daisy Theatre Tuesday, September 14th. An earlier Memphis appearance a couple of years ago was scratched at the last minute when Adams was invited to play Saturday Night Live, so fans should be hungry for this show.
What I'm excited about this week is the big hip-hop show at the Hi-Tone Café Friday, September 10th, in which two of the city's best emerging hip-hop crews share the stage for the first time. Featured in a Flyer cover story two weeks ago, the Iron Mic Coalition brings together diverse elements from Memphis' previously floundering underground hip-hop scene for an injection of unity and energy. Solo MC Fathom 9 spits complicated rhymes in the vein of national underground figures such as Aesop Rock or Pharoah Monche. Duo Fyght Club offer tag-team hip-hop that sounds classic without glossing over its Southern flavor. Veteran trio MOS prove that the Memphis sound has always been diverse. And duo Kontrast erase the boundaries with a funny, engaging style that makes like Eightball & MJG blended with Native Tongues-style smarts and humor. DJ Capital A ties it all together. Friday, the Iron Mic will meet up with The Tunnel Clones, MCs Bosco and Deverachi backed by Memphix's DJ Redeye Jedi. The Tunnel Clones boast a confident, strong indie hip-hop sound that could be ready to make waves on the national scene soon. From what I've heard of the group's forthcoming debut record, it's certain to be one of the year's local best.