Music Notes

by Mark Jordan

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do?

Maybe, but it happens all the time. In particular, two popular local bands, the Oblivians and the Clears, have recently called it quits.

The Oblivians went splitsville after what was, according to Eric Oblivian, né Friedl, a good time of “complete rock-and-roll nuttiness” touring Japan with Guitar Wolf. Friedl says the band had been spending less and less time working on Oblivians material, and decided it was time to go their separate ways. Greg Cartwright has a new record titled Head Shop due out next month, while Friedl and Jack Yarber have been playing around town with a noise- outfit called the Virtual Girls.

As for the Clears, we received a fax not too long ago from Brad Pounders, the band’s drummer. “It is with my deepest regrets that we inform you of yet another casualty in the Memphis music scene,” it read. “The Clears have officially disappeared.”

The Clears’ keyboardist, Shelby Bryant, on the other hand, prefers to think of the band as on the back burner. “We’re an inert gas,” he says.

Avid readers might remember that two of this writer’s picks for best local record of 1997 were put out by these very bands. So if there’s a band you’d like to see vanquished, just let me know. I’ll be happy to sing their praises. Just be warned that results may vary. My third end-of-the-year pick was the latest double-CD from Loverly Music, which just merited a four-star rave in Rolling Stone. – Jim Hanas

Commission Closer To Fruition

Mayor W.W. Herenton last week presented to the city council eight of his 10 nominees to serve on the newly formed Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission.

Seven nominees - Barkays’ bassist and Select-o-Hits promoter James Alexander; Bank of Bartlett president Harold Byrd; Bruce Demps, general manager of radio stations WDIA, WHRK, KJMS; Olivia Dobbins, of the Black Business Association; Jon Hornyak, director of the local chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences; club owner and president of the Beale Street Merchants’ Association Preston Lamm, and music promoter Cato Walker – were approved by the council. Approval of the eighth nominee, Gary Belz, had his nomination put on hold while officials answer questions concerning residency requirements.

The other two remaining nominees – Memphis Horn Andrew Love and socialite/dress designer Pat Kerr Tigrett – could not be present at the council meeting. Love is expected to be presented before the council on February 24th; Tigrett will appear for approval on March 3rd.

Premier Players Announced

The nominees for the 13th Annual Premier Player Awards have been announced. And except for a few bizarre nominations (I know Ross Rice just put out his first solo album, but a best newcomer nomination?) , this year’s list appears to be fairly encompassing of the city’s myriad scenes, especially with the addition of three new categories – rapper/club deejay, teacher, and choir.

The nominees are:

Premier guitarist – Tommy Burroughs, Luther Dickinson, Jack Holder, Jimmy King, Calvin Newborn, and Preston Shannon; drummer/percussionist – Lloyd Anderson, Cody Dickinson, Robert Hall, Harry Peel, and James Robertson; strings player – Roy Brewer, Richard Ford, Peter Hyrka, Eric Lewis, Peter Spurbeck, and Kevin Tallant; songwriter – Nancy Apple, Sandy Carroll, Jimmy Davis, Ross Rice, Todd Snider, Garrison Starr, and Keith Sykes; keyboardist – Al Gamble, Ross Rice, Rick Steff, Tony Thomas, Charlie Wood, and Ernest Williamson; brass player – Ben Cauley, Tom Clary, Wayne Jackson, Reid McCoy, and Scott Thompson; female vocalist – Joyce Cobb, Kelley Hurt, Jackie Johnson, Susan Marshall-Powell, and Reba Russell; engineer – William Brown, John Hampton, Dawn Hopkins, Skidd Mills, Jeff Powell, Mark Yoshida; bass (electric/upright) player – Richard Cushing, Tim Goodwin, Sam Shoup, Dave Smith, and John Williams; woodwinds – Art Edmaiston, Fred Ford, Herman Green, Lannie McMillan, Jim Spake, and Carl Wolfe; male vocalist – .Parker Card, Jimmy Davis, Gary Johns, John Kilzer, Kevin Paige, Preston Shannon, and Todd Snider; producer – Jim Dickinson, Jim Gaines, John Hampton, Willie Mitchell, and Ross Rice; band – Big Ass Truck, FreeWorld, North Mississippi All-Stars, Preston Shannon Band, and the Riverbluff Clan; rapper/club deejay – AK 47 from CYC, Al Kapone, Archie Mitchell, Three 6 Mafia, and Darryl Stanley; newcomer – Cheeky Monkey, Jackie Johnson, Jones, Keith Brown, The Mudflaps, Neilson Hubbard, Patrick Dodd Band, and Ross Rice; choir – Angelic Voices Of Faith directed by Mike Dodson, Pam Armour and the Memphis Area Workshop, the Associates Choir directed by O’Landa Draper, Tim Bailey and the Orange Mound Community Choir, and the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church Choir directed by Leo Davis; music teacher – Lily Afshar, Jeff Brewer, Tim Goodwin, Lulah Hedgeman, Jeff Huddleston, Kerry Movassagl, Eugene Rush, and Jeanne Sheffield.

In addition, the local NARAS committee will recognize outstanding technical and artistic effort across the spectrum of the music industry with the new Award for Outstanding Achievement; nominees in that field are producer Jim Gaines, writer Robert Gordon, saxophonist Herman Green, producer Willie Mitchell, and performers Ann Peebles, Garrison Starr, Rufus Thomas, and Three 6 Mafia.

And another new honor, the Award for Community Service, will also be presented with the nominees being the Center for Southern Folklore, the Blues Ball, WEVL-FM 90, longtime music booster Pat Mitchell, and Commercial Appeal music writer Bill Ellis.

The Premier Player Awards will be presented April 9th in a ceremony at The Peabody. n


The Rhythms Of Life

Edwin McCain has a gift for turning others’ personal experiences into infectious rock.

by Mark Jordan

n his classic-rock radio staple “The Load-Out,” Jackson Browne sings about the road, about how for most musicians the tedious grind of touring is worth it for a chance to stand in front of an audience – if only for a couple of hours – and play music.

But for South Carolina native Edwin McCain, the long hours spent on the bus are almost as precious as those few spent on stage.

“I love the road,” says McCain, who released his second album, Misguided Roses, last summer. “The road is where I get a lot of my songs.”

Edwin McCain

at The Library
Friday, February 27

McCain is referring to the characters and places that he encounters in his travels, which in turn tend to turn up in the lyrics to his heartfelt pop/rock songs – people like the New York cabbie and the Louisiana dressmaker of “How Strange It Seems” or the pride of cocky high-school kids blasting their car stereos in “Cleveland Park,” both tracks from Roses.

“[My songs] are snapshots from the road, snapshots from the life that I see as I lead it. Little bits and pieces of emotions that people have played out in front of me over the years. … There’s no question that the road is all one great big picture show, and the screen is the windshield of whatever vehicle you’re riding in.”

It seems as though McCain has spent a good part of his life observing others, living vicariously through their experiences. Though an adopted child, for the most part McCain says his childhood growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, was a normal one.

“[My childhood] was middle of the road. I was adopted into a middle-class family. I went to high school like everybody else. There’s really nothing extraordinary about it. I got my Plymouth Scamp hand-me-down car when I was 15. I promptly rode around with my friends and ran into trash cans and did the regular 15-year-old things. I just kind of grew up just like everybody else. It was all pretty normal. I wish I had a fantastical story to tell you.”

But if young McCain’s own life was nothing to sing about, at least he was able to find ones that were through the church choir, school theatrical productions, and in his first high-school band.

After high school and a brief stint in college, McCain began to take his music more seriously. He picked up a gig in the South Carolina resort town of Hilton Head, which led to similar jobs in St. Croix and Vail, Colorado. He could have gone on playing the resort circuit forever – spending his days on the slopes or the beach and his nights entertaining the tourists – but the more he played, the grander his ambitions became.

“Those were not bad gigs,” McCain says with a glint of sarcasm. “But there’s really only so far you can take that. So, I came back to Charleston, put together a band, and got out on the road.”

And that’s where he’s been ever since. McCain estimates that he’s been touring steadily since 1991. In 1994 alone, McCain and his band played 327 shows. Somewhere along the way, McCain and crew met up with another South Carolina band, Hootie and the Blowfish. With an anthemic, straight-ahead rock style in common, Hootie and McCain quickly became friends. And as the Blowfish began their legendary rocket shot to chart success, McCain found himself strapped to the fuselage as their opening act.

But now with Misguided Roses, McCain is getting ready to come into his own. Unlike his fine first record, Honor Among Thieves, which featured McCain in a more Americana mode with some flourishes of pop, soul, and jazz, Roses is a more ambitious record. McCain and his producers Matt Rollings and Kenny Greenberg work in samples and ethnic influences, best exemplified by the field recording of African children slapping a beat on the surface of a river that starts off “Rhythm of Life.” As with his lyrics, McCain is once more using the finely observed personal experiences of others for inspiration.

It is a trend that has carried over into McCain’s personal life as well. It was the plight of Charleston’s poorest neighborhoods that inspired McCain to co-found the American Street Foundation, a project aimed at revitalizing the city’s hurricane-ravaged low-income housing. A 1996 concert in Charleston featuring McCain, Hootie, Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes, and Drivin’ ‘n’ Cryin’ frontman Kevn Kinney raised $250,000 for the foundation. Future plans, befitting McCain’s own propensity toward wanderlust, call for the ASF to become a national organization benefiting from a series of 10 concerts to be held across the country.

But all that will have to wait, for now.

“I’ve just been insanely busy supporting this album,” McCain says. “We’re going to be out for at least another year. … Just like anything, you get tired of it. It’s just of matter of really wanting to live a musical life and being proud to be a part of a musical heritage. There’s some things about it that are really beautiful, and there’s some things that are a real pain in the ass. But overall, I think I’m fortunate to be doing what I’m doing.” n


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