Unknown No More 

It's official: Three 6 Mafia's underdog status is over. The North Memphis rappers' current album, Most Known Unknown, serves as the signpost of the old days, pre-Oscar Night 2006. Since DJ Paul, Juicy J, and Frayser Boy accepted the Academy Award for "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," the name Three 6 has been on everyone's lips.

And I do mean everyone. Academy Awards host Jon Stewart told Oprah Winfrey the day after the program that DJ Paul's jubilant acceptance speech was his favorite part of the show. Later that week, Three 6 Mafia performed on Ellen. They remained in L.A. to ride the celebrity crest with (according to the tabloids) their golden trophies clutched firmly in hand.

Reportedly, after running into Paris Hilton at a William Morris party, the group agreed to lend a helping hand on her debut album. But the surrealism doesn't stop there: Saturday, April 1st, was dubbed Three 6 Mafia Day, with the group slated to receive a key to the city from Mayor Willie Herenton at the Rock'N'Soul Museum. DMX's brand-new "Poppin' My Collar" remix, a snarling, synth-driven monster of a tune, provides the perfect soundtrack for Memphis to get crunk.

Although Yo Gotti's long-awaited new album, Back 2 Da Basics, has been pushed back yet again, to May 2nd, the disc's first big single, "Gangsta Party," which features rhymes from Orange Mound hitmaker 8Ball and Houston rapper Bun B, is already in heavy rotation. Tune into BET for the video, filmed on location on North Watkins Street in early March.

Hot on the heels of 12 Songs, Cory Branan's latest, MADJACK Records has released Hydro Radio, a sophomore album from label co-owner Mark McKinney's group The Tennessee Boltsmokers. Engineered and mixed by Kevin Cubbins at his home studio, the Cubby Hole, Hydro Radio is a 12-song bluegrass workout that features smoldering banjo and mandolin riffs and a sophisticated storytelling technique that outlines the travels of a worn-out dollar bill ("Nickel and Dime Blues"), the travails of a forsaken lover ("Angeline"), and myriad subjects in between.

"We'd cut the whole thing at Easley, and it was originally scheduled for the end of 2004," McKinney explains. "We were down to recording a few fiddle tracks when the fire happened, and everything was lost."

Ultimately, the Bolt-smokers split their sessions between a vacant house McKinney owned and Memphis Soundworks. "The sound that came out of Easley had such a great stamp, but we feel pretty good about the re-recordings," McKinney says. "We added some new material, like 'Smoking Gun,' but 95 percent of the songs stayed the same."

Look for the Tennessee Boltsmokers at the P&H Café and at Newby's later this month, or onstage at the Lucy Opry Festival, coming to the Bartlett Performing Arts Center on Friday, May 5th.

On deck for MADJACK: The Only Home I've Had from Eric Lewis and Andy Ratliff, the Boltsmokers' guitar and mandolin players. Here, the duo adds bassist Todd Cook to the mix for 10 tunes, which includes a sole original, the exuberant "Maurice," alongside traditional bluegrass and mountain tunes and a handful of covers. Produced, engineered, and mixed by Jeff Powell at Young Avenue Sound and the Dockside Studio in Maurice, Louisiana, The Only Home I've Had is slated for release April 18th.

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After his recent Florida-to-Texas jaunt opening for Lucero, Midtown fave Harlan T. Bobo is back in town with gigs at Murphy's this Thursday, April 6th, and at the Overton Square Crawfish Festival, held in the parking lot behind Bayou Bar & Grill, Saturday, April 8th. Dunno if he's gonna reprise his Goner Records labelmate (and Loose Diamonds bandmate) King Louie Bankston's Gulf Coast lament "Chinese Crawfish," but Bobo will surely find some way to make his performance at the fest a memorable one.

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