Monday, September 21, 2009

Tonight: Jim Dickinson Memorial Folk Festival

Posted By on Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 2:35 PM


Musician/producer Jim Dickinson will be fittingly eulogized with a free concert at the Levitt Shell tonight.

On the bill: Dickinson's eldest son Luther, his former Mudboy & the Neutrons bandmates Jimmy Crosthwait and Sid Selvidge, and friends and proteges Keith Sykes, Reba Russell, Paul Taylor, Steve Selvidge, Jimbo Mathus and Shannon McNally.

While Dickinson was known around the world for his work with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin, he was also a major presence at the Midtown amphitheater throughout his career: In the late 1960s, he helped organize the folk and blues festivals that melded the music of 102-year old Nathan Beauregard and his fellow bluesmen Furry Lewis, Fred McDowell and Bukka White with eclectic modern acts like Electric Blue Watermelon and Insect Trust. In the 1980s, Mudboy & the Neutrons were stalwarts at the shell; in more recent years, Dickinson shared bills with the likes of Lucero and Amy LaVere.

A free venue, filled with great music that blends the borders between roots music and raucous rock-and-roll — I don't think Dickinson would ask for anything more.

From Chris Herrington's article that ran in this week's Flyer:

According to event organizer David Less, who worked with Dickinson on a string of excellent solo albums in the last decade of his life, the show is "in response to an overwhelming need from the local music community and those touched by Jim and his music. When we produced the benefit concert on August 8th, the intention was to raise funds [for medical bills and expenses]. After he died the next week, we heard from many people who were unable to participate and wanted to memorialize him in some way."

In related news, Luther Dickinson and the "Sons of Mudboy" — Sid Selvidge and Jimmy Crosthwait, plus Paul Taylor, Steve Selvidge, Shannon McNally and Jimbo Mathus — have recorded Upward and Onward, a gospel album due for release on Memphis International Records on November 10th.

Cut at Jim Dickinson's home studio, Zebra Ranch, just three days after his death, the album was recorded with two microphones plugged directly into a two-track ½ inch tape recorder. Ardent Studios owner John Fry mastered the tracks directly from the two track to the mother stamper from which (vinyl) pressings were sourced. Most of the songs were nailed in just one take.

Chin Music

Posted By on Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 12:58 PM

Some things can be made up. Like: Hey did you hear Stubby Clapp is moonlighting as a tumbling instructor at The Little Gym in Germantown? See, totally made up.

But some things just can't be made up. Like: Did you hear prominent baseball figure Tim McCarver recorded an album at Memphis' Archer Records? And it's coming out tomorrow? Totally true.

Correction: The album was recorded at Ardent Studios, and Archer Records is assisting with distribution.

A Memphis native (and Christian Brothers HS alum), McCarver is known for his career behind the plate for the St. Louis Cardinals (with whom he won two World Series) and Philadelphia Phillies, among other teams; and for his post-playing career as a television sports broadcaster.

And now he's a recording artist.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Tickets On Sale for Big Star's Brooklyn Gig, Pavement Reunion Concerts

Posted By on Fri, Sep 18, 2009 at 3:48 PM

Big Star — with Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow standing in for Chris Bell and Andy Hummel — just announced their first U.S. date for 2009: Wednesday, Nov. 8th at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple in Brooklyn, N.Y. Admission is $35, with tickets available here. Go here to see the revamped Big Star in action, performing "September Gurls" in London two months ago.

The Big Star gig isn't the only reunion concert receiving major buzz this week: 1990s-era indie rockers Pavement just announced their first date since November 20th, 1999. The September 21st, 2010 concert at Rumsey Playfield in NYC's Central Park sold out within a few hours, but the band subsequently announced two more gigs, slated for the same stage on Sept. 22nd and 23rd. Ticketmaster has all the details. Until then, Pavement fans will have to sate themselves with The Real Feel, a new album from Pavement guitarist Scott Kannberg (a.k.a. Spiral Stairs), due on Matador Records on Oct. 20th.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

For the Love of Shirley

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2009 at 3:02 PM

I can't tell you the first time I met Miss Shirley Williams, longtime bartender at the Lamplighter Lounge. Chances are, I was still a teenager, and she bounced my ass for not having a legal i.d.

What I can tell you is this: Through my ever-evolving taste in music and men, Miss Shirley has been one of the few constants in my post-high school life.

She was around when I first became a regular at the Lamplighter in the early 1990s (when I was legal) and I'd just discovered the Country Rockers. I'd come in to talk country music with Alex Chilton and CR guitarist Ron Easley, who, with Dan Rose, shot scenes for this incredible video at the Lamp, way back in '92.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Behind the Scenes of the Big Star Box Set

Posted By on Tue, Sep 15, 2009 at 2:36 PM

During his seven-year career at Ardent Studios, 34-year old engineer Adam Hill has worked with the White Stripes, Cat Power, George Thorogood, Montgomery Gentry and the Raconteurs. One of the biggest highlights of Hill's career, however, came when, under the watchful eye of studio founder John Fry, he began excavating tapes that are, in some cases, older than him.

Hill's mission: dig through the detritus that comprised the demos and outtakes from Big Star's 1970s oeuvre (#1 Record, Radio City and Third), which was languishing in the studio vaults, and transfer his findings to a digital format. The gems — mainly comprised of rare moments into the musical psyches of songwriters Alex Chilton and Chris Bell — wound up on Keep An Eye on the Sky, the 97-track, four CD Big Star box set that was released on Rhino Records today, and the deluxe reissue of I Am the Cosmos, due on Rhino later this month.

Last week, I sat down with Fry and Big Star drummer/Ardent Studios manager Jody Stephens to discuss the cult popularity of the band, which, in 1970s-era Memphis, came and went with little fanfare. (Go here to read that article.) Today, I catch up with Hill to ask him some questions about the behind-the-scenes work on the project.

Flyer: Were you already a Big Star fan when you came to work at Ardent?

Hill: Oh, yeah... I grew up in Nashville, and the first time I moved to Memphis, I actually lived across the street from Jody Stephens for a while. I remember sitting on the porch with my friends one day. We were blasting Big Star and drinking beers, and when Jody came out of his house, I wondered, did he hear us? After I moved back to Nashville in ’98, I saw Big Star play a show there. And after engineering school, I was calling Jody intermittently to see if there were any openings at Ardent. I was also dating my now-wife long distance, and the day after I moved back to Memphis, Jody called and asked if I could come in for an interview. There was a period then where I’d think, ‘I’m working with Jody — that’s cool!’

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Friday, September 11, 2009

The New McCarthyism

Posted By on Fri, Sep 11, 2009 at 3:23 PM

In a recent interview with The Flyer, Memphis fantasy/exploitation filmmaker Mike McCarthy described his earlier films — Damselvis, Teenage Tupelo, Sore Losers, and Superstarlet A.D. — as his "street cred." He said that his latest film, Cigarette Girl, which screens at midnight at Studio on the Square tonight and tomorrow night, "borrows" from his previous work "but is a little more commercial, a little more formula." Looking back at comments made in a nine year old interview where McCarthy got beyond the all the bare breasts and the Odd Rod cartoons to describe the artistic vision and inspiration behind his earlier, more sensational flicks, it would seem that Cigarette Girl is less of a departure than a fulfillment of his original vision.

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Sound Advice: Twin Pilot CD Release

Posted By on Fri, Sep 11, 2009 at 3:06 PM

Yes, I have the mullet and parachute pants pictures that prove I graduated from high school in 1985. And that's why I try really hard to steer people away from the notion that ’80s retro is a good idea. But every now and again somebody sifts though the cultural horrors of the Reagan era and strikes gold. Though not exactly an ’80s revival band, Memphis' The Clears borrowed heavily (and often brilliantly) from the synth-driven side of new wave, as did Portland's The Epoxies, one of my favorite turn of the 21st Century bands. Now Memphis' Twin Pilot has recorded The Sound of Love, a CD that sounds like some extraordinary union of the Psychedelic Furs and the Suicide Twins rocked up with a dash of guitar goth and the faintest memory of Simple Minds.

If you listen close to some of the longer droning passages on The Sound of Love you may even hear a famous arpeggio or two buried in the mix.

Just in case my commentary has lead anybody to believe that Twin Pilot is some bunch of gutless synth-pop revivalists it might be helpful to mention that TP features Harry Koniditsiotis of the Angel Sluts on vocals and guitars. So there's nothing gutless about it. But don't take my word for it, have a listen.

Then go check out their CD release party tonight (9/11/09) at Murphy's with special guest Holly Cole.

R.I.P. Pop Tunes

Posted By on Fri, Sep 11, 2009 at 10:14 AM


Yesterday morning, without any fanfare, hope for a miracle, or opportunity for a last-minute reprieve, the Nashville-based Music City Record Distributors unceremoniously pulled the plug on Memphis' final two Pop Tunes locations including the first Pop Tunes, located at 308 Poplar Ave., which was opened by Joe Cuoghi and John Novarese in the late 1940s as a retail record store, a jukebox supplier, and a wholesale operation.

Eight years ago, Music City Record Distributors, owners of the beleaguered Cats Music chain, purchased all seven area Pop Tunes stores. According to this June 2001 story, which originally ran in Billboard, retail VP Scott Perkins assured Pop Tunes fans that the stores would largely retain their unique identity in the Memphis market.

"Pop Tunes has too much history — that's where Elvis shopped," Perkins said.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Convection's Last Night

Posted By on Thu, Sep 10, 2009 at 4:12 PM

When I first walked into Dish in November 2008 for the monthly music event Convection, I knew there was something special about DJ duo Sean O’Daniels and Chad White. Not only was the energy crackling and the music hot, the two DJs put on a show behind the turntables, entertaining the audience.

Mr. White on deck
  • Eric Swartz
  • Mr. White on deck
This past Saturday night, Dish was filled to capacity and patrons spilled out onto the sidewalk at the corner of Cooper and Young. Inside, it was cool and dark, every table was taken, and the dance floor was packed with moving bodies. The mood was bittersweet, since this was the very last Convection event.

“Convection just ran its course,” O’Daniels said. He and White started the event at Dish in October 2008, and have held it monthly ever since.

When I sat down to chat with White and O’Daniels, I was happy to hear that while Convection might be over, both DJs have big plans, and more Memphis appearances, in their future.

“We are still planning on doing events,” O’Daniels said, “We are hoping to bring in more outside talent, both local and national. Bringing other DJs into the mix will bring more variety.”

The history of house music unashamedly goes back to the era of Saturday Night Fever. Essentially, when disco music started to die out in the late ‘70s, house music was born, and it became popular in large cities like Chicago and New York before spreading to Europe. Today, the genres of house and electronic music are ever-evolving, and sub-genres like techno house, deep house, and fidget house continue to widen the fan base.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Memory of a Free Festival

Posted By on Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 10:06 PM

The Sensational Six
  • MMHF flickr site
  • The Sensational Six
Although it was disrupted by the occasional downpour, the Center for Southern Folklore's 2009 Memphis Music & Heritage Festival appeared to be a huge success. Large crowds turned out to see cooking and craft demonstrations and to take in concerts by traditional and progressive Mid-South bands.

Sadly, I missed Bobby Rush's performance, which was moved indoors at the last minute after a Saturday night cloudburst. And I didn't have my camera on me to capture an extraordinary gospel performance by The Sensational Six or fantastic sets I caught by Giant Bear and Los Cantadores, a phenomenal group that has evolved from a mariachi novelty into a full-fledged Latin music experience touching on tejano, salsa, and classic rock-and-roll. I was able to document a handful pf performances by Two Way Radio and The Bluff City Backsliders as well as a demonstration of how cylinder-style recordings were made at the turn of the 20th-Century. And here they are...

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"Live Animals" Released

Posted By on Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 1:37 PM

Live Animals, the "audience choice" award winner at this year's On Location: Memphis film festival gets a national DVD release today via Echo Bridge Home Entertainment. The film, from local writer/director Jeremy Benson is an authentically creepy and brutal thriller in the tradition of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hostel. It stars Memphis actor John Still as a human trafficker who, with the help of his henchman (Patrick Cox), abducts young people, holds and "breaks" them at his secluded rural farm, and sell them. The film's atmosphere is so effectively uncomfortable that your mind might trick you into thinking the film is more gory than it really is.

The DVD release — which includes a "making of" documentary and deleted scenes — will be celebrated tonight with a party at 7 p.m. at the downtown bar the Silly Goose (100 Peabody Place).

For a sample of what to expect, watch the film's trailer below. For more on Live Animals, check out the film's official site.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Listening Log 05: Dead Weather, Mos Def, Brad Paisley

Posted By on Wed, Sep 2, 2009 at 2:26 PM

Double listening for upcoming "best of the decade" posts has slowed down my 2009 intake, but this year is coming together, helped by one old reliable in new form and two other old reliables hitting new peaks.

Horehound — Dead Weather (Third Man): Jack White is certainly one of the decade's signature musicians, but though his arresting guitar-tunes are a given, the quality and specificity of his songwriting — and songcraft — comes and goes. Befitting the old-fashioned guy that he is, his music has been most interesting when he's in the thrall of a female muse — Meg on the breakout White Blood Cells (he pines for her "pretty voice," but she'll only agree to keep the beat), redhead paramours going and coming on the underrated Get Behind Me Satan, a luminous Loretta Lynn on the White-produced Van Lear Rose. On this worthy side project, White retreats behind the drum kit, lets one of his ladyfriends (the Kills' Alison Mosshart) take the lead, and the result works as music-first not only better than the boy's-club Raconteurs, but also better than even the White Stripes. The songs on Horehound don't quite stick, but the sound — darker and thicker than White's other projects — overcomes: Punk-blues, low-key Led Zep, and — shockingly, considering the source — tinges of rap-rock all collide in a homebrew that swaggers, coos, and pounds in all the right spots. ("Treat Me Like Your Mother," "60 Feet Tall," "Bone House")
Grade: A-

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Elvis Returns to the Shell

Posted By on Wed, Sep 2, 2009 at 10:50 AM


On July 30th, 1954, a young Elvis Presley played what is considered his first real public concert at the Overton Park Shell. Elvis' first single for Sun Records, the now legendary "That's All Right (Mama)," had just been released and Presley was a relatively unknown opening act on a multi-artist bill headlined by country singer Slim Whitman.

Elvis would perform several shows at the Shell over the next year, before becoming the biggest star rock-and-roll would ever know. This fall, the King returns, in a way, to the venue that launched him when Elvis, the 1968 NBC television special now popularly known as "the ’68 Comeback Special," will be screened in the park as part of the 12th Indie Memphis Film Festival.

The screening will take place at 7 p.m., Friday, October 9th, at the recently refurbished and renamed Levitt Shell. The screening is being presented by Elvis Presley Enterprises and co-presented by the Levitt Shell and the Memphis Flyer. It will be free and open to the public.

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