Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Jim Stewart Makes a Rare Appearance at Stax, With Special Donation in Hand

Posted By on Wed, Jul 25, 2018 at 9:58 AM

Estelle Axton & Jim Stewart - API PHOTOGRAPHERS
  • api photographers
  • Estelle Axton & Jim Stewart

This Wednesday, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music will host a rare visit by the label's original co-founder, who will present a rare piece of memorabilia to the museum, pay honor to alumni of the Stax Music Academy, and tell tales of the label's early days. Jim Stewart, who lives in Memphis to this day, albeit with a low profile, is a spry 87, which perhaps accounts for his reticence with the media. I spoke with the museum's executive director, Jeff Kollath, about the events scheduled for the evening and how Stewart views his legacy.

Memphis Flyer: It must be a big deal for Jim Stewart to return to Stax.

Jeff Kollath: Yeah, I think so. He's attended Stax Music Academy concerts before, so he's obviously incredibly supportive of what we're doing. But I think the thing he's most proud of, in terms of legacy, is what the Stax Music Academy does. I think he sees what those kids are doing as an extension of the type of things that he and his sister [Estelle Axton]  and [onetime executive vice president] Al Bell were trying to accomplish by giving young people in Memphis opportunities fifty-plus years ago. Obviously it's in a formal educational setting now, as opposed to running a recording studio. But for us, the legacy he created with his sister and Mr. Bell, was one of espousing corporate social responsibility before anybody knew what corporate social responsibility was. And it's totally true. In terms of enmeshing yourself in a community, being a part of that community, working with the community, supporting that community, and especially for two relative outsiders to come to South Memphis and do that 58 years ago, is pretty remarkable. Whenever he's been around, that's the part that always strikes me. When he sees the kids, it's coming full circle.

It's only gaining momentum as many years' worth of students go on to play music.

Yeah, some of 'em aren't kids anymore. Some of them are full-fledged adults. The Academy started before the museum did, back in 2000. Some of these kids are well into their thirties now. But I think music is just a means to an end. It's part of the process. And I think the great youth development work that everyone at the Academy does, making informed, engaged, empathetic citizens, is just as much of a testament to Academy graduates as how great they are as musicians.

So they'll be playing tomorrow night, too.

Yeah. The Stax Music Academy Alumni Band will be playing, and then John Paul Keith is going to play a couple songs from the early Satellite Records catalog, which he did for us during our 60th anniversary stuff last March. I think he'll do “Blue Roses,” which is appropriate, because that's the only song that Mr. Stewart has a songwriting credit for, and that was the very first single out on Satellite. I don't know the other song he's gonna do. He'll do something else from the early, early days, from when Mr. Stewart used his wife's uncle's garage on the north side of Memphis. And then Krista Wroten is going to play a fiddle tune, since obviously Mr. Stewart got his start as a fiddle player. That was how his love of music really began, playing fiddle around West Tennessee, as Red Stewart and the Tennessee Cotton Pickers.

Will there be an open discussion?

Yeah, there'll be some things at the start of the event, then we'll do some talking, some music, and then Mr. Stewart and [onetime Soulsville Foundation President and former Stax employee] Deanie Parker will have a conversation. And then we'll go into the rest of the music for the night. It'll be a nice program. Hopefully some folks will hear some stories. It'll be a good chance for former Stax employees and musicians to get together and see each other again. There'll be a few folks floating around.

And he'll also unveil the new bit of memorabilia that he's donating to the museum?

Yes, we'll do that at the start. That's a surprise, we can't tell you about that. But we're pretty excited about it. We really wanna encourage folks to donate. If they've got it, share it with us and the world. We've been around 15 years, and we've got a lot of great stuff out, but we've got room for more. Jeff Dunn donated his dad [Duck Dunn's] jacket that he's carrying on the cover of [Booker T & the MGs album] McLemore Avenue. He donated that last summer when we did an event for the recent Duck Dunn book. We're gonna put the McLemore Avenue jacket out on display this fall. 
McLemore Avenue, by Booker T & the MGs
  • McLemore Avenue, by Booker T & the MGs
An Evening to Remember, Wednesday, July 25th, 6-8 pm: a special celebration during which Satellite/Stax Records founder Jim Stewart will present the Stax Museum with a very special donation of memorabilia. Live music by the Stax Music Academy Alumni Band, John Paul Keith, and Krista Wroten. Free and open to the public. Doors open at 5:45 p.m.

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Friday, July 20, 2018

WEVL's Blues on the Bluff: A Worthy Tradition

Posted By on Fri, Jul 20, 2018 at 5:11 PM

Kenny Brown played the first Blues on the Bluff
  • Kenny Brown played the first Blues on the Bluff
It'll be an idyllic scene this Saturday, just before sunset, as mic's are checked, amps are tweaked, and kegs are chilled on the grounds of the National Ornamental Metal Museum, all in the name of WEVL FM 89.9. The venerable volunteer radio station brings the Blues on the Bluff® tradition into it's 30th year this weekend, so expect an extra bit of euphoria. 

The music alone will be effervescent, in a very North Mississippi/Memphis way. Things kick off with one man powerhouse Lightnin' Malcom, whose feet lay down a groove with kick and snare while his hands execute perfect drone and jump blues licks. On top of that, he sings with an unassuming conviction. Great stuff.

The one and only Kenny Brown then makes a rare full band appearance. Seemingly forever on the North Mississippi scene, the young Brown was immersed in a world of miraculous music, from Otha Turner to Junior Kimbrough, to his mentor, R.L. Burnside. He carries their traditions well, laying down solid, heavy grooves punctuated with mad flashes of dexterity. This will be a special show for both WEVL and Brown, as he played the original Blues on the Bluff thirty years ago. 

And as for the big finish, it will be none other than a singer that producer Boo Mitchell called “one of the most soulful artists I’ve heard since the glory days of Memphis soul music. Her sound and stage presence is a constant reminder that soul music is still alive and well.”  Marcella & Her Lovers embody the idea of deep-as-the-earth swamp soul, and they've dug especially deep into Memphis soil. In the end, Marcella Simien's voice fuels the entire proceedings, implying grooves and subtleties that the band picks up on immediately. Though dubbed soul, the covers and originals alike are impressively eclectic; always expect surprises with this gang.

Meanwhile, Memphis Made craft beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages will be sold, along with victuals from the Central BBQ Food Truck. A silent auction will be ongoing throughout the evening, with art, merchandise and gift certificates from Memphis businesses. And of course, die hard fans will want to stock up on Blues on the Bluff posters, WEVL T-shirts and other bling.

The food, drink, and Marcella & Her Lovers will leave everyone well-boogied and wondering, where now? Hopefully, the night will have helped raise a bit more coin for simply soldiering on; but the cool of the evening may also lead to a bit of reflection, a savoring of our good fortune to live with a station like WEVL FM. It offers a daily dose of the independent spirit that many cities simply don't have.

Blues on the Bluff, Saturday, July 21. Guests may bring chairs and blankets, but are asked to leave pets and outside food and drinks at home. Gates at 6:00 p.m., show time 6:30, ends at 11:00. $25 admission price ($12 for kids 11 and under) entitles guests to free guarded parking and benefits WEVL FM 89.9. Discounted advance tickets can be purchased online at

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

No Memphis Music and Heritage Festival This Year

Posted By on Tue, Jul 17, 2018 at 2:37 PM


The Center for Southern Folklore announced this afternoon that they are taking 2018 off from their annual Labor Day weekend festival, saying they are "preparing for some exciting events that we will be announcing soon."

The festival has been held at various sites Downtown for more than 30 years. The event combined food, dance, the arts, and some of the best indigenous music from the likes of Carla Thomas, Luther Hampton, Marcella Simien, Joyce Cobb, and many, many more.

Full statement below:

The Center for Southern Folklore will not be presenting the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival this Labor Day Weekend. We are taking a hiatus this year, preparing for some exciting events that we will be announcing soon.

We appreciate your loyalty, support, interest and love of the Center and the Festival, and have enjoyed welcoming you for the past 31 years downtown to our Festival! 

Stay tuned for more information coming soon about our events.  We look forward to presenting an even bigger and better Memphis Music & Heritage Festival in 2019!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Goner and Unapologetic Join Forces For Downtown Meltdown

Posted By on Thu, Jul 12, 2018 at 10:40 AM


The true genius of Memphis music has always been our willingness to mix and match. A show tonight in a Downtown alley proves that tendency is alive and well.

"We keep it fresh by following this one idea: If it doesn’t intimidate us, we didn’t think big enough," says IMAKEMADBEATS, mastermind of the Unapologetic label. "Every show we throw, we try to do something we’ve never seen or done before. We try to scare ourselves with our own ideas, and then we take the necessary steps to make it happen. The adrenaline alone pushes us somewhere new in each show."

Goner Records co-owner Zach Ives says when he was approached by the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) about scheduling a show, he thought it was a great idea.

"I love what [IMAKEMADBEATS] is doing over there," Ives said. "We’ve met up and talked some over the past year. Nice to share experiences. While our avenues are different, there are plenty of similarities. We are both doing it our own way and figuring it out as we go along."

Both Goner and Unapologetic follow in the Memphis tradition of independent record labels making and selling the music they want to hear, and then creating the audience for it.

In the case of Goner, Ives and his partner, Eric Friedl (aka Eric Oblivian), that music is the raw, rootsy garage punk that emerged from the Antenna and Barrister's scene of the 80s and 90s.

For Unapologetic, it's cutting edge hip hop.

"I really believe people value sincerity and vulnerability in music over everything else," says IMAKEMADBEATS. "I think things like genre and other divisions come second to those things.

"These kinds of shows are great for us for the obvious reasons of getting in front of new people with open minds, but also because people like the good folks at Goner understand pushing boundaries and creating the kinds of atmospheres that allow people to be unapologetically themselves.

"Beyond the music, shows like these are great for the people, how they feel there, and the kinds of minds they’ll meet there. It’s great for community."

Ives says after the initial conversation with Unapologetic, "One thing we both agreed on, our different parts of the music community don’t interact enough. This seemed like a good opportunity to try and correct that."

The show will kick off around quitting time on Thursday, July 12th with Unapologetic rapper PreauXX and wunderkind producer Kid Maestro.

"There are few people as naturally talented as PreauXX," says IMAKEMADBEATS. "[He] can go anywhere and share the stage with anyone and be a showstopper."

New Orleans-based retro-synth wizard Benni will echo his spacey vibes  through the Downtown cityscape.

"The Unapologetic guys are super into Benni, so it was a no-brainer!" says Ives. "They demanded it! Also, he has a new record about to come out next month, so it made sense to get him back up and fill Downtown with new space sounds. It also felt like a good transition with the Unapologetic artists."

Unapologetic R&B sensation Cameron Bethany will lend his smooth, emotive voice to the chorus.

"Cameron found me, actually," says IMAKEMADBEATS. "We’d met before because someone I was working with in the studio called him in for some background vocals. He told me that he’d kept up with some of the things I was doing with PreauXX years ago.

"One day in 2015, Cameron called me and told me he wanted me to produce a single for him. We met, talked some business and artistic direction, then set a date for him to come and work on the record.

"The music on his Soundcloud page was mostly cover songs and when I’d asked peers about him, a handful mentioned an amazing voice but no one knew what his music sounded like. We started working on his single and after hearing the hook on it, alone, I knew we had something special. Something different. I listened to it on loop after Cam left the studio for almost 3 hours."

Fresh off a sold-out European tour with Superchunk, Memphis punk legends The Oblivians will be joined by New Orleans vocalist Stephanie McDee.

The Oblivians covered McDee's "Call The Police" on their last album, Desperation.

"It’s such a party anthem," says Ives. "And her original version is soooo fast! We’ll see if the guys can keep up. Can’t wait to see what happens."

The free show, sponsored by the DMC, begins at 5 p.m. in Barbaro Alley Downtown. 

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Listen Up: Estes

Posted By on Thu, Jul 5, 2018 at 6:54 PM

Estes - Andrew Isbell - will debut his first album, 'July,"  July 6  at Hi-Tone. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Estes - Andrew Isbell - will debut his first album, 'July," July 6 at Hi-Tone.

If “Blood Sweat and Tears” wasn’t already taken, the name might be perfect for Andrew Isbell’s debut album, July.

It wasn’t easy putting a first album together. And a few tears were shed when Isbell, whose stage name is “Estes,” suddenly left his last group, The Band CAMINO.

“It definitely was hard to write because I had never filled that role before,” says Isbell, 21. “What also was difficult was overcoming everything I had to process — leaving the band and being on my own.”

A native Memphian, Isbell studied classical piano and classical percussion before picking up guitar on his own.

Then came drums. He and Graham Rowell, who later became CAMINO’s bass player, were in a group called Soundscape when they were at Briarcrest Christian School, where Isbell’s dad was band director. “He had this little ‘commercial music ensemble’ — is what they called it — and I played drum set in that and I just loved that way more than anything I had done previously.”

He and CAMINO lead singer Jeffrey Jordan met at one of Jordan’s concerts before Isbell graduated from high school. “Jeffrey wanted to form a band for the summer just to play his solo music and he called me ‘cause he wanted somebody new and fresh. And I was really looking for an opportunity.”

For two years, Isbell played drums in CAMINO, which also includes Spencer Stewart on keys, guitar, and vocals. “I loved a lot of things about it. Musically, it was a lot of fun. The chemistry between us four was uncommon. At least in my eyes. And we wrote music really quickly. Jeffrey is a fantastic writer and that allowed me to just add to his writing with what I could do on drums.”

And, Isbell said, “We had a unique sound and I think there was a lot of energy because we were all so young.”

Isbell left the group when CAMINO was on the rise. “It wasn’t a negative thing for me to leave. I just thought it was the decision that I needed to make for me personally. We all cried. We weren’t so pissed as we were sad. ‘Cause they didn’t see it coming.”

And, he said, “Obviously, the friendship took a hit.”

Isbell bought a cheap keyboard. “I went home and I made a full cover of this hymn that I absolutely love: ‘Come Thou Fount.’ I remember showing my friends and I was like, ‘This is really cool, isn’t it?’ And they were all really into it.”

Isbell particularly likes the last verse: “‘Prone to wander, Lord. I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”

“It’s a very helpless song. Admitting that you don’t really have everything together and knowing that the person who’s caring for you knows that just as well as you do.”

Isbell began writing new material. “I’d never had creativity like that before, ‘cause I’m just not really a songwriter. But all of a sudden I could do it. And I had this journal and I was writing all the time.”

He began to formulate an album. And he came up with a stage name for himself — “Estes.” “I got it out of Estes Park, Colo., this city that I really love. When I was in high school I had gone there for a camp through my church. And it was very coming out of my shell, personally. Where I just felt I could actually do what I wanted and not rely on other people and what they wanted. I could do my own thing.”

He entered a selfie competition when he was at that camp. He got two friends to hold his legs while he leaned off Eagle Cliff to take the photo.. “They leaned one way so that I could lean the other way and my weight wouldn’t pull me down. That was the dumbest thing we’ve ever done.”

Isbell didn’t win the contest. “Some guy found a marmot and he posed with that. I was pretty upset. He didn’t risk his life for it.”

Isbell wrote most of the songs for July by the end of the summer after he left CAMINO. “If they weren’t directly about the subject of me leaving the band, they were about the struggle of me figuring out what to do next. I had no idea what I was doing and where to go. So, all the songs are basically just me trying to figure it out.”

He recorded his songs at the studio of University of Memphis music business professor Ben Yonas. “I had some friends come and play a couple of things, but for the most part I was recording like the drum track and then I would go play drums. Then I would come back and play piano. Just circle around playing everything and singing it.”

His friend Daniel Waterbury, who Isbell performs with in a worship band called MoveLove, helped out on some songs. “He’s like on call for just about everybody.”

The album begins with Isbell’s song, “Walking Out” and ends with “Come Thou Fount.”

The music is “pretty rocking” but at the same time it’s “very gentle music. I was listening to a lot of folk music at the time.”

He completed the record around Christmas of 2017. “During this whole time I hadn’t said a single thing online about what I was doing. I just kept it all to myself.”

Some people asked him what he was doing. “I would tell them that I was working on a solo project. That’s sort of all that I would give them. So many people thought I had just dropped off the face of the planet, ‘cause I kind of receded into my shell and hung with maybe four people and didn’t talk to many people. And I had a blast. I kind of liked doing that. It’s easier for me to do that than to be social.”

Toward the beginning of January, Isbell made an announcement online. “I put up on Instagram that I was doing something new and I tagged the page. I had like 300 followers within the week and I got offered four shows immediately by people who had never heard any of this. They just liked me and they were like, ‘Come play at this fraternity.’ ‘Come play this show.’”

He played his first show — a house show — on January 19th, with his band, which includes Waterbury on guitar, Kyle Neblett on drums, and Neblett’s brother, Harrison, on bass. “I put up online ticket sales and I charged $15. I was kind of going for it. (It’s) a high price. Somebody donated a sound system. The band was all playing for free. Somebody donated lights. (The host’s wife) and my mom made a ton of food so we had appetizers for everybody. It was BYOB. And I made a gift bag for everybody to leave the house with. It was a piece of candy and a handwritten thank you note for buying a ticket.”

Wearing jeans, boots and a black shirt, Isbell was “terrified” on stage. “I’m a drummer for sure. And that is where I’m comfortable. That is my sandbox and I can live there all day. So, being in the front of a stage is not my strong suit. Especially not at that point. And so I was shaking.”

His audience “got a first taste of everything.”

And, Isbell says, “Everybody loved it.”

Isbell’s next gig was at a Christian fraternity party in Fayetteville. “This time I had 400 people singing with me and it was beautiful.”

He was invited to a party after he and his band played a show in March. He knew Jordan, who he hadn’t seen or talked to since he left CAMINO, was going to be there. “I walked in. He was sitting by himself in the living room. He got up and he ran and picked me up and he runs around the house with me on his shoulders. And we took off. We took a huge walk around his block just catching up.”

They now send each other their songs to critique.

Isbell released “Windshield,” his first single from the album, on June 1st. “People loved it.”

Isbell now is stronger than he ever was. “I feel more myself than I have in a while. I think that was part of it. In the place I was, I couldn’t grow where I wanted to. I feel like I’ve grown a lot in a bunch of ways, personally. It doesn’t even have anything to do with music. But it’s just like my brain and my heart. I just feel like a new person in a lot of ways.”

Estes album release party with The Wldlfe and Scottie Spiegelman at 8 p.m..July 6 at The Hi Tone. Tickets: $10.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Chill and Grill For A Musical Fourth

Posted By on Tue, Jul 3, 2018 at 2:24 PM

July 4th is giving you a mid-week weekend this year, and these fine Memphis musicians would like to help you make the most of it.
At Railgarten tonight, Al Kapone headlines the Chill and Grill revue. Before he penned the Official Memphis Anthem "Whoop That Trick," Al Kapone was the voice of the Memphis crunk underground. Here's the title track from his 1994 debut, "Sinsta Funk".

Helping Kapeezy fire up your patriotism to revolutionary levels will be Chinese Connection Dub Embassy and DJ Witnesse. Here's The Embassy performing the Steel Pulse classic "Tyrant" at the FedExForum.

Over at Murphy's, Memphis' favorite backing band returns to the their three piece roots. The Shieks lay down some hard, energetic garage psych. You'll want to rev up your coupe and go cat go. Here they are cutting up in front of Shangri La Records, shot by Brian Wells.

For the Fourth, you're asking yourself, for what should I turn down? Lil Jon is at the Horseshoe Casino and Hotel in Tunica to answer, nothing. You should turn down for nothing. God has blessed the America that produced Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz.

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Levitt Shell Announces Fall Music Lineup

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2018 at 1:03 PM

The Levitt Shell, winner of the Memphis Flyer's Best Place To See Live Music last year, has announced the acts booked for the fall season.
Robert Cray plays the Levitt Shell on July 13.
  • Robert Cray plays the Levitt Shell on July 13.

Beginning September 6th and running through October 21st, the Orion Free Music Concert Series will present 24 shows on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. Memphis acts, sponsored by Regional One, include Snowglobe, Star and Micey, North Mississippi Allstars, and Opera Memphis.

Two, ticketed "Stars at the Shell" shows serve as fundraisers to supplement the free music. The first, coming on July 13th, features internationally renowned bluesman Robert Cray, with special guest Cedric Burnside.

On September 29th, Brooklyn soulsters Lake Street Dive will anchor 2018's final "Stars at the Shell" series.

Here's the full line up for the Levitt Shell fall season:

Thursday, September 6th: 
Devon Gilfillian

Friday, September 7th:
Orquesta Akokan

Saturday, September 8th: 
Meta and the Cornerstones

Sunday, September 9th: 
The Mulligan Brothers

Thursday, September 13th: 
Black Umfolosi

Friday, September 14th:             
Snowglobe with Star & Micey

Saturday, September 15th: 
Rhodes Jazz Night with Joyce Cobb

Sunday, September 16th:
Those Pretty Wrongs

Thursday, September 20th: 
Low Cut Connie

Friday, September 21st:             
Memphis Renaissance

Saturday, September 22nd:
North Mississippi Allstars

Sunday, September 23rd:             
Opera Memphis

Thursday, October 4th: 
Dean Owens and the Whiskey Hearts

Friday, October 5th: 
Squirrel Nut Zippers

Saturday, October 6th: 
Film and Music Night

Sunday, October 7th: 
Memphis Hepcats

Thursday, October 11th:             
Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience

Friday, October 12th: 
Bette Smith

Saturday, October 13rd:             

Sunday, October 14th: 
Las Cafeteras

Thursday, October 18th:             
Crystal Shrine

Friday, October 19th: 
John Fullbright

Saturday, October 20th:             
Film and Music Night

Sunday, October 21st:
Nefesh Mountain

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Hunt Sales, Ray Wylie Hubbard, & Carson McHone: Austin Pays Memphis a Sunday Visit

Posted By on Sat, Jun 23, 2018 at 5:11 PM

Everyone knows what a music hub Austin is, and how diverse its scene(s) can be. But fewer are hip to the ties that bind Austin and Memphis together. They go way back, and only seem to be getting stronger in recent years. Will Sexton moved here some years ago, and we now host Dale Watson as well, but they are only the most visible signs of the long standing networks connecting Memphis musicians with our Texan friends, and vice versa.

This weekend, we can feel, see, and hear those connections, as three Austin-area artists appear on the same day.

Carson McHone
For an early start to your weekend's end, get thee to the Memphis Music Mansion before 7:00 pm. The historical "music inn" offers a characteristically intimate show with rising star Carson McHone, who comes to Memphis with Tim Regan's endorsement. Regan, as most Flyer readers know, is in the band Snowglobe, though he himself is now an Austinite. When he joined Spiral Stairs at Growlers a year ago, McHone opened with duet performances of her emotionally bare songwriting and captivating voice. Now's a chance to hear her solo, with her singing now front and center. With echoes of Gillian Welch, she has a unique ability to convey loss and longing.

Here's an episode of Texas Music Scene TV that focuses on McHone's songwriting. Get your tickets to the Memphis Music Mansion show soon, as seating is limited and only advance sales are offered.

Ray Wylie Hubbard
Also hailing from (near) Austin is an old favorite of Memphis music lovers, Ray Wylie Hubbard. Hubbard, by the way, is a Carson McHone fan, saying that she "writes songs like her life depends on it." That could be said of Hubbard himself, and he's garnered many fans in this area, especially as he's nurtured a more down and dirty approach to songwriting in the past decade or so. While he still brings a strong folk troubadour game, his fondness for North Mississippi blues also rings true, especially on tunes like "Jesse Mae," his ode to Jesse Mae Hemphill. You can hear his version of Austin/Memphis cross fertilization Sunday as well, at the Levitt Shell's Orion Free Music Concert Series. 

Hunt Sales
And finally, representing perhaps the most fruitful cross-pollination of all, there will be a rare performance by Hunt Sales at Bar DKDC Sunday night at 10:00. Relatively rare, that is: Lately, Sales has been showing up more and more. After making a name for himself playing with Iggy Pop (drumming on "Lust for Life") and David Bowie (Tin Machine), among others, Sales has approached music in a more personal way of late. As he recently told Beale Street Caravan, "All I've been doing for all these years is sitting in rooms and writing music. Playing a gig here and there. I'm not one of these people that's totally driven. Whether anyone hears it or not, that's not why I do it. It's all about the work."

It was his friend Will Sexton who brought him here. "I've been working out of Memphis quite a bit this last year," says Sales. "And Memphis reminds me of being a child. It takes me back to a time in my life when I was developing. Memphis has been great. Seriously. It's been a new chapter of my life."

As Art Edmaiston, who has been playing sax with Sales, explains, "Hunt met Bruce Watson (Fat Possum Records/Big Legal Mess) through Will Sexton while tracking at Bruce’s Delta Sonic Studio downtown. Bruce was so impressed with Hunt’s drumming that he offered Hunt a chance to return with his band and record a couple singles for Big Legal Mess. Well, Hunt showed up a couple weeks later and had something like six or seven tunes that were all popping, and he cut them all in one afternoon with his trio."

But Sales, who is deeply grounded in powerful jazz drumming and old school R&B, wanted more than just a trio with his Austin cohorts, so he called up Edmaiston, Jim Spake (sax), and Pat Fusco (keys) to fill out the record. Edmaiston explains, "After keys were added, me and Jim show up and begin to lay down some 'straight pipes on a Harley'-sounding duel saxophone parts, that we layered a few times until you’d think the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were actually Junior Walker, Arnett Cobb, Lee Allen and Big Jay McNeely! I mean, this stuff sounds big and wet and nasty….And Hunt had all the ideas for the parts. He dictated them exactly to Spake and myself, and boom - here it is."

Edmaiston is rather excited by the new record, "The rhythm tracks range from a Link Wray vibe to something Little Richard would lay down if he had two Marshall Stacks. It’s rock and roll from the hip and hits you in your heart while it’s kicking you in the ass. We had a ball! Bruce loved it so much, he invited Hunt back to cut some more tunes and make a full length record."

Sales emphasized to Beale Street Caravan that his latest excursions to Memphis have been revelatory. "The music is great, I make great music there. I run into great musicians. The people there are sincere. The diversity of Memphis has got soul. Memphis has got soul, deep. Just send me to Memphis and put some of that rub on that chicken there, and put me in the studio or on a live gig with some of them great musicians. And I am in heaven."

Austin comes to Memphis on June 24: Carson McHone plays the Memphis Music Mansion at 7:00. Ray Wylie Hubbard plays the Levitt Shell at 7:30. And Hunt Sales plays Bar DKDC, with soul-jazz openers L.A.P.D., starting at 10:00.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Get Hip to the Hop: Where to Hear Live Rap in Memphis

Posted By and on Thu, Jun 21, 2018 at 12:42 PM

Moneybagg Yo at Minglewood Hall - TRAVIS WHITESIDE
  • Travis Whiteside
  • Moneybagg Yo at Minglewood Hall
For some world-class hip hop, keep your eyes on the festivals. This city boasts several, often featuring the superstars of rap as headliners. This year's Beale Street Music Festival presented, among others, Tyler, the Creator, Ludacris, Al Kapone, renowned Three 6 Mafia producer/artist Juicy J, and Young Dolph, currently riding high in the charts. That's a high ratio of local rappers.

This October's Mempho Music Festival will bring Juicy J once again, as well as other Memphians from way back, like Project Pat and Frayser Boy (with the Hi Rhythm Section, no less). Brooklyn's legendary Nas will headline the October 7th lineup, supporting his new album, Nasir
Juicy J
  • Juicy J

Memphis is also host to a good many single-artist hip hop concerts: grand affairs in roomier venues like Minglewood Hall, the New Daisy Theatre, or the Hi-Tone (where Cities Aviv plays June 29). And then there's the FedEx Forum, in a class of its own. On June 28, the latter will feature one the country's biggest hip hop extravaganzas, Yo Gotti & Friends Birthday Bash 6, which always includes top-tier guest artists in addition to Gotti. It must be satisfying for Gotti to survey the landscape of his youth and reflect on his triumphs from the Forum's stage.
Yo Gotti
  • Yo Gotti

Beyond concert and festival appearances by the mega-stars, hip hop shows are experiencing a renaissance in Memphis—for the first time since the 1990s heyday of clubs like the Complex, Fantasia and Precious Cargo, which closed its doors in 2006.

These days, Brinson’s Downtown (340 Madison), Height Lounge (6135 Mt. Moriah Ext.) Midtown Crossing Grill (394 N. Watkins) and CANVAS of Memphis (1737 Madison Ave.) are all places you can catch live hip hop on a regular basis. For DJ battles, keep an eye on the calendar at Memphis Slim Collaboratory (1130 College Studio), where Kingpin Da’ Composer hosts Let’s Get LOUD, a semi-annual beat battle and producer showcase. When Slice of Soul Pizza Lounge (1299 Madison Ave.) opened for business in January, they celebrated with a performance by famed Bronx duo Camp Lo that felt like the days of Precious Cargo revisited. Slice of Soul is also the current home of The Word, Neosoulville’s monthly open mic night, which features MCs alongside jazz divas, soul singers, poets and comedians, all set to the backdrop of Chinese Connection Dub Embassy.

The Word is probably the city’s longest-running hip hop salon, but it’s hardly the only one. Look out for Dope on Arrival, a quarterly rap showcase held at Height Lounge, Pressure World, a DJ showcase usually held at Growler’s, and the Kickback, an eclectic, funky DJ and live music mash-up hosted by Devin Steele at the Hi-Tone. And every third Sunday of the month, two of the city’s top creative, Brandon “Eso” Tolson and Siphne Sylve, curate a musical salon called Artistik Lounge at Minglewood Hall. Over the last six years, they’ve brought in a wealth of local and national talent, running the gamut from Three 6 Mafia’s Gangsta Blac to NPR darlings Tank and the Bangas. On July 15, Zephaniah headlines Artistik Lounge.

My favorite spot to catch live hip hop is, hands down, House of Mtenzi Museum (1289 Madison Ave.). The low stage and DIY atmosphere reminds me of the hardcore scene that captivated me in high school. And when local MC Jason Da Hater is running the microphone, you can expect hijinks like four-bar mic battles where the losers are forced to do push-ups before they can regain their mic privileges.

Iron Mic Coalition
  • Iron Mic Coalition
Social media is the best way to find out about underground hip hop shows. Be sure to join the Rhyme Writtaz & Rhyme Lovaz Discussion Forum on Facebook. Moderated by Roy Dickenz, aka Milk, one of the MCs in Iron Mic Coalition, the forum offers a plethora of information about the local scene. While you’re at it, download the UnApp, created by the team at Unapologetic, who are hosting their own don’t miss event, the Stuntarious Vol. III EP Release Show, at Railgarten on Saturday, June 30.

It’s a banner month for hip hop at Railgarten—this Saturday night, the venue is also hosting Memphis Massacre, a skateboarding, jookin’ and rap extravaganza put together by VHS storeowner Luke Sexton. The line-up includes instrumental garage rock band Impala, Billboard charting rap duo HippySoul, Unapologetic’s Weird Maestro, and headliner Tommy Wright III, a Memphis-born rap legend of the 1990s who has resurfaced as a skate culture hero.

Currently, it’s easier to catch Wright onstage at SXSW, or in New York or Los Angeles, than it is in his own hometown. Wright’s last local appearance was during Gonerfest 13:

Parse through his YouTube channel and you’ll see him performing at L.A.’s hipster sneaker store Undefeated, or at the Circle Bar in New Orleans, surrounded by young white kids who know every syllable of his 1994 underground hit “Meet Yo Maker.”

Sexton sees Memphis Massacre as an opportunity to take VHS beyond the brick-and-mortar storefront. “We’re promoting the culture of the Dirty South,” he says. “Tommy really brings out a raw essence that skateboarders love. What he raps about isn’t glamorous—it’s the raw and dirty side of things.” Admission for Memphis Massacre, which kicks off at approximately 6 p.m. with DJ Hush and a skateboarding demo, is $10.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Rare Appearance by Lee Ritenour

Posted By on Wed, Jun 20, 2018 at 9:17 AM

Lee Ritenour
  • Lee Ritenour
It's rare to find a musician accomplished enough to have played and recorded with such luminaries as Oliver Nelson, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Henderson, Lalo Schifrin, and Stanley Turrentine. Lee Ritenour has been there and done that. He came of age, precociously, at a time when the giants of 20th Century American music still walked the earth, still young enough to carry the torch into the current era. And on Thursday, June 21, he'll be playing in Memphis at Lafayette's.

Oh yes, and perhaps you remember listening to Pink Floyd's The Wall long ago, and wishing the band would drop the disco and just rock out, until the burning track "Run Like Hell" came on and you heard them turn it up to 11. As it happens, that was Ritenour as well, brought in to beef the song up. He's no stranger to such pop accomplishments, having played his first recording session at age 16, on a track by the Mamas and the Papas. And if you're a fan of "Strawberry Letter #23" by the Brothers Johnson (and who isn't?), well, then you're a fan of Lee Ritenour. So was famed Memphian Maurice White, who Ritenour collaborated with on the record "If I'm Dreaming, Don't Wake Me."

Naturally, he's fared well as a solo artist as well, releasing his first record over 40 years ago, and sending the single "Is it You" with singer Eric Tagg to #15 on the Billboard pop charts in 1981. Dubbed "Captain Fingers" for his mad skills, he also kept those skills accessible with one ear cocked to the glories of pop, funk, Brazilian, classical, and rock guitar. He's been nominated for 16 Grammy Awards, taking one home in 1986 for the instrumental "Early A.M. Attitude".

Thursday is a rare chance to see this decade-spanning artist, still in his prime at 66 years young. We recommend that you do just that.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

McKenna Bray Celebrates New Album

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2018 at 2:46 PM

McKenna Bray
  • McKenna Bray
Yes, there are many Americana singers in Tennessee. It almost seems unfair to put an artist in that box. In the case of Memphis native McKenna Bray, it almost does her a disservice. Sure, there are touches of folk all over her new album, Once in a Blue Moon (Madjack Records), and even a banjo on a couple of tracks. But there are so many surprises in the songwriting, it defies any label that might suggest the Carter Family or simple folk strumming.

As you may have read, Bray's voice evokes classic Linda Ronstadt, and that's a better point of reference. It almost sounds as if Ronstadt released a tribute album of Richard Thompson songs. The lyrics are simple and direct, perhaps lacking some of the darker allusions that Thompson is prone to, yet still with plenty of shadows. There are elements of classic pop here, mingled with earthy instrumentation and atmospheric touches, presumably courtesy of Susan Marshall, Bray's producer and manager.

The band is a veritable Bluff City Wrecking Crew, featuring the core personnel of David Cousar on guitar, Ken Coomer on drums, Dave Smith on bass, and Richard Alan Ford on pedal steel and/or banjo. Other talents are sprinkled throughout, including Marshall on vocal harmonies. Al Gamble, Peewee Jackson, Jeff Powell, Matt Ross-Spang, Mark Edgar Stuart also make appearances. And Will Tucker sings a lovely duet with Bray on the ambivalent relationship song "Dive," adding some of his trademark blues guitar for good measure.

The playing is tasteful and restrained, but what really sets the album apart is Bray's voice. It is no small feat to evoke the rich alto of Ronstadt, with the same unaffected, straightforward delivery that can enliven lyrics with a disarming edge. It's understandable that she auditioned for American Idol. But really, she was too good for them. She avoids all the clichés of that game. And their loss is our gain.

McKenna Bray's Once in a Blue Moon comes out on June 29. Check out her album release party tonight, June 19, at Lafayette's Music Room, 8:00 pm.

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Harbert Ave. Porch Show Rides Again, With a New Label in the Making

Posted By on Sat, Jun 16, 2018 at 9:05 AM

Robert Jethro Wyatt and Moke O'Connor introduce Jack O & the Tennessee Tearjerkers, Sept 2012.
  • Robert Jethro Wyatt and Moke O'Connor introduce Jack O & the Tennessee Tearjerkers, Sept 2012.
If this city has music coming out its ears, with pop-up shows, festivals, house shows, buskers, and impromptu jam sessions springing up in every corner, none of these is quite as Memphis as the Harbert Avenue Porch Show. Held at least once a year in the normally staid environs of Central Gardens, the porch show has become a tradition that brings together generations and neighbors from all walks of life.

Fans throng to see Snowglobe in 2017
  • Fans throng to see Snowglobe in 2017
The brainchild of Robert Jethro Wyatt, the porch show is a perfect expression of its host's love of music. Indeed, one might not expect such levels of fandom from a Professor of Pediatrics at University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, such a love of garage rock from a Pediatric Nephrologist at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. But Memphis is a city of iconoclasts and mold-breakers. A regular at many of the area's hardest-rocking shows, Wyatt has given back to the rock 'n' roll community every year since 2012, on his very doorstep.

Jack Oblivian at the inaugural Harbert Avenue Porch Show.
  • Jack Oblivian at the inaugural Harbert Avenue Porch Show.
This year's show marks the return of Jack Oblivian, who played the inaugural performance six years ago. Keth Cooper, Frank McLallen, Graham Winchester, and Seth Moody, aka the Sheiks, continue to serve as his dream band.

When the tradition started, as Wyatt notes, "the event was attended by over 100 neighbors and friends. Since then we have held at least one porch show a year featuring musicians and bands from our region. Over 250 folks of all ages attended the 2017 Snowglobe show."

Some  were documented and simulcast by the short-lived Rocket Science Audio project, taking the porch show to international audiences through the magic of the internet. 

This year also finds Wyatt on the cusp of an even deeper commitment to local rock, as he lays the groundwork for a new record label. "Black and Wyatt Records is me, Dennis Black and Mike McCarthy. Dennis is the Research Director at Le Bonheur - but he goes back to working at a radio station in Millington when he was younger - and keeps motel rooms booked in Tullahoma for Bonnaroo every year. One Monday about 10 years ago Dennis and I flew to San Francisco to see the New Pornographers at the Warfield." Mike McCarthy, of course, is the punk film auteur, community activist, sculptor, comic artist, and underground film auteur behind Guerrillamonster, the catch-all enterprise for his many ventures. He and Ronnie Harris have designed the T-shirts for this year's show, and he'll be involved in curating the Black & Wyatt roster. The trio are brimming with enthusiasm for their new venture, although, as Wyatt says, "I'm just not ready to give out hundreds of handbills this soon."

The Harbert Avenue Porch Show featuring Jack Oblivian is free; a donation to the band of $5 to $10 is suggested. Free beer and food in the driveway (while it lasts) including beer Memphis Made Brewing. The music starts at 6:00 PM. Eat at Eric's Food Truck will be on the street.
Sponsors - Memphis Made Brewing, Memphis Sports Academy, Goner Records, Utopia Animal Hospital and Dennis Black.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Mempho Music Fest Announces 2018 Schedule, Opens Ticket Sales

Posted By on Fri, Jun 15, 2018 at 3:00 PM

  • Nas
Now gunning for its second year, and rolling with the momentum of its 2017 turnout, the Mempho Music Festival lit up the Mid South some days ago when it announced its slate of 2018 performers. Today, they've announced the details of the schedule and are opening ticket sales. The Flyer's advice: get 'em while they're hot. This is a lineup of artists that rivals any festival in the business (see below). 
  • Beck

Grammy Award winners Beck and Phoenix will headline on Saturday, October 6. On Sunday, October 7, the legendary Nas, who has just dropped a new album, will headline, along with Post Malone. The festival will also bring us Grammy-nominated funkstress and Prince protégé Janelle Monáe, indie-rock favorite Mac DeMarco, German folk rockers Milky Chance, Atlanta-based rapper Rich The Kid, Danny Barnes’ Space Program, and “Stones Throw”, led by The Rolling Stones’ musical director Chuck Leavell and featuring current and former backing band members. And let's not forget the brilliant collective that is George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic.

Talibah Safiya
  • Talibah Safiya
First and foremost, the festival lives up to its name with plenty of local talent.

Mempho is fully committed to the #BringYourSoul city branding movement, celebrating the originality, soul, and change that Memphis is known for. Accordingly, we'll see shows by many a local legend: Juicy J, Project Pat, Lucero, Eric Gales, The Bar-Kays, Don Bryant & The Bo-Keys, Big Ass Truck, John Nemeth & The Love Light Orchestra, Boo Mitchell & The Kings featuring URiAH Mitchell, Lil Al & G Reub, and The Product, Talibah Safiya, and Cory Branan.

The real Lucero - JAMIE HARMON
  • Jamie Harmon
  • The real Lucero

Especially notable will be a tribute set dedicated to Royal Studios. Led by Grammy Award-winning producer Boo Mitchell, the Royal Studios Tribute will feature Grammy Award winners William Bell and Bobby Rush, Oscar Award winner Frayser Boy, and Grammy Award-nominated Hi Rhythm Section.

Also on the local tip, by way of Como, Mississippi, will be Dap-Tone Records' stars, the Como Mamas. 
Como Mamas
  • Como Mamas

“We are thrilled to be back at Shelby Farms Park for year two of the great Mempho Music Festival,” says Mempho Music Festival founder, Diego Winegardner. “We couldn’t be more excited to announce this year’s lineup, which includes an extraordinarily diverse
roster of today’s hottest artists, legends of rock, funk, and soul, as well as a healthy dose of local Memphis talent.”
Big Ass Truck will make a rare appearance
  • Big Ass Truck will make a rare appearance
One lesser-known aspect of the Mempho Music Festival is Mempho Matters, a non-profit organization committed to developing “Learn To Rock”, a philanthropy-based arts education and funding initiative. Working with Memphis area businesses and community leaders, the initiative provides Memphis area music teachers and their students admission to Mempho at no cost.
Project Pat
  • Project Pat

Mempho Music Festival is also partnering with the Memphis Area Women’s Council to promote the Memphis Says NO MORE campaign—aimed at raising awareness for domestic violence and sexual assault—by providing a safe, inclusive, and welcoming environment for all attendees.

Finally, Mempho has teamed up with the Oceanic Global Foundation—a non-profit that educates individuals on issues impacting our ocean through art, music, and emerging technologies. One specific impact of this partnership is Mempho's pledge to make the festival completely straw-free. Plastic straws, of course, constitute a major proportion of the plastic waste currently accumulating in the Pacific and other oceans.
Love Light Orchestra
  • Love Light Orchestra
This year, Mempho Music Festival has partnered with CID Entertainment to provide VIP and Super VIP experiences, including on-site camping and glamping options. 
Janelle Monáe
  • Janelle Monáe

A limited supply of GA, VIP, and Super VIP pre-sale tickets and packages are available on Monday, June 11th, for returning fans, starting at $79 for Single Day and $139 for 2-Day tickets.

General on-sale begins on Friday, June 15th, at 10 A.M. CT, starting at $89 for Single Day and $159 for 2-Day tickets. Prices will increase on July 13th and September 28th, so reserve your tickets while supplies last.


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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Stalwart Flyer Reporter Hits Bonnaroo!

Posted By and on Tue, Jun 12, 2018 at 2:15 PM

Bianca Phillips, whose byline is familiar to many Flyer readers, braved the sun and crowds to report on all the fun you couldn't have! Among the highlights were Mavis Staples and Eminem, but there were many more magic moments for those who fell under Bonnaroo's spell. Journey with Bianca in our exclusive tour...

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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Zigadoo Moneyclips Drops Shiny New Album

Posted By on Sat, Jun 9, 2018 at 2:07 PM

Zigadoo Moneyclips
  • Zigadoo Moneyclips
Once you hear the name Zigadoo Moneyclips, you'll likely never forget it. Which is helpful, since these Memphians have not been plying the local club circuit much of late. No doubt that's been partly due to the final sprint to the release of their sophomore album, Imaginary Girl, and maybe because it's because they're focused more on thinking big. Their music may be ideal for large outdoor gatherings like their last gig, the Memphis Hotwing Fest in April. As Flyer writer Joe Boone noted after their first album dropped, "Should we go ahead and call this festival music? Is festival a genre? It is now. Zigadoo Moneyclips have a sound that is perfectly matched to a large-scale P.A. outside."

Their songs are well-primed to be crowd pleasers. Unlike so many scruffy rock bands in the club scene, these pop enthusiasts are not shy about embracing their inner Timberlake. The new record thumps, snaps and pops with the familiar drive of a summer car stereo. Recorded at Super Secret Lab and Ardent Studios, the album features core band members Zak Baker (guitar, keys, and vocals), Leigh McDonald (trumpet and vocals), Jamie Davis (bass), Dan Brown & Khari Wynn (guitar), Michael Shelton (drums) and Josh Aguilar (alto sax and vocals), as well as a supporting cast of Memphis musicians like Tom Link (bari and tenor sax), Sam Shoup (upright bass), Jason Miller (piano), Julia Struthers (vocals), Kyndle McMahan (vocals), Rachel Levine (violin), Carlos Sargent (drums) and Jay Richey (drum programming).

That last credit is appropriate, as their sound has moved in a more electronic direction, adding keys & synthesizers to the mix. And central to this evolution was Ari Morris, who engineered, co-produced and mixed the album. Morris, a seasoned engineer who works heavily in Memphis hip-hop (Young Dolph, 8Ball), gives the band the full polished-bling sound of a radio hit.

The band are clearly embracing this sound with a sense of fun, only slightly tongue in cheek, as they sing lines like "Take a minute to look into the mirror and say, 'Damn, I'm sexy!'" over a lifted Stooges riff and horn blasts. Other tracks, like the frankly horny "Raza," are even more radio friendly, offering a call and response like "He's from the city/She's from the country" with only a slight wink.

On Saturday, June 9, the group celebrates the album's release with a part at under-recognized venue the House of Mtenzi Museum. It will be interesting to see how these Top 40 enthusiasts translate the record into a live experience, laden as it is with the chirping samples and skronks that are the sine qua non of contemporary pop. But, given the band's burgeoning reputation as festival pleasers, something tells me they'll do just fine.

Zigadoo Moneyclips celebrate the release of Imaginary Girl on June 9, with Crown Vox and Ohn and On at House of Mtenzi, 8:00 pm. $10 cover includes CD/download card.
$5 for unlimited access to local kegs.

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