Memphis Music Hall of Fame to Induct Sid Selvidge
MEMPHIS MUSIC HALL OF FAME TO INDUCT SID SELVIDGE AND 12 OTHER MUSICAL LEGENDS AT NOVEMBER 7 CEREMONY AT GIBSON SHOWCASE LOUNGE, MEMPHIS
Memphis, TN … The Memphis Music Hall of Fame will continue paying tribute to many of the world’s greatest musicians at its 2013 Induction Ceremony & Celebration on Thursday, November 7, 2013 at the Gibson Showcase Lounge in downtown Memphis, through the support of Gibson USA. This year, the Memphis Music Hall of Fame will be inducting thirteen legends of Memphis.
Alphabetical listing of the 2013 Memphis Music Hall of Fame Inductees includes The Bar-Kays, The Blackwood Brothers, Reverend W. Herbert Brewster, Johnny Cash, Roland Janes, Albert King, Memphis Jug Band, Phineas Newborn, Jr., Knox Phillips, David Porter, Sid Selvidge, Kay Starr and Carla Thomas. Abbreviated biographies are provided below.
Inductees were selected earlier this year by a Nominating Committee of local and national music professionals, including studio owners, producers, authors, and historians, based on a variety of criteria reflecting the fact that Memphis has long been, and continues to serve as the fulcrum for music’s most original creators working in all genres including blues, gospel, jazz, rhythm and blues, soul, country, rockabilly, rock and roll, hip-hop. The Memphis Music Hall of Fame is under the administration of the Smithsonian-developed Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum.
The Memphis Music Hall of Fame was launched in 2012. Each Inductee is honored and celebrated through their own dedicated tribute page on the Memphis Music Hall of Fame’s award-winning web site (http://www.memphismusichalloffame.com), and each receives the Mike Curb Award, a locally hand-crafted trophy and the official award of the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. The Memphis Music Hall of Fame is made possible, in part, through the generosity of ArtsMemphis, Mike Curb and The Curb Foundation, and The Hyde Family Foundation.
In response to the announcement of the 2013 Memphis Music Hall of Fame Inductees, Memphis Mayor AC Wharton commented, “Everywhere I go, people know Memphis, Tennessee. Every country around the world recognizes Memphis as the epicenter of music. The Memphis Music Hall of Fame lends focus to this fact, and pays tribute to the musical pioneers and icons whose contributions to our culture and our heritage, both locally and globally, are unequalled.” His statement underscores the fact that Memphis boasts one of the world’s richest musical legacies, and a plethora of world-famous music-related landmarks, including Sun Studios, Beale Street, Stax Records and Elvis Presley’s Graceland, the second most visited residence in the world.
The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is located at 191 Beale Street at FedExForum, and was researched and developed by The Smithsonian Institution. The museum is open daily from 10:00 am until 7:00 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.memphisrocknsoul.org.
Memphis Music Hall of Fame 2013 Inductees include:
Sid Selvidge - A Memphis music champion for over five decades until his death earlier this year. Selvidge was a teenage disc jockey, a pure, soulful soloist, a champion of the 60s blues / folk revival, a record company owner and producer. A surrogate son to blues legend Furry Lewis, producer for Alex Chilton, Cybil Shepherd, even Tim McCarver, a member of Mud Boy and the Neutrons, and a seventeen year producer of “Beale Street Caravan,” which aired on 300 U.S. radio stations and, via NPR, on stations on five continents.
The Bar-Kays - The funk-o-matic Bar-Kays have epitomized Memphis’ funk soul sound for almost fifty years. From teenage success as a Stax house band, through tragedy, the band’s impact has brought funk to projects by Isaac Hayes, Johnny Taylor, Carla Thomas, Albert King, and more. Their hits, like “Soul Finger,” “Shake Your Rump to the Funk,” “Sex-o-Matic,” “Freakshow on the Dance Floor,” and many more are matched by an unequalled stage presence which has influenced everyone from Rick James to Prince. With their latest LP, “Grown Folks,” their legend continues. The LP was produced by Jazzy Pha, son of Bar-Kays founder James Alexander, and features guest spots from George Clinton, Three 6 Mafia, Eightball and others.
The Blackwood Brothers - Singing gospel for over 78 years; formed during The Great Depression by brothers James, Doyle and Roy Blackwood along with Roy’s son, R.W. Since relocating to Memphis in 1950, the members have changed, but their spiritual message has remained consistent, recording 200 albums, garnering eight Grammy awards, six Dove Awards and entry into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Today, James son Billy Blackwood continues the family’s musical ministry, joined by Butch Owens, Michael Helwig, Wayne Little and pianist Mike Hammontree.
Reverend W. Herbert Brewster - Serving as the pastor of East Trigg Avenue Baptist Church for over 50 years, Reverend Brewster wrote and published more than 200 gospel music standards, among them the very first hit for the great Mahalia Jackson. Reverend Brewster also composed more than fifteen gospel music dramas, including the first nationally-staged African American religious musical drama. In 1982, he was honored by the Smithsonian Institution.
Johnny Cash - “The Man in Black,” Johnny Cash’s unique crossover appeal earned him induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. An incredible string of hits included “I Walk the Line,” which shot to number one and remained on the Billboard chart for an amazing 43 weeks. A member of the legendary Million Dollar Quartet with Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, and a member of the Highwaymen with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson, Cash is one of the only artists to sell over 90 million records.
Roland Janes - Fewer fans may know him, but everybody has heard him, and the music he helped create. Producer and engineer, Janes had his own band, was at Jerry Lee’s side throughout his greatest triumphs of the 50s, was a member Billy Lee Riley’s Little Green Men, was the linchpin of the 60’s Sun house band, helped develop the rockabilly guitar style, owned and ran his Rita Records in the 60s and Sonic Studios in the 70s, has worked with everyone from Dylan to Three 6, and has been resident sage and producer at Phillips Recording Service for 31 years.
Albert King - “The Velvet Bulldozer” and one of the “Three Kings of the Blues Guitar,” Albert King wielded a custom-built Gibson Flying V guitar, delivered the solid vocal style and distinctive guitar style he called “Blues Power,” and impacted musicians around the world. He influenced Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and others. He played Bill Graham’s Filmore, covered Elvis Presley, entered the Blues Hall of Fame in ’83 and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame posthumously in 2013.
Memphis Jug Band - Originating in 1926 The Memphis Jug Band assumed other names, and rotated dozens of band members, including 2012 inductee Memphis Minnie, though usually grouped around leader Will Shade. Unique and influencing, The Memphis Jug Band incorporated unusual instruments like the jug and the kazoo, combined with traditional guitar, drums, piano and fiddle. They recorded over 80 commercial recordings, many covered by 60s rock groups including the very first single recorded by The Grateful Dead. A favorite of Memphis Mayor Crump, they played everywhere from Church Park to The Peabody Hotel. They’re also credited with recording the very first record in Memphis, Tennessee.
Phineas Newborn, Jr. - Legendary jazz pianist from the iconic musical Newborn family, Phineas Newborn, Jr., has been considered one of the three greatest jazz pianists of all time. He performed with Lionel Hampton, B.B. King, Willie Mitchell, and recorded at Sun Studios before moving to New York and going solo with RCA. With ten albums from the fifties and into the seventies, Newborn proved to be one of the most technically skilled and brilliant pianists in jazz.
Knox Phillips - With the legendary Sun Studios as his childhood playground, Knox Phillips has continued his family’s Memphis music legacy for almost 50 years, as engineer, producer, studio owner and patron saint of Memphis music. As engineer and producer, he’s worked with The Gentry’s, Randy & the Radiants, Alex Chilton, Jerry lee Lewis, Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Amazing Rhythm Aces, and John Prine, among others. A Grammy Trustee since 1971, Phillips helped establish a NARAS chapter in Memphis. In May, 2013, Phillips received the prestigious Governor’s Arts Award from Tennessee governor Bill Haslam.
David Porter - As a teenager he may have entered the doors of Stax to become a recording artist, but instead he became the foremost architect of American soul music and one of the most successful songwriters in the world. His musical catalogue, including over 300 songs for Stax, has been involved in more than 300 million units sold. His lyrics and influence also led to hits for Joe Cocker, Bonnie Raitt, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, ZZ Top, Hall & Oates, Aretha, Jerry Lee, and more. A member of the National Songwriters Hall of Fame. Porter’s current personal commitment to aspiring artists through his Consortium MMT continues the Memphis music legacy he helped establish.
Kay Starr - Before she was 15, Kay Starr had her own music show on Memphis’ WMPS radio, had performed at The Peabody Hotel, and was chosen to tour with the Joe Venuti Orchestra. For her network radio debut in New York, Starr sang “Memphis Blues.” For Capitol and RCA, she recorded over two dozen top 40 hits. She’s performed with Count Basie, Rosemary Clooney, Pat Boone, Tony Bennett and others. Her hit “Wheel of Fortune” stayed at the top of the charts for ten weeks in 1952, and “Rock and Roll Waltz,” selling a million copies in just two weeks, became the first number one single by a female vocalist in the rock era. Billie Holiday called her “the only white woman who could sing the blues.” At 91, she lives in L.A. and still performs.
Carla Thomas - “The Queen of Memphis Soul,” Carla Thomas began performing at age ten in 1952 as the youngest ever performer for the WDIA Teen Town Singers. Through her career, she’s released twelve albums, most for Stax Records. With her father, she recorded the very first hit for Stax Records, converting the legendary label from a country and pop studio to soul and R&B. Her release, “Gee Whiz” was a smash hit, giving Stax national exposure.
Rick’s Booogie. That’s right, three O’s. Straight from the barroom & into your stereo.
Perhaps the only thing missing from Rick Steff’s Rick’s Booogie EP is the sound of clinking glasses, some muffled conversation, fits of barroom laughter.
It’s a texture Rick knows well, from years of touring with Lucero, Hank Williams, Jr., and Cat Power. But this time, the beloved sideman is making the noise solo.
Rick says his “booogie,” extra O and all, comes from his dad. After all, it was Dick Steff — a renowned horn player and former member of The Memphis Horns whose credits include Elvis Presley, Dusty Springfield and dozens of other legendary American Studios recordings — who encouraged Rick to pursue the piano, because he said he’d always have work. “He started me playing at 5,” Rick says. “He taught me to watch the singer, serve the singer, and listen as much as you play.”
Judging from Rick’s career, it was good advice — but this time, there’s no singer. Just Rick, his keys and a few old friends you might know to back him up a little. In three songs, he takes you from sparse to full and back again, from honkytonk to melancholy, from one end of 88 to the other.
The EP was recorded at Archer Records’ Music+Arts Studio by Daniel Lynn, produced by Lynn along with Roy Berry and Rick Steff, and mastered by Kevin Houston.
Those friends of his who come along for the ride on track two are Ben Nichols, Roy Berry, Brian Venable, John Stubblefield, Scott Thompson and Jim Spake.
You can find Rick Steff’s Rick’s Booogie via iTunes and Amazon, or download directly from us:
$3.87 Digital Download
An Interview with Rick Steff by Jeremy Winograd
Memphis country-soul rockers Lucero have been one of my favorite bands on this or any other planet since right around the time Rick Steff joined the band in 2006 and began gracing them with his exquisite piano and keyboard stylings (not to mention his awe-inspiring sideburns). Rick’s got a brand new solo EP, Rick’s Booogie, coming out May 7 on Archer Records, and was kind enough to speak to me in the midst of a tour with Lucero about his dad’s influence on his career, turning fifty, and how Ringo Starr inspired the misspelled title of Rick’s Booogie.
Where are you right now?
We are in Wichita, Kansas. The next date on the tour is Lawrence. We just did three nights sold out at the Bluebird in Denver and are taking a much deserved day off! And then we have another couple weeks before we get home.
I trust the tour is going OK and everything.
It’s been great. One of the best ones in memory, actually. It’s been a lot of fun.
I guess we’ll talk about the EP first. What made you decide to do this now with all the other stuff you’ve got going on?
You know, it was almost accidental. I had been playing a couple tunes at sound checks and stuff. This one boogie – I had always wanted to put out a little piano solo boogie like they did in, gosh, the 30s and 40s. Just an old boogie woogie kind of thing. I went to the studio where we’ve done a good bit of work as of late [Music+Arts Studio in Memphis]. We did the Mud soundtrack for [filmmaker] Jeff [Nichols]’s new movie there. I just went there and said, “What do you think of this boogie?” And before I knew it we cut it. I told the guys I had cut it, and they all said, “Well, we want to play on it!” It ended up being this really nice little accident that I was really happy about. It’s just three songs: a boogie by myself, a boogie with the band, and then a little instrumental tune that I wrote that leads into a song off of [Lucero’s 2012 album] Women & Work called “It May Be Too Late.”
The one with the full band [“Rick’s Booogie Pt. 2”] – you really captured the 50s/60s Memphis sound with that one.
Thank you so much. That was the goal.
The horn sound is just so grimy and awesome. I love it.
Yeah. They did a great job. Everybody did. We’re all real close. It’s a really familial band. Just having everybody want to be a part of it – we’ve been playing it live with the full band. So it’s just great. I’m tickled about it.
What’s up with the extra ‘o’ in the title?
Back in the 70s when you’d have Marc Bolan or Ringo talk about boogie, they’d pronounce it “booogie.” So I just always liked that. Just something a little odd. But yeah, that’s where that comes from. It comes from being an old 70s guy.
Those were the days.
Who would you say are your biggest influences as a pianist in general?
I do a lot of different records, I’ve done a lot of different people’s things, so influences come from everywhere. But for this particular kind of thing, I would say it would definitely be… I was thinking of Albert Ammons. And there’s an old boogie piano player called Meade Lux Lewis. And I always liked James Booker, the New Orleans boogie piano player. So I’ve always played that kind of music – the New Orleans piano music. Pretty much the straight boogie has always been something that I’ve just loved to do, and it’s something that doesn’t get done much anymore in lieu of just straight blues. It’s just a different feel that I’ve always liked. I think it’s a happy blues.
It must have been tough for you to find the time to do it because you’re on tour so much and doing session work. What have you worked on recently, session-wise?
I just played on Drag The River’s record. Drag The River is a band in Fort Collins that plays with us a lot. I also was asked to play on this record by this band I adore called the Dirty Streets, which are kind of a three piece, young kids playing this serious 70s rock. If you closed your eyes you’d think you were at a Grand Funk show or something. They’re great. I played some B3 on that. [Lucero drummer] Roy [Berry] and I just got through doing about 130 pieces of music for a TV series that this guy is trying to sell. So there’s always something going on. I like to stay busy like that. And of course we have a new EP out too, Lucero does. So there’s been a lot of activity. With the Mud soundtrack that comes out I think next week, that’s probably more Lucero music dropped at one time than any other time previous.
I was going to ask you about the new Lucero EP [Texas & Tennessee]. What can you tell me about it? I heard the stream on SPIN, it sounds great.
It was a really kind of immediate thing. We had a couple weeks in town and Ben had some tunes he’d been writing. We had wanted to go to Cody Dickinson’s Zebra Ranch – Jim Dickinson’s son Cody still records there. So we literally went out for a couple days, laid down four tunes, and that was pretty much it. Not a lot of overdubs, just a very immediate kind of thing, ostensibly to take out on this tour, but we didn’t get it until several weeks into the tour so we just saw it for the first time in Denver. But we’re jazzed about that.
It’s got that acoustic feel – more old school Lucero.
Absolutely. That was kind of the goal. We’ve been doing that in an acoustic set, like the whole EP, during the shows. So that’s been fun.
We should probably talk about your dad [renowned Memphis trumpeter Dick Steff]. How influential was he in you getting into music?
There was no bigger influence. That was who I wanted to be. Dad played on “Suspicious Minds” and Shaft and “In The Ghetto” and Dusty In Memphis and all these great records. I couldn’t have looked up higher to him. I’m sure that’s where the desire to play on so many records came from – trying to keep that family name going! But he was great. We played music together all the time, we did sessions together. He was the instructor who taught our current trumpet player [Scott Thompson] how to play. So it’s like having him with me.
He must have taken you to sessions when you were younger. Any particularly memorable ones?
I went to an Elvis one one time, and that was really cool. I went to a Frank Sinatra one but Sinatra didn’t show, so they just cut the horns. He produced a session one time that had the entire Elvis band, and that was a big deal. But less than it being just one isolated incident, it was just kind of like… if dad played a circus gig, I went to the circus gig. If he was playing a rock show, I would go to the rock show. It was a very beautiful and unique way to grow up in music.
You’ve played with so many people. I was just sort of curious… because you played with Hank [Williams] Jr. for a while…
Oh yeah, back in my youth, I did. I moved to London when I was 20, and I got this gig playing with Dexy’s Midnight Runners. And that lasted about eight months or something like that. And when I came home, I was looking for something to do, there wasn’t much to do, and some of my buddies were in his band and asked me to join. So I guess I did that from like 24 to 30. It was very wild, fun times. A good introduction to the road.
I was sort curious what you thought of the whole ESPN controversy with him.
He’s no stranger to controversy. He’s gotten into some controversy in Memphis. It was a great gig, I enjoyed playing with him. We’re very different in our way of looking at things. Is the ESPN thing something where he spoke out about Obama?
Yeah… we haven’t spoken in a very long time. I’m a little more of a peaceful guy. I’m a path of least resistance dude.
You’re older than the other guys in Lucero, aren’t you?
Sure I am. I just turned 50, which is kind of why I did this [EP]. Pretty much everybody in the band is in their mid-30s to early 40s, so I’ve got almost ten years on everybody, which is nice.
So how did you end up starting to play with them in the first place?
Through session stuff. John Stubblefield, the bass player, called me for a session. It was for a guy named Charly Fasano, he’s a poet. He had a spoken word, kind of beat poetry 45 he wanted to cut. So it was John and Roy and a guitar player from Athens named David Couser and myself. And over the course of cutting this single for a couple days, we kind of hit it off. There have always been keyboards on certain songs on Lucero’s records, and I guess they were looking to expand that. So when I did that single, they said, “Would you like to come and try to play and see what it’s like playing these new tunes that we’re about to record?” Which was the Rebels, Rogues [& Sworn Brothers] record, 2006. And I just never left. It was the band I’ve been waiting to play for my whole life. It’s funny finding something like that at that age, but [Lucero frontman] Ben [Nichols] is the songwriter I’ve always wished I could play [with]. He’s great.
I remember when you first joined the band, there was a reaction from some of the older fans who thought they were getting away from their roots. And then that increased 100 fold when the horns got involved. Are you aware of all that? What do you think about it?
I’m totally aware of it, and I get it. A lot of times when bands I loved changed and stuff like that, I hated ‘em! What I tried to do when I joined the band was keep that integrity and simplicity. I guess I tried to play keyboard parts that would fit the most and be the most supportive of the songs. Now people come up [to me] and go, “I like the early stuff like Rebels,” people that haven’t been around a real long time. That kind of has passed for me. Plus the whole band has been super supportive of me and everything. That’s not a problem any more. I’m aware of the horn thing. [Lucero guitarist] Brian [Venable] did a great interview with someone where he said, “This is what we’re recording now. If you want a record like [Lucero’s second album, 2002’s] Tennessee, put a band together and write some songs that sound like Tennessee, cause we didn’t know anything when we did that. This is just who we are now.” Live, we do a bunch of that old material. But Ben has progressed as a songwriter and has more things on his palette to choose from sonically, and that’s what he wants to do. So to some degree, you have to appreciate what those people say, but still do what you feel is the right thing to do, and I think the band has done that in spades.
It’s interesting you should say that about Ben’s songwriting, because when I interviewed him last year, he was gushing about how big an influence being able to work with you and Jim Spake and the horns has had on his songwriting. So what would you say his your role in arranging or bringing his songs to life?
One the big things Dad preached is, if you’re gonna be a supportive player, the two most important things are to serve the singer and serve the song. And I just try very much to do that. Ben’s a very complete writer. Sometimes he’ll have little keyboard figures, so it doesn’t take much, but sometimes it’s just saying, “Well, if you try this, maybe see what it sounds like.” When the horns first came, I did the bulk of the horn arrangements for [2009’s 1372] Overton Park. I did a lot of the arrangements on that, simply because [Ben] hadn’t really worked with them before. But really I just try to be an effective, supporting member of what I think is one of the greatest rock ‘n roll bands going.
So what’s next? There’s no Lucero dates scheduled after a couple weeks from now.
That’s right. We’re gonna take, for the first time, like six, eight weeks off.
That doesn’t happen for you guys very often!
That’s rare for us to take that kind of time off. I’m sure Ben’s got some writing he wants to do. Roy and I do a lot of side music on our own for fun. So I think it’s gonna be a nice little creative period, and we can be at home for a minute. We don’t get that a lot.
Amy LaVere and Shannon McNally announce Chasing The Ghost – Rehearsal Sessions EP
Amy LaVere and Shannon McNally first became aware of each other through their mutual mentor, Memphis producer, Jim Dickinson. They didn’t actually connect until Luther Dickinson brought them together to form the band The Wandering in 2012. “We were both instantly struck by our numerous similarities. It’s not your average gal that drinks bourbon neat, walks around with a pocket atlas and a drives a big white gear van,” McNally reflects, “I thought she was charming and awfully funny.”
The Chasing The Ghost Tour, which officially begins October 13th, 2012 in Joshua Tree California, was born in the immediate post partum of The Wandering tour of May 2012.
“Shannon and I related to the intensity with which we both approach our craft. It’s nice to have a friend that is also a peer. Our voices blended as well as our personalities”.
The two women, armed with a satchel of each artist’s songs, headed to the Music+Arts Studio in Memphis, Tennessee for rehearsals a few days before getting into the van for the cross-country trek to California. Instantly the feeling in the room was electric and fun. Someone had the good sense to press record.
Chasing The Ghost – “Rehearsal Sessions” features Amy LaVere on stand up bass and vocals, Shannon McNally on acoustic guitar and vocals, Robert Mache on guitar and mandolin and Shawn Zorn on drums.
Chasing The Ghost – “Rehearsal Sessions” will be released on the Archer Records Label . As the band hit the road engineers Daniel Lynn and Kevin Houston worded overtime to mix and master an EP which will be available at their first appearance on October 13th in Joshua Tree, CA.
$6.99 Digital Download
Amy LaVere Summer 2012 Tour Dates
Amy LaVere is excited to announce summer tour dates in support of her latest album, Stranger Me. Amy has had a busy year so far including completing filming of a new Brian Pera film, “Only Child” followed by a three week tour as a member of Luther Dickinson’s “The Wandering”, with Shannon McNally, Sharde Thomas and Valerie June. Don’t miss Amy on her summer tour. Dates are still being added so visit amylavere.com for the latest.
June 1 Retro Lounge at Knuckleheads Kansas City, MO June 3 Red Butte Garden Amphitheater Salt Lake City, UT June 6 Father Luke’s Room at Old St. Francis School Bend, OR June 7 McMenamin’s Kennedy School Portland, OR June 8 Mcmenamin’s Sand Trap Gearhart, OR June 9 Hotel Oregon Mcminnville, OR June 12 Olympic Club Centralia, WA June 13 Red Shed @ Edgefield Troutdale, OR June 14 Sunset Tavern Seattle, WA June 15 Treehouse Café Bainsbrisdge Island, WA June 17 Grand Lodge Forest Grove, OR June 18 Lola’s Room Portland, OR June 20 Hotel Utah San Francisco, CA June 21 Don Quixote’s International Music Felton, CA June 21 Streetlight Records Santa Cruz, CA June 22 Hotel Café Los Angeles, CA June 23 The Griffin San Diego, CA June 27 Sam’s Burger Joint San Antonio, TX June 28 Continental Club Austin, TX June 29 The Live Oak Fort Worth, TX July 7 Off Broadway St. Louis, MO July 18 Abilene Bar & Lounge Rochester, NY July 19 Joe’s Pub New York, NY July 21 Swamp Stomp West Kingston, RI July 23 IOTA Club & Cafe Arlington, VA July 25 Straightaway Café Black Mountain, NC September 13 The Intersection Grand Rapids, MI September 14 Bell's Eccentric Cafe Kalamazoo, MI September 16 The Ark Ann Arbor, MI September 17 The Ark Ann Arbor, MI October 27 Dixon Gallery and Gardens Memphis, TN
Jazzwise Magazine May 2012 4 Stars
Charlie Wood’s seventh album Lush Life is his second release on the Memphis-Based independent label, Archer Records, following his 2009 album Flutter and Wow. From the dazzling pianism and smoky vocals on album opener, ‘Route 66’, and the mellifluous scat on ‘All The Things You Are’ to an ebullient ‘On The Street Where You Live’, the Memphis-born, London-based singer, songwriter and pianist whips up a solo storm on this 11-track collection. It’s Wood’s first album of covers and it’s clear that every last semiquaver from the entire song list has long ago been absorbed into his musical make-up, with the loping groove of ‘Tipitina’ being especially fine. Giving a performance as many-sided as the music itself, Wood is joined for a duet on the Dietz/Schwartz song ‘Alone Together’ by his wife Jacqui Dankworth (who also produces), with their vocal lines entwining in perfect harmony. -Peter Quinn
UK Tour Update
“If she’s deeply impressive on record, on stage LaVere was plain compelling. The dextrous thud and thump of her superb bass playing underpinned everything, and her voice was strong, sure and supple, full of character and suggestion.”
Twished twang and other unusual Memphis thangs. ****
The result of a studio liaison between bass play-singer Lavere and Arcade fire producer Craig Silvey, much of Stranger Me wouldn’t sound out of place on a Twin Peak soundtrack. There’s lots of doomy guitar set amid atmospheric surrunds while to the fore is Lavere’s voice, quirky but applealing, sorta Norah Jones with an added Cyndi Lauper element. So, what’s to be made of a record that additionally commences with a drone then seques into Damn Love Song, featuring a powerhouse riff lifted right off The Beatles’ Rain? Or one that contains New Orleans jazz alongside a version of Captain Beefheart’s Candle Mambo, given a tender, romantic treatment” Stranger Me is accurately titled. It’s both intriguing and entertaining throughout. And you don’t get many like that to the pound. ****
–Fred Dellar Mojo Magazine September, 2011
Amy LaVere’s high, slender voice grows all riled up on “Stranger Me”
New York Times
August 7, 2011
By JON PARELES
Amy LaVere’s high, slender voice grows all riled up on “Stranger Me” (Archer), her third album. “Here’s your damn love song,” she sneers over a fuzzed-out bass riff; “I’m stomping out of here/I hope the dishes rattle down off their shelf,” she declares over galloping garage-rock one song later. Ms. LaVere, who lives in Memphis, has stepped outside the homespun, country-flavored Americana of her first two albums into more surreal territory: a zone of open spaces and resonant guitars, of sparse backdrops and inscrutable background sounds. Her new songs, and those she borrows — like Kristi Witt’s enigmatic drowned-boyfriend tale, “Red Banks,” and Captain Beefheart’s “Candle Mambo” — expand into those spaces, especially when they reflect on the self-deceptions of romance or the aftermath of a breakup. Spookiness suits her.
New album, tour equals success for Amy LaVere
“For the past few years it’s felt like LaVere has been on the cusp of major stardom. Her latest effort, Stranger Me, will be released in the U.S. next week, and she’ll mark the occasion with a free concert at the Levitt Shell on Saturday”
8 out of 10 in Spin for Amy LaVere’s Stranger Me
“Part winsome alt-country gal and part avenging angel, Amy LaVere has made the breakup album of the year.”
MOJO, Q Magazine, Daily Mirror and the Sun give Stranger Me four stars
(From MOJO September 2011)
Twished twang and other
unusual Memphis thangs.
The result of a studio liaison between bass play-singer Lavere and Arcade fire producer Craig Silvey,
much of Stranger Me wouldn’t sound out of place on a Twin Peak soundtrack. There’s lots of doomy guitar set amid atmospheric surrunds while to the fore is Lavere’s voice, quirky but applealing, sorta Norah Jones with an added Cyndi Lauper element. So, what’s to be made of a record that additionally
commences with a drone then seques into Damn Love Song, featuring a powerhouse riff lifted right off The Beatles’ Rain? Or one that contains New Orleans jazz alongside a version of Captain Beefheart’s Candle Mambo, given a tender, romantic treatment” Stranger Me is accurately titled. It’s both intriguing and entertaining throughout. And you don’t get many like that to the pound. **** –Fred Dellar
Amy LaVere’s NPR Mountain Stage show to air June 17.
Amy just finished taping NPR’s Mountain Stage. The episode will begin airing on June 17 and air-times will vary by station.
Stranger Me gets a symphonic touch
“The singer’s blend of charm, insight and tragic love has always gone over well with listeners. But with orchestral arrangements by the remarkable Jonathan Kircksey, those songs took on a profound depth and resonance.”
“I Should Be Blue” Reviewed in Sing Out! Magazine
Winter 2011 issue
From his early days playing with bluesmen Mississippi Fred McDowell and Furry Lewis at Memphis’ fabled Bitter Lemon club to lifetime membership in his buddy Jim Dickinson’s famously transient Mudboy and the Neutrons outfit and on to his storied solo career with Enterprise, Nonesuch and Peabody Records, Selvidge has been one of the most individualistic voices in American roots music. His seamlessly fearless fusion of Hill Country blues guitar picking and stoically laid-back storytelling (gloriously evident here on originals like “Dimestore Angel” and the wistful “Fine Hotel”) has allowed him to carve out a niche not only as a traditional sounding yet somehow contemporary southern songwriter but also as an inventive interpreter.
It’s that latter aspect that’s to the fore on his latest Archer project, produced by the legendary Don Dixon and featuring his bass playing along with familiar Selvidge cohorts, such as his son, Steve, on acoustic and electric guitars, Paul Taylor on wash-tub bass and drums and fellow Archer artist Amy Lavere on upright bass, as Selvidge nods to favorites from the likes of Tim Hardin (with a pensive rendition of “Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep”), Fred Neil (likewise, a stunning version of “The Dolphins”), a near-solo recall of Tom T. Hall’s classic “That’s How I Got to Memphis” and Sam Weedman – Selvidge adds a calypso-like sheen to his lament about “A Blond Headed Girl in a Convertible Automobile.” Up-and-coming vocalist Amy Speace joins Selvidge on four tracks, particularly shining on her own composition “Two” and on an ardent redo of Townes Van Zandt’s “I’ll Be Here in the Morning.” Fans of Chris Smithers or Peter Case will enjoy this one.
Release dates set for Amy LaVere’s “Stranger Me”
Amy LaVere’s new studio album on Archer Records, Stranger Me, is set for release July 19th in the USA and July 4th in the UK. The highly anticipated album was produced by Craig Silvey whose work with Arcade Fire resulted in 2010’s album of the year at the February Grammy Awards. Planning for touring in the USA and UK is well underway beginning with a special media event scheduled in London in April.
Stranger Me features Amy on upright bass and vocals, Rick Steff on keyboards, David Cousar on guitars, and Paul Taylor on drums. Other contributors included Jonathan Kirkscey and Bobby Furgo (strings), Jim Spake (saxophone), John Stubblefield (bass), and Nahshon Benford (trumpet).
Additional recordings were made in New Orleans at Preservation Hall with horn arrangements by noted Preservation Hall Band member and Bingo Show leader, Clint Maedgen.
Recording engineer Daniel Lynn assisted Craig Silvey with the recording and mixing at Music+Arts Studio in Memphis and additional mixing at The Garden Studio in London. Stranger Me was mastered by George Marino at Sterling Sound in New York.
Sid Selvidge music featured on HELLCATS TV series
“A Little Bit Of Rain”, the title track of Sid Selvidge’s 2003 album on Archer Records, was featured on the popular HELLCATS TV series on the CW Network which aired on March 1st, 2011. HELLCATS music supervisor David Sibley selected the track which is featured in the emotional ending of the latest episode—“Don’t make Promises” (You Can’t Keep). Bob Berlinger directed the episode written by Amanda Alpert Muscat. “A Little Bit Of Rain” was written by Fred Neil and the album was produced by James Luther Dickinson. Listen to “A Little Bit Of Rain” here at Archer Records.
If you missed the show, watch for a full episode posting at HELLCATS.
HELLCATS is from Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Tom Welling Productions, Warner Bros. Television and CBS Television Studios with executive producers Kevin Murphy (“Desperate Housewives,” “Reefer Madness”), Tom Welling (“Smallville”) and Allan Arkush (“Heroes,” “Crossing Jordan”).
The CW Network was formed as a joint venture between Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corporation. The CW is America’s fifth broadcast network and the only network targeting women 18-34.
Kirk Whalum’s Grammy winning song mixed at Music + Arts Studio
(Pictured from left, Hal Sacks and Kirk Whalum at Music + Arts)
Memphis sax great Kirk Whalum was nominated in four categories and won a Grammy, with Jerry Peters, for Best Gospel Song, It’s What I Do from Whalum’s The Gospel According to Jazz Chapter III . The Album and DVD were mixed in stereo and 5.1 surround at Music + Arts Studio by engineer/producer Hal Sacks. Hal was assisted by engineer Chris White. Whalum performed the song with Lalah Hathaway and it was recorded live at Reid Temple in Glenn Dale, Maryland.
To order a copy go to Kirk’s Amazon Store
Joyce Cobb’s Opus One debut was “a triumphant night of perfectly blended music”
Excerpted from Jon Spark’s Commercial Appeal review of February 3rd’s Opus One performance at Bridges in Memphis-
....Joyce Cobb was in top form doing her own jazzy take on opera with Bizet’s “Habenera,” Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy,” a Swingle Singers styling of Bach’s “Sleepers Awake” and a sizzling medley of jazz pieces. All her tunes were accompanied by Shoup on bass, Tom Lonardo on drums and Chip Henderson on guitar, with Opus One providing a great jazz backing that never fell in the trap of an orchestra laboring to sound cool.
Thank Shoup for that, and for knowing how to stir the cool of the jazz players with the heat of the orchestra and come up with a triumphant night of perfectly blended music.
Joyce Cobb, Sam Shoup and the Memphis Symphony re-arrange some classics
Archer Records artist Joyce Cobb teamed up with arranger Sam Shoup
and the Memphis Symphony Opus One project to make some great music
at the Bridges Center in Memphis. Selections included Bizet’s Habenera,
Gershwin’s I Love You Porgy and Bonfa’s theme from Black Orpheus, among others.
The performance was recorded by engineer producer Jeff Powell and Chris Jackson.
Joyce Cobb and the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio are scheduled to record their second
album for Archer Records in October of 2011. Another European tour is planned for
the spring of 2012. To order an autographed copy of Joyce’s latest release Click Here.
Black Rock Revival records new album at Music + Arts Studio
Black Rock Revival just completed a 12 song album of new songs at Music + Arts Studio. The three piece band includes Sebastian Banks (guitar, vocals) Hype (drums) and Percy Blue (bass). Engineer/Producer Kevin Houston recorded and mixed the record. Look for the new album to be released (with some cool in studio video) later in 2011. Follow the band on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/blackrockrevive
Review: Wood and Dankworth, Bert’s Jazz Bar, Belfast
Guinness and oysters. Baileys and cream. Just some of the luscious pairings you might find in a decent Belfast bar.
But last night another option was on the menu at Bert’s Jazz Bar at the Merchant hotel: Wood and Dankworth.
American maestro Charlie Wood has an impeccable musical heritage - having played with the likes of BB King and Robert Plant. Wood, however, inhabits his own world; a place wherein lies, as one expert elegantly put it, “that beguiling intersection where blues, rock and jazz meet”.
In a rather different corner of that lovely nirvana resides his wife Jacqui Dankworth, the Royal Shakespeare Company actress turned acclaimed singer.
Ms Dankworth is a stunning vocalist and last night she let no-one down. Some might say that having such famous parents as John Dankworth and Cleo Laine would condemn her to live forever in their shadow.
But there’s something about Jacqui Dankworth that defies convention. Together, the pair transformed the already-enchanting venue that is Bert’s into jazz/R’n’B/fusion heaven; she feeding wonderfully off the purity of Wood’s piano/vocal genius.
The show opened with a melody of Wood alone at his best - complex yet life-affirming jazz/blues affairs plus covers of selected artists including Ray Charles. And then the duet - which featured a marvellous range of originals and songs, including a special lovers rendition of Wood’s own Lucky Charm.
All along the pair were superbly assisted by local trumpeter Linley Hamilton.
It was a gig that underlined Bert’s growing reputation as one of Belfast’s most intriguing new music venues.
—Paul Connolly Belfast Telegraph
Losers Take All mixes at Music + Arts
(front page picture- Alex Steyermark with Kevin Houston)
Archer Records’ Music + Arts Studio was home to audio post production on an Alex Steyermark directed movie, Losers Take All, a comedy in which we follow The Fingers, a fictional punk-pop band stumbling and staggering their way in the opposite direction of mainstream success, circa 1986. Scott Bomar was the music supervisor, with Kevin Houston as sound designer and re-mix engineer. Daniel Lynn assisted with Foley . The primary music tracks were recorded at Bomar’s Electraphonic Studio. (Pictured L-R Scott Bomar , Kevin Houston)
Joyce Cobb with the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio
from The Memphis Flyer: August 2010
by Chris Herrington
A local scene veteran, Joyce Cobb has been a major Memphis presence as a Stax signee, nightclub owner, bandleader, recording artist, theater star, jazz crooner, and disc jockey, among other roles. On this Archer Records debut, she teams with pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, a well-traveled jazz veteran who is currently an adjunct instructor at Rhodes College, for a romantic, old-fashioned collection of pop and jazz standards from such heavyweights as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, Thelonious Monk, Fats Waller, and Duke Ellington.
With bassist Jonathan Wires and drummer Renardo Ward completing Stevens’ trio (and Cobb sometimes pitching in on harmonica), the band draws connections between these greats, sometimes explicitly, as when they segue from Berlin’s “Blue Skies” to Monk’s “In Walked Bud,” which was based on the chord progression of the Berlin song.
Rather than merely a vocal showcase, this is a communal jazz record that allows room for everyone to shine. The long take on the Carmichael/Johnny Mercer tune “Skylark” goes for three and a half minutes before Cobb enters, as Stevens, Wires, and Ward gradually build the melody and then play around with it.
The 12-track collection opens with “Moanin’,” which is grounded by Stevens’ smoky piano. Cobb hits her stride on the nimble, swooning “If You Know Love.”
Sid Selvidge In Vintage Guitar Magazine (December 2010)
With his soft, high voice, delicate touch on acoustic guitar, and a hint of funk, Selvidge resembles fellow Memphian Jesse Winchester. Producer Don Dixon (of R.E.M. fame) adds bass, keyboards, guitar, and baritone to Selvidge originals and covers of Tim Hardin, Townes Van Zandt, and Fred Neil. Amy Speace duets on Donovan’s “Catch The Wind”, featuring Steve Selvidge’s lead guitar. -DF
Joyce Cobb and Michael Jefry Stevens Trio Shine on 2010 Self-Titled Release
from WUMR Memphis, The Jazz Lover: November 12, 2010
On their self-titled album Joyce Cobb with the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio, Stevens leads the rhythm section in deftly complementing Cobb’s full range of honey sweet vocals with carefully composed peaks and valleys. Beginning with the distressed album-opening “Moanin’,” they collectively deliver 12 tales that ebb and flow as a dialogue between enflamed passions and desperate solitude.
Drawing on Cobb’s own uniquely developed mixture of silky jazz and aching soul, she scours the depths of cheerless heartache (“It’s Over Now”) and profound longing (“If You Never Come to Me”), before illuminating the heights of hopeful anticipation (“Jitterbug Waltz”) and unwavering love (“My Heart Belongs to Daddy”, “If You Know Love”). Throughout, Stevens provides vibrantly articulated and lyrical solos, as Wires and Ward glide naturally between moods and tempos with remarkable ease and style.
Sid Selvidge I Should Be Blue: 3 1/2 stars
from Downbeat Magazine: November 2010
by Mitch Myers
The late producer/musician Jim Dickinson used to talk about the atmosphere in Memphis, and how the air was thicker or heavier, and somehow this murky milieu actually seeped into the music recorded down there. Veteran singer/guitarist Sid Selvidge played alongside Dickinson in a group called Mudboy and the Neutrons, and I’m sure he’d agree.
Selvidge’s latest solo CD - produced by Don Dixon and recorded on magnetic tape - is a collection of deceptive depth. Selvidge is a Mississippi-born Memphis resident who has a fascinating singing voice that blends countrified folk, blues, and jazz. In timbre, it’s similar to that of Memphis songwriter Dan Penn, only more gentle and malleable, and a couple shades prettier. Opening with Tom T. Hall’s chestnut “That’s How I Got To Memphis,” Selvidge exudes a quiet confidence. As a performer, he mixes solid original material with gems written by soul-folk geniuses like Tim Hardin and Fred Neil.
Concentrating mostly on acoustic guitar, Selvidge cedes some electric guitar duties to his son, Steve - who is also a member of The Hold Steady. Dixon plays several instruments, especially the bass, and singer/songwriter Amy Speace appears on four tunes. Selvidge’s own vocal gifts are most apparent on two folk classics from yesteryear. his loping version of Donovan’s “Catch the Wind” (with Speace) is affecting, but his yearning rendition of Neil’s contemplative ode “The Dolphins” is most evocative. Closing coyly with Duke Ellington’s “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me,” Selvidge’s quiet vocal power is even more apparent.
Joyce Cobb w/ the Michael Jefrey Stevens Trio
from http://www.jazzreview.com/cd/review-21244.html: November 2, 2010
Described as the “Queen of Beale Street"by some, and “Memphis’Queen of jazz, soul and pop” by others, Joyce Cobb earns any accolade that she has garnered over the years on her latest self-titled CD recorded with the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio.
Ms. Cobb is a vocal talent that conjures up all sorts of images of the great jazz singers. Stevens, in an interview in the studio (Youtube) describes Cobb as “a cross between Billy Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald.” I couldn’t agree with him more. While these are strong words to describe any jazz singer, in this case, I feel they are inadequate. Joyce Cobb is an example where the artist learns from the masters and creates their own sound that is elementally their own.
Cobb attributes her style to a disciplined attention to detail learned in the Catholic choir, and a love of jazz singing acquired as a teen and mastered over years of study and practice. Cobb demonstrates her sheer musicality, range and dynamics on such classic vocal compositions as Carmichel-Mercer’s Skylark, or the great Blue Skies, one of Irving Berlin’s wonderful compositions. This piece is commendable, but the way she rolls right into the groove of In Walked Bud, was amazing! The ability to shift gears like that and keep the listener hooked in is a special gift.
The CD is loaded with great titles, executed by the MJS Trio with a remarkable sensitivity to the singer’ presence at every stage of the songs. This CD is one of the finest examples of the trio backed jazz vocalist. Filled with a track list that is unique, and
suited especially well to Ms. Cobb’s style and voicing. On “If You Know Love,” “I Thought About You,” and “It’s Over Now,” the listener gets the full emotional range of Cobb’s song-craft. From whimsical, to deep blues, to melancholy Joyce Cobb’s expressive voicing and beautiful purity is entertaining on so many dimensions.
You will search high and low to find a jazz vocalist of this quality today. My advice is look no further and check out the latest CD, Joyce Cobb and the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio on Archer Records.
CD Review: Joyce Cobb w/ the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio
by Piers Ford
I’d never claim to be a jazz expert, so when I listen to a singer who’s been filed in that particular section, it’s as the eternal novice. As with the work of a painter or a sculptor, my response is always visceral. I like it instantly or I don’t. Very occasionally, something grows on me after several plays or over the course of a set at a gig. But usually, it’s that first reaction that sticks. I’ll leave the hardcore analysis to the genre’s aficionados.
So what was my first reaction to Joyce Cobb with the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio? Aside from the fact that it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue as an album title, I was hooked. “Right, here we go,” says Joyce Cobb , one of Memphis’s finest exports, at the start, launching into a harmonica intro to “Moanin” before unleashing her warm, honeyed tones on the lyrics. It’s a potent combination that leaves you in doubt that you’re in the presence of an assured, class act.
Cobb might be billed as a jazz singer, but there is plenty of soul in her voice too. That means comparisons with Ella (coming through in Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz”), Billie (whose ghost is surely hovering in"If You Know Love”) and Sarah are inevitable. She certainly doesn’t come up short in the bold phrasing or the way she takes the melody and unravels it like a fine thread of gold. She bends it and stretches it but never lets go of the line. That’s a singe’s singer for you. And in the company of Michael Jefry Stevens on the piano, with Jonathan Wires on the bass and Renardo Ward on drums, she has precisely the framework she needs to work some intriguing magic with this set of standards. And comparisons aside, what comes across most clearly is the art of Cobb herself, in absolute command of every song, serene and completely comfortable within the music. Her voice is a prism of shifting moods and emotions.
There’s a beautifully restrained “Skylark”, with Stevens sublime on the piano, a playful “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” that banishes the threat of Earth Kitt-style outrageousness to the far reaches, and a lovely mash-up of the Dorothy Fields/Jimmy McHugh ballad “I’m in the Mood for Love” with some new lyrics from James Moody.“If You Never Come to Me” has a breezy samba quality. Stevens lays on the atmosphere again at the start of the plaintive Jimmy van Heusen/Johnny Mercer number, “I Thought About You”. It’s Wires” turn to shine with a spare accompaniment to Duke Ellington’s lament “Daydream”. By the time Cobb gets scatting, something, I’ll admit, I’ve always found an acquired taste on Thelonious Monk’s “It’s Over Now (Well You Needn’t)”, she’s long since had us in the palm of her hand.
This is an album of considerable quality that rewards repeated listening, which is just as well for us here in the UK. In the absence of any London gigs from Cobb, we’ll have to make do with it for the time being.
Production begins on new Amy LaVere album
Principal recording for a new Amy LaVere studio record has just been completed at Archer Records’ Music + Arts Studio in Memphis. U.K.-based producer/engineer Craig Silvey (Arcade Fire, Portishead, Nine Inch Nails) added his magical touch to the sessions which lasted two weeks.
Recording musicians included Rick Steff on keys, David Cousar on guitars, and Paul Taylor on drums. Jonathan Kirkscey (strings), Jim Spake (Sax) and John Stubblefield (bass), among others, also lent a hand. The recording sessions included a side trip to New Orleans where additional recordings were made In Preservation Hall with horn arrangements by noted Preservation Hall Band member, Clint Maedgen.
Recording engineers Daniel Lynn and Kevin Houston assisted with the recording. The record is scheduled for a final mix in September with a release planned for early 2011.
Four-Star review of Sid Selvidge’s I Should be Blue
from Maverick Magazine: September 2010
Superlative set of soft jazz/country blues from an outstanding song interpreter.
A perfect Sunday morning album, Sid Selvidge’s latest is a mix of covers and originals. Produced by Don Dixon of early REM fame, it also features Amy Speace duetting on several tracks. Selvidge’s music is part jazz, part blues (sometimes of the country variety) but all soul, and his vocals, which are often part spoken or fade away on the last syllable of a word, convey this to perfection.
On the covers side he takes on Donovan’s Catch The Wind and delivers a far better version than Mr. Leitch ever managed. It’s the first track Speace guests on and a masterpiece of lovelorn regret that restores its true beauty and reclaims it from hippy dippy hell. His son Steve, currently of the Hold Steady, plays some divine electric guitar on it, too. Anybody trying on Fred Neil’s Dolphins for size has to contend with the holy trinity of the original and Tim & Jeff Buckley’s impassioned versions and if Selvidge doesn’t quite challenge those he certainly acquits himself well. Elsewhere Speace’s Two, a heartfelt and delicate love song; and That’s How I Got To Memphis, where Selvidge’s voice floats over a solitary acoustic guitar are both resounding successes. Later on he has fun with Sam Weedman’s A Blonde Headed Girl (In A Convertible Automobile), a spit for Brown Eyed Handsome Man, here sprinkled with a hint of reggae, and turns Townes van Zandt’s I’ll Be Here In The Morning into a Southern soul piece, all smoke and sorrow.
His own material holds up well in this illustrious company and the soft jazz-tinged Fine Hotel and Lucky That Way fit his late night smoky bar style like a glove but it’s as an interpreter that Selvidge really stands out, as there are precious few good ones around and this album shows him to be one of the best.
Leicester Bangs September 2010 Review of I Should Be Blue
by Rob F.
I’m sure many of you will know Sid Selvidge from his appearance on the exceptional It Came From Memphis compilation, where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Furry Lewis, Jessie Mae Hemphill and the ever popular, Big Ass Truck. Of course, I may be selling you short and you’re the proud owner of several Selvidge CDs, in which case, you’re in for a treat.
I Should Be Blue - his eighth solo album - is a delightful collection of originals and covers, all delivered with a combination of gentle soul and folk-blues. There’s no shortage of impressive performances. His versions of Fred Neil’s “The Dolphins” and Donovan’s “Catch The Wind” (With Amy Speace) both standout, though his own songs are equally engaging. With a band that includes his son Steve (currently playing with The Hold Steady) on guitar and Don Dixon on bass, you’re not going to go far wrong.
JazzWax: A Daily blog on jazz legends and legendary jazz recordings
Sid Selvidge, I Should Be Blue
from http://www.jazzwax.com/2010/09/index.html: September 7, 2010
by Marc Myers
Sid Selvidge’s I Should Be Blue is a different type of album. It’s country-folk and offers many joys. Selvidge’s music reminds me of one of those back-porch sofas that swing back and forth. Songs like Catch the Wind, Dimestore Angel and I’ll Be Here in the Morning with Amy Speace as well as The Dolphins show off Selvidge’s Southern roots and interpretation. My favorite track is the country-soul Fine Hotel. Sample for yourself.
Re-mastering Craig Brewer’s “The Poor and Hungry” at Music + Arts Studio
Archer Records’ Music + Arts Studio has been working on the re-mastering of Craig Brewer’s first film, “The Poor and Hungry”. The film was written, directed, and produced by Craig Brewer and was his first feature-length film. It originally debuted at the Hollywood Film Festival in 2000 where it won the category of Best Digital Movie, but was never commercially released. Pictured here at Music + Arts Studio are (L to R): Kevin Houston-sound remixing, Kat Sage -music licensing; Co-producer Erin Hagee, and editor Morgan Jon Fox.
Joyce Cobb w/ Michael Jefry Stevens Trio - feat. Jonathan Wires on bass and Renardo Ward on drums
from This Book Music : August 2010
by John Book
Here is an interesting collection of songs recorded by singer Joyce Cobb with the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio, which includes Jonathan Wires and Renardo Ward. The self-titled CD (Music Arts/Archer) is an album with a lot of bop and swing, mixing up jazz with some down home blues that will make you feel good. . . . . . . . . . .
If you like Stevens, get this. If you love a good jazz/blues singer with compassion and warmth, you might find Cobb to be your chanteuse.
Netrhythyms.com review of Sid Selvidge’s I Should Be Blue
from http://netrhythms.com/reviews.html#sid: August 2010
by David Kidman
I’ve had a real job finding out much about Greenville, Mississippi-born Sid, beyond the fact that he spent his early days in Memphis learning to play the blues from the likes of Furry Lewis, Fred Mc Dowell and the late Jim Dickinson, after which he’s toured the world, etc etc, and claims Dylan as an admirer. We’re also told that I Should Be Blue is his eighth album - so where the hell’s he been all these years that he’s never figured on NetRhythms radar until now?
Sid’s the real deal, a light-textured and supple vocalist with the strongest Memphis influences all brought to bear on his slowburning singing style:
soul, folk and pop are all seamlessly woven into a characteristic yet surprisingly unique personal statement. That amazing voice, so effortlessly idiomatic and brilliantly controlled, stops you dead from the opening cover of Tom T. Hall’s That’s How I Got To Memphis (shades of Eric Bibb here maybe), and keeps you hooked right on through personalised treatments of songs by Tim Hardin, Donovan, Townes Van Zandt and Fred Neil along with a small contingent of his own well-crafted compositions tucked into the centre of the record for good measure. His songwriting feels as fresh as his singing, although its lazy, laid-back mode on the likes of Dimestore Angel and Fine Hotel still references classic soul and Americana all down the line. As an interpreter, Sid convinces both on the thoughtful material (the majority of the cuts) and also on the falsetto moves required for the comic quirkiness of You’re Gonna Look Like A Monkey (When You Get Old). It’s hard to escape occasional reminiscences of Phil Ochs in his delivery too (no bad thing tho’), and his high-register shifts are coolly impressive too. What’s more, his voice blends really well with that of Amy Speace, whose own song Two provides a tender disc highlight towards the end of the set; in fact, Amy gets to join Sid on four out of the dozen tracks, and their duet on Donovan’s Catch The Wind is seriously good too.
Sid’s gathered round him a small but effective crew of support musicians that includes his son Steve on various electric guitars, Al Gamble on organ, Don Dixon on bass and Paul ““Snowflake” Taylor on drums; together this crew makes an ideal foil for the persuasive tones of Sid’s voice, moving with him from subtle chordings to languid, almost Latin-jazzy ambiance to soulful discretion. It’s all surprisingly easy listening, considering the intense delicacy and hinted-at depths within, and although there’s a slight tail-off towards the end of the album the whole set still manages to score highly on sheer entertainment value.
Properganda UK Review
from Properganda Magazine: August 2010
It doesn’t get much more authentic, blueswise, than having your birthplace as Greenville, MS. But Selvidge is not only Delta, he’s “pretty much everything musically in the whole Southeast” as the NY Times’ John Rockwell says. Country, rock-lite, jazzy/folk - all styles are served here and this 8th release showcases not only elegant covers of proven names - Fred Neil, Duke Ellington, and Donovan (in truth!) all crop up among the writing credits, but a sprinkling of Sid originals of which Fine Hotel is the world-weary gem here.
With a heart full of soul, and appealing feshness, the album’s mood is highly evocative and Selvidge’s high-register, slow-burning vocals conjure an air of hard-won resignation and sensibility with a hangover. The four duets with Amy Speace with whom he often tours, are classy affairs with just-right harmonies evincing an unforced empathy.
Here’s a very human album that for candor alone, takes some beating.
Americana UK Review
by Dan Wilkinson
6 out of 10
Return of the great artist that nobody could find
Sid Selvidge has spent the majority of his musical career skirting around the periphery of greatness. His career has seen him play with artists of the caliber of Furry Lewis, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Jim Dickinson yet it has never quite happened for Selvidge himself.
‘I Should Be Blue’ is Selvidge’s eighth solo album and one on which Selvidge has assembled a decent band containing his son, Steve (The Hold Steady), Paul Taylor (Chuck Prophet), and Amy Speace. Musically, the album is best described as tasteful featuring a mix of covers and originals. Selvidge has a way of weaving soul and folk influences to create a sound that feels like an old pair of slippers.
It is a testament to Selvidge’s song writing that his tunes are capable of standing up to those by Townes Van Zandt and Fred Neill with little obvious dip in quality. Selvidge is also a skilled interpreter of other people’s songs. In particular, his versions of Van Zandt’s I’ll be Here in the Morning and Neill’s Dolphins deserve special mention.
Like many artists recording in the latter periods of their career, Selvidge sounds comfortable in his own skin. His sound is extremely assured without ever threatening to change the world, leaving the listener feeling musically satisfied but not overly challenged.
Amazon.com Album Review
Joyce Cobb with the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio
It always amazes me when I hear an album by a talented and seasoned entertainer who has a strong presence in a local music scene, but has not become known much beyond their performing area. Such is the case with Memphis-based vocalist JOYCE COBB. After hearing Joyce Cobb with the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio (Archer Records 31934), I am pleased that she has finally entered my listening life. Cobb has a superb jazz feeling, with a strong dose of blues and soul as part of her stylistic mix. The fine trio backing her is comprised of Michael Jefry Stevens on piano, Jonathan Wires on bass and Renardo Ward on drums. She is a soulful ballad singer as can be heard on selections like Skylark and Daydream. Cobb’s vocal chops are on display from the start when she opens with Moanin. The natural pairing of I’m in the Mood for Love and Moody’s Mood for Love is followed by a clever matching of Irving Berlin s Blue Skies with Thelonious Monk’s In Walked Bud, the Monk tune having been based on the chord changes for the Berlin song. These are but a few of the delights to be found on this deeply appealing album. (archer-records.com)—CD Review
Joyce Cobb w/ the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio
from Midwest Record: August 17, 2010
by Chris Spector
Well traveled Memphis lady testifies as she kicks it out on the opening track “Moanin’” and lets it fly from there on a wildly mixed bag that let’s everyone shine as it all comes together. Not exactly a blues date, it’s a powder keg of southern soul that this lady knows how to ignite. A high octane wild ride.
Joyce Cobb and the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio on Archer Records
from All About Jazz: August 2010
by C. Michael Bailey
If New York City is the cultural center of the universe, then Memphis, Tennessee is its crossroads, with the cutting edge and the traditional mingling in Memphis like two best friends. Jazz vocalist Joyce Cobb hails from Memphis, and that city’s myriad of influences are evident in her singing. Certainly sophisticated as a jazz singer, Cobb’s delivery has the slurring grit of the blues. It is the sound of her meaning business when she steps up to the microphone to sing.
The disc opens with Bobby Timmons’ soul-jazz classic, “Moanin,’” with Jon Hendricks’ lyrics. But this is no slick Lambert, Hendricks & Ross vocalese; Cobb blows a mean harmonica, and proceeds to preach the gospel of Philadelphia soul by way of the Memphis blues.
Cobb is the regular singer for the Michael Jefry Stevens trio, also centered in Memphis. Stevens is a soulful musician with a solid sense of swing and a crack ear for arrangement. He shares, with Horace Silver, an expansive tonal sound made more broad with careful, full-note soloing. Stevens and Cobb collectively address a large repertoire, from Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” to Thelonious Monk’s “In Walked Bud,” which are paired in a cleverly inspired and intertwined medley.
Cobb slays the Green/Manners lyrics to Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz.” Stevens’ cascading 3/4 stroll, coupled with Jonathan Wires’ crack bass solo, establishes a breezy ambiance exploited by Cobb’s easy delivery. Stevens solos on Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark,” before launching in to Jon Hendricks’ take on “Monk’s Dream” (“Man, That Was A Dream”) with Cobb. Cole Porter’s 1938 “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” is a beautiful, libertine take on an old tune. In the smartest pairing offered, “I’m In The Mood For Love/Moody’s Mood for Love” provides a solid vehicle for Cobb to display straight melody singing, followed by the highest level of jazz elaboration.
A sultry “It’s Over Now (Well You Needn’t)” closes the disc in Monkian style, showing that music with grit can also be multifaceted, and even pretty. It’s warm in Memphis, and this recording makes it warmer.
Jazz, Soul, Blues: Whatever comes from Heart thru the Voice
lunch.com/Reviews/musician/Joyce_Cobb_with_The_Michael_Jefry_Stevens_Trio August 10, 2010
by Grady Harp
JOYCE COBB with the MICHAEL JEFRY STEVENS TRIO is one of the more satisfying collections of songs in a style that many of us thought was gone with Fitzgerald and Holiday - heart on the sleeve renditions of old favorite songs sung with lusty gutsy complete communication. If that is something you’ve found missing among the new releases of recordings, spend some time listening to Joyce Cobb chew up the air and soul of some of the best tunes around. She is a true lady of the arts, able at one moment to melt your heart as in the van Heusen/Mercer ‘I thought about you’ or ‘If you know love’ or ‘If you never come to me’ while nearly making love to her collaborators - the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio- and then moving one to breakneck patter and rhythm that remind us that voice is after all an instrument. The Trio is a polished group - Michael Jefry Stevens, piano, Jonathan Wires, bass, and Renardo Ward drums. What Joyce Cobb can do to your heart, Stevens knows that path too, very well, and he is joined by fine musicians who understand that fine balance between overriding the idea of a song and playing with solo moments of it that bring the tune fully to life.
This is one of the best integrated meldings of instruments and voice: many of the tunes begin with a mood setting extended intro, preparing the way for the gliding in of Cobb to give words to the emotion the trio has suggested. It is seamless. There are times when Cobb’s intonation begins to sound careless, but as soon as the potential flaw grows evident, she takes us on a whirlwind ride right up to mid-pitch. Some of the sounds here sound like old Bayou songs, so deep south in flavor are they. Others sound like raw blues, Cobb using the words of the writers to let her emotions seep out. But just as soon as you think that is what this album is all about, she and her colleagues bounce clever and witty sarcasms of rock and jazz in combinations that this listener has never heard. This is a terrific album for those who remember early soul and long to get back to the sweaty heat of the clubs down by the river. It is great music making.
Sid Selvidge Review in Word Magazine UK
Sid Selvidge, I Should Be Blue
from Word Magazine: August 2010
Just recently, whenever I’ve got into the office early in the morning I’ve put this record on. Selvidge is a veteran of the Memphis music scene and just like that city he likes to mix it up. These songs, which range from Tim Hardin’s Don’t Make Promises (You Can’t Keep) to Duke Ellington’s Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me via his own compositions, have been chosen because they suit his urbane, confiding vocal style and the homespun nudging of his band. In the words of an old salesman acquaintance of mine, this could charm the knickers off the vicar’s wife.
Archer Records to release debut Joyce Cobb and the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio album
Joyce Cobb with the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio is set for a European release August 16th and a US release on August 17th. The group will appear at the Al Sears Jazz Festival on September 18th and then begin a European tour starting in Prague on October 5, 2010.
Hometown favorite AMRO Music will host a CD release party on Thursday, August 19th from 6 to 9 PM. (thanks AMRO for the beautiful Steinway D used on this recording) Joyce and the trio will play selections from the album. The event and refreshments are free so come help them launch their album and tour.
View the behind the scenes video of the making of this record.
Autographed copies are available at http://www.archer-records.com. The album will also be available at retail stores in Europe and at amazon.com, iTunes and other online distributors worldwide.
New Sid Selvidge Album Set For June 8 National Release
Archer Records is excited to announce the upcoming release of Sid Selvidge’s 8th solo effort, and his 3rd for the Memphis label. The album, I Should Be Blue, will feature never-before-heard Sid originals, as well as a number of duets with rising Nashville-by-way-of-New York City vocalist and recording artist, Amy Speace (Killer In Me, Wildflower Records). I Should Be Blue will be distributed nationally by RED (Sony), and will be available June 8.
Recording took place at Archer’s Music + Arts Studio in late January with direction from acclaimed producer/musician/songwriter Don Dixon (Joe Cocker, REM, Counting Crows). In addition to Sid’s guitar work, other players featured on the album include Dixon, Amy LaVere, and Sam Shoup on basses, Sid’s son Steve (now with The Hold Steady) on guitars, and multi-instrumentalist Paul Taylor (now with Chuck Prophet) on drums and washtub bass. The record itself at once feels immediate and fresh, but incorporates sonic elements and recording techniques that will recall the sound of classic 70s pop albums.
Selvidge and guest vocalist Amy Speace will embark on a national tour June 7 in New York City, with a stop scheduled in Memphis for a local record release party at the Levitt Shell at Overton Park on Sunday, June 13. Leslie Rouffe (Songlines) will provide radio support for the album, while Michael Bloom (Michael Bloom Media Relations) will provide publicity along the way.
New tour dates are being added, so for those and more information check back here soon or visit SidSelvidge.com.
More about Amy Speace:
ï¿½Amy Speace is the perfect torchbearer for the unconscious cool of true Americanaï¿½ (Houston Press). Just a moment’s exposure to Amy Speace’s intimate yet powerful voice and timeless arrangements, and her roster position on Judy Collinsï¿½ Wildflower Records
“I Should Be Blue”
from FAME-Folk And Acoustice Music Exchange: June 17, 2010
by Mark S. Tucker
This is so redolent of the heart and soul of the 60’s and 70’s that it’s difficult to locate terms sufficient to the task of expressing just how unique, and yet how multi-genre perfect, I Should be Blue is. The reference to “hill country blues” fits Sid Selvidge like a second skin, and there’s a hell of a lot of Paul Simon in him, but he tends to often reside more in Phil Ochs / Harry Chapin territory, especially Och’s unnervingly deceptive breeziness, while maintaining a unique vocal presence. From early days playing with such giants as Furry Lewis and Mississippi Fred McDowell, Selvidge has absorbed much and made it his own.
The gent’s cover of Donovan’s Catch the Wind is the best interpretation I’ve ever heard of that tune, faithful while spinning to American shores, beautifully complemented by Amy Speace’s duetting, matching tenor and sentiment perfectly. Then there’s his manneredly uproarious take on the trad You’re Gonna Look Like a Monkey (When You Get Old), a rock-jazzed cut percolating in funky folk topped by bird-on-the-wire falsetto. The closer, the famed Ellington / Russell Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear from Me has the quavery delta sensitivity of Jesse Winchester while seizing the tune over to a whole new territory. There, as elsewhere, brother Steve Selvidge inserts a down-home electric guitar that’s slyly jazzy while lyrical and understatedly finessed.
Don Dixon produced this one with consummate discretion. I’ve mentioned previously that I hadn’t in the past been all that captured by his solo work (Most of the Girls, Romeo at Julliard, etc.), but as a producer, he’s becoming impressive as hell. Here, he sits in throughout, and everything about I Should be Blue is an exercise in impeccability on both sides of the sound board. I think Selvidge may have found his perfect frame in Dixon, and, in Selvidge, Dixon may have encountered one of the most rivetingly eclectic down home aesthetes he’ll even encounter. The listener, then, can only earnestly hope for a lot more from both.
Charlie Wood @ 606 Club - London
from JazzFM: June 2010
There’s nothing quite like the 606 on a Monday night. Things are a bit more sedate, you can unwind at the bar, find your favourite perch, take the weight off. And when an artist of the calibre of Charlie Wood is providing the entertainment, you know everything’s going to be all right.
Wood is a Memphis-born singer, songwriter and pianist who has toured the US and Europe with blues guitar legend Albert King and performed with artists such as Robert Plant, Rufus Thomas, BB King and Georgie Fame. His latest CD ‘Flutter and Wow’ is produced by Norah Jones guitarist/collaborator Adam Levy and features covers of songs by Tom Waits, Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen. But it’s Wood’s own compositions that really grab the attention - witty, intelligent vignettes in the Mose Allison, Ben Sidran, Randy Newman or Donald Fagen vein with killer couplets and a groovy old-school R’n'B vibe.
‘A Song’ was a slick mid-tempo swinger with poignant lyrics: ‘Before everyone got indoctrinated/Before everything had been bought and sold/Remember how music intoxicated?/How it got in your heart and your head and took hold?’ An old-time concept for sure, but there’s room for nostalgia too among the bluster of contemporary jazz. A super-fast version of ‘All The Things You Are’ incorporated Charlie Parker’s famous ‘Bird of Paradise’ tag and showed off the hefty chops of trombonist Mark Nightingale and saxist Andy Panayi. And there was a fine, laidback take on Mose Allison’s suburban blues manifesto ‘City Home’ before Wood closed out the set with his heartbreak anthem ‘One Kind Word’.
The word on the street is that Charlie is now a regular in London, so he should be back on the block in no time - a trip to check him out is highly recommended.
Sid Selvidge lives life one song at a time
” Blue is yet another remarkable entry in the Selvidge canon”
from The Commerical Appeal: June 11, 2010
by Bob Mehr
Good things come to those who wait, or so the old adage goes. For fans of musician Sid Selvidge, those are words to live by.
These days, Selvidge is probably best known as the executive producer of the internationally syndicated radio show “Beale Street Caravan.” But that’s just one of the many lives Selvidge has led, from his days as a teenage disc jockey in Mississippi, to a student and champion of the local folk-blues revival in 1960s, to record company owner in the ‘70s, to sometime-producer and consistent contributor to Memphis’ evolving musical history.
In between all that, the 66-year-old singer has created one of the more compelling catalogs in folk music, a fantastic — if sporadic — run of records dating back to the 1969 Stax/Enterprise release Portrait.
“Music has always been a part of the mix of what I’ve done,” says Selvidge. “But I guess I’m too much of an ADD guy to ever say all I’m gonna do is make music.”
Though his albums seem to come about as frequently as the census, Selvidge has just put out a new one, I Should Be Blue (Archer Records). He will mark the release with a free concert Sunday at the Levitt Shell.
Although Selvidge is modest about his work, Blue is yet another remarkable entry in the Selvidge canon, rightfully ranking alongside such lauded classics as 1976’s The Cold of the Morning and 1982’s Waiting For a Train. The 12-track disc offers a wide mix of styles and material, all of it unified by Selvidge’s crystalline howl.
“I very rarely get into the politics of a song, or how it fits into an album — I’m really a song-by-song man,” says Selvidge. “Otherwise my records would certainly be more coherent. It doesn’t make any difference to me if it’s got a country tinge to it, or if it’s an R&B thing. ... It’s got to be something I can play for myself and I like. The first person I try to entertain is myself.”
The material on Blue proves a potent mix: from a reworking of Fred Neil’s “The Dolphins” (a longtime family favorite suggested by Selvidge’s guitarist son Steve, who plays on the album), to a delicate reading of the Tom T. Hall classic “That’s How I Got to Memphis” to a jaunty cover of Duke Ellington’s “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me.” The album even boasts a few rare Selvidge originals, including the Mickey “Guitar” Baker-inspired “Lucky That Way.”
The birthing of Blue came with the help of a pair midwives in producer Don Dixon (R.E.M., Marshall Crenshaw) and duet partner Amy Speace — a Baltimore-born roots songstress who graces several tracks and is currently touring with Selvidge.
For Selvidge, who normally collaborates with lifelong friends, the union with Speace was unusual. “I’d met and talked to her politely for maybe 15 to 20 minutes, before we decided it might be a good idea to work together. And we were right. I mean, I don’t think we’ll ever be Dolly and Porter,” says Selvidge, laughing, “but it’s worked so well and it’s still fun.”
If Blue proves anything, it’s that Selvidge’s remarkable gifts as an interpretive singer remain as powerful as ever, even if the tone and timbre of his voice have changed, becoming more airy and ethereal.
“Voices don’t last forever,” says Selvidge. “I used to have that big radio, chesty resonator voice. And I don’t quite have that anymore. When I’m old, I’m gonna wind up like Skip James and be all high notes. Well, I’m old now—when I’m ancient that’s how I’ll be.”
Aging and the thoughts that come with it have always been a part of Selvidge’s musical journey. As a young man, he sat at the feet of wizened blues masters like Furry Lewis, soaking up what he could. “Hell, I thought Furry Lewis was gonna die in 20 minutes, the day I met him. That’s why I followed him around learning all his stuff, thinking he was gonna fall over any minute. Looking back, he was the same age I am now,” says Selvidge, laughing.
More serious thoughts of mortality have been intense for Selvidge over the past year. He’s lost several close friends and collaborators in rapid succession, including his longtime foil and Mud Boy and the Neutrons bandmate Jim Dickinson, his old running buddy Alex Chilton and his fellow blues enthusiast, Dennis Brooks.
“What’s happened in the past year, I can’t relate it to my music necessarily, but I’m sure it’s there” says Selvidge. “It’s still pretty stunning, and I haven’t come to emotional grips with it at all. I keep thinking that I will. ... I’m trying to stay positive. This record reflects that attempt.”
“You know, when people die and you’re younger, it’s one emotional level because it’s more of a shock,” continues Selvidge. “As you get older, people are supposed to go whether you want them to or not. It’s a little bit different. It’s hard to explain. ‘Cause I have to think, even under the best of circumstances, I’m not gonna be around that much longer, maybe 20 years, max. And how much of that is gonna be productive?
“I just figure I’m lucky enough to have gotten this far,” he says, “and I’m gonna see how much farther I can go.”
“Near Perfect” Review - Village Records
from Village Records- CD Hunting Guide: June 3, 2010
by Village Records
Selvidge has been at it for longer than most of us have been around. It hasn’t exactly been a front and center career, but for those of us who mine that area a few layers down we know him and his work well. This new recording finds him working with producer Don Dixon and the results are near perfect. Using a set list mostly of well chosen covers they have put together a seamless album that will have you reaching for the repeat button. Several of the tracks are duets with up and comer Amy Speace (Remember that name) who provides that something extra. Artists covered include Townes Van Zandt, Donovan, Tom T. Hall, Fred Neil and more. Perfect for a lazy afternoon.
Roots Singer/Guitarist Sid Selvdige Returns with “I Should Be Blue”
from The Grateful Web April 30, 2010
by Mike Moran
“A tender portrait of love and longing amidst loss, flowing with an effortless grace and natural beauty distinctly its own”
For decades, Sid Selvidge has been one of the most singular voices in American roots music. His unique and seamless fusion of hill country blues picking and languid folk-styled storytelling has allowed Selvidge to carve out a niche that has separated him from other traditional and contemporary southern songwriters. Now, five years after his acclaimed CD/DVD Live at Otherlands, Sid returns with the gracefully melodic I Should Be Blue. Available in stores and online June 8, Selvidge’s 8th solo album and 3rd from Memphis-based Archer Records sees him crafting material that recalls the warmth of sound and spirit present in classic 70s era folk-tinged pop LPs.
From his early days playing with Furry Lewis and Mississippi Fred McDowell at The Bitter Lemon Club in Memphis, to his and friend Jim Dickinson’s elusive Mudboy and the Neutrons (Bob Dylan dubbed them “the great band that nobody could find’), to his storied solo career with Enterprise (Stax), Nonesuch (Elektra), and his own Peabody label, Selvidge has always been able to stand alone in his ability to integrate classic methods into fresh vocal and strumming approaches. Former New York Times critic John Rockwell probably said it best: “Sid Selvidge, who comes from Mississippi by way of Memphis, is neither country nor rock. He’s pretty much everything musically in the whole Southeast.” David Fricke of Rolling Stone is also a known admirer, having declared emphatically, “Sid Selvidge is a precious treasure”, in his glowing review of Sid’s previous studio effort, A Little Bit of Rain (Archer Records, 2003).
While his past work has garnered him the praise of national critics, I Should Be Blue palpably displays his versatile appeal to fans as both an original artist as well as an interpreter. Selvidge adjusted his formula for I Should Be Blue, working for the first time with renowned producer/musician/songwriter Don Dixon (Joe Cocker, The Smithereens, REM, Counting Crows), as well as inviting up-and-coming vocalist Amy Speace to join him on several tracks. These duets including Sid’s sweet and dreamy “Dimestore Angel”, Speace’s original gem, “Two”, as well as warm, wistful nods to favorites like Townes Van Zandt’s “I’ll Be Here In The Morning” and Donovan’s “Catch The Wind”. Selvidge, along with the US and European press took quickly to Speace, with Paste Magazine calling her latest release, 2009’s “The Killer In Me”, a “resolutely hopeful take on heartache and loss…beautiful lyrics are spun with a soulful, husky voice that lilts like a country sweetheart but mourns like Leonard Cohen.”
In addition to combining new elements to Selvidge’s sound in Dixon’s production techniques and bass playing and Speace’s rich vocals, I Should Be Blue will also feature some more familiar players. Among them are Sid’s son, Steve (The Hold Steady) who plays acoustic and electric guitars, Paul Taylor (Chuck Prophet) on drums and washtub bass, and fellow Archer artist Amy LaVere on upright bass. The outcome is a tender portrait of love and longing amidst loss, flowing with an effortless grace and natural beauty distinctly its own.
I Should Be Blue will be available in stores June 8, to coincide with tour dates for a Sid Selvidge and Amy Speace joint U.S. tour. For more information, please visit http://www.Archer-Records.com or http://www.SidSelvidge.com.
Music + Arts Studio Commissions First AT-101 Compressor For U.S.
Archer Records is excited to have commissioned the creation of a new piece of gear for its Music + Arts studio, the first ever AT-101 compressor built for use in the United States. The AT-101 is a new product from British makers Analogue Tube, and was only recently unveiled at AES in San Francisco. Shortly thereafter, we had the opportunity to demo a unit during the recording of the forthcoming Sid Selvidge record, and immediately afterward we began working with Analogue Tube owner, designer, and equipment builder Simon Saywood on the creation of an AT-101 for our studio.
Saywood designed and built the AT-101 by hand to replicate the popular Fairchild 670 stereo limiter models that were part of classic 50s and 60s recording studio gear. Generally speaking it will add dimension, depth, and clarity to recorded sound, as well as improving vocal quality.
You can read more about the AT-101 and see construction photos at the Music + Arts Myspace site. For more information on Analog Tube and exact specifications on the AT-101 compressor, visit the Analogue Tube website.
Music + Arts Studio Mixing MTV’s “Savage County” Film
This week, Archer’s Music + Arts studio once again has the privilege of working on a film project with MTV New Media’s David Harris. After M+A performed sound design, mixing and ADR for 2009’s music-centric ode to midtown Memphis, $5 Cover, co-producer Harris was excited about the possibility of come back to the Bluff City to work on a new project. Late last summer, he was able to return for the filming of Savage County, a tale of Texas teenagers whose prank-gone-wrong inspires the murderous vengeance of a rural clan of crazed hillbillies. Now, with Memphis artist Jason Freeman (Bluff City Backsliders) serving as music director for the project, M+A will spend the next week recording and mixing music to picture.
Freeman is no stranger to applying his musical talents to film work, having written and played the searing guitar riffs heard in Black Snake Moan, as well as contributing to the Hustle and Flow soundtrack. For Savage County, he has big plans for creating unique and authentically terrifying compositions to accompany the film. Much of the music will be chilling experimental sounds that Freeman will add by recording piano, bass, and guitars in the studio as the film plays on a large screen overhead. To formulate additional hair-raising sonic elements, the score will also incorporate a string section, various percussive elements, and other mystical sounds that Freeman will use to bring Harris’s frightening bloodbath to life.
Sound mixing is being handled by local engineering guru Kevin Houston, whose extensive work at Music + Arts includes numerous film credits, most recently for work on $5 Cover, N-Secure, and Butterfly Rising. He will be assisted by Daniel Lynn, who has also added film credits to his work at the Music + Arts studio lately. The pair are already familiar with Savage County, having worked on an earlier ADR session for the project, and look forward to working again with Freeman.
Much like $5 Cover last year, Savage County is set to appear on MTV.com later this year and will consist of 15 seven-to-nine-minute episodes that will form a coherent feature film when viewed in sequence. No release date has been set, but you can get more information on Savage County by becoming a fan on Facebook and checking out an early trailer here.
Charlie Wood - Flutter and Wow
from Jazz Times: January 2010
Remember the first time you heard Dylan, or Springsteen, or Costello, or Waits? Charlie Wood delivers that same jolt. If, that is, Flutter and Wow is the first you’ve heard from the Memphis jazz-blues maestro. Hopefully you already know his astounding nod to Booker T., Sam & Dave, Ray Charles, Al Green, and a host of other pioneers on R&B3 and his equally forthright Somethin’ Else. If not, Flutter and Wow will send you scrambling for as much Wood back catalog as you can unearth.
It will also expose you to the entire breadth of Wood’s brilliance. First, there’s his exemplary taste in songwriters: the best of the best - Costello, Waits, Sexsmith, Cohen, Simon- all covered here. Then there are his own tunes: wry, funny, tack-sharp, intelligent without the slightest hint of condescension, and crafted with the same respect for wordplay as Porter or Frishberg or Mose Allison. There’s also his singular way with a keyboard - any keyborad, whether it’s attached to a Baby Grand, a B3 or a Wurlitzer. Finally, there’s the melting pot of influences that Wood synthesizes. They vary from project to project - his tastes are that catholic - but here they range from deep within the Stax and Atlantic vaults to the growl and moan of Eric Burdon, the otherworldly lilt of Donald Fagen, and the scorched majesty of Kurt Elling.
As a nightcap to this heady brew, Wood ends with “A Song,” a deceptively simple title for a slice of ingenuity involving a saloon song about the death of saloon songs.
Charlie Wood - Flutter and Wow
from Folk and Acoustic Music: September 15, 2009
by Mark Tucker
The word ‘funk’ is tossed around a lot. It has sources (Sly & the Family Stone, Parliament, Mother’s Finest, etc.) but it also connotes wider parameters than are normally creditedŠand a lot of writers have no clue what they’re talking about when it comes to the genre. Can I get an amen? Well, trust me when I say this is funk, ‘cause what Charlie Wood can do to jazz, blues, rock, soul, and gospel, brother, is funky as hell.
The composer-keyboardist-singer writes his own stuff but also takes the oeuvre of the greats (Cohen, Simon, etc.) and drags them into the back room where the juju and gris-gris can be found, hipping them up, and down, to the wider vernacular. A number of crits are comparing this cat to Elvis Costello (and the CD’s named after a Costello tune), and it’s not all that terrible an allusion, but where Elvis is, or rather was, a jagged mega-nerd-he’s changed a bit since his hornrimmed days-Wood’s much warmer, infinitely more soulful, and smooth as aged whiskey. Yeah, there’s Costello in there, but there’s a lot more in the way of Sidran and Allison sieved through Wood’s own voice, which is huskier and more upfront.
Probably the most impressive factor is the way he makes others’ work his own. Robbed of liner credits, and playing upon the fact that ya mightn’t be a Dr. Demento of the folk / blues / swamp-jazz genres, I’d not tally bad marks against any listener convicted that each and every track was of Wood manufacture. There’s a disc-wide linearity that can’t be missed. And when Billy Gibson cuts in that searing harmonica sounding damnably like an overdriven guitar, well, then Wood’s own songs (here, Be my Ball) are invested ever more heavily with their own distinctiveness. From start to finish, Flutter and Wow is the kind of down-South music that Chuck Leavell and Sea Level would have been eatin’ up with fork and spoon, then inviting the guy and his band on tourŠand maybe, just maybe, sweatin’ bullets over it after the fact, ‘cause this is highly infectious, the sort of sound that attracts fans of one group over to another reeeeeeal easily.
Amy LaVere at Borderline
from London Times: Dec. 9, 2008
by David Sinclair
Amy LaVere cut a striking figure on stage at the Borderline. Leading her trio from behind a double bass, which she played with all the percussive force that that most unwieldy of instruments demands, the slender, dark-haired singer from Memphis put on a show that was enchanting in so many ways. LaVere has been promoting her second album, Anchors & Anvils, for more than a year, and has recently been seen in all the right places, including a support slot with Seasick Steve at the Albert Hall and an appearance on Later… with Jools Holland. The hard work has paid off.
Starting with a Carla Thomas song, That Beat, she took the audience into a world where R&B tunes, country waltzes, rockabilly shuffles and funky Americana music were welded together and given a slightly gothic twist. “Killing him didn’t make the love go away,” she sang, explaining that it was a song she wrote after an argument with the group’s drummer, Paul Taylor, who is also her boyfriend. Taylor smiled affably, behind her.
The line-up was completed by the guitarist and singer Steve Selvidge, one of those astonishingly versatile players who are ten-a-penny in Tennessee but who was nevertheless able to prompt spontaneous outbursts of applause for his solos.
LaVere is not a prolific songwriter - only three songs on Anchors & Anvils are her own - but she has such distinctive pitching and phrasing that she stamps an indelible mark on all she touches. In particular, her treatment of Bob Dylan’s I’ll Remember You was simply stunning - far better than the original.
Putting aside her huge instrument, she demonstrated how to “walk the dog”, in an attempt to get the audience to dance, while leading the band through an apparently impromptu version of Willie Dixon’s Wang Dang Doodle. She ended the show with an exquisite interpretation of Tom Waits’s Green Grass and the bittersweet western swing of Buck Owens’s Swinging Doors.
Charlie Wood - Flutter and Wow
from Keyboard Magazine: Dec. 9, 2009
by Jon Regen
Charlie Wood’s latest release Flutter and Wow is a rollicking, keyboard-infused prayer meeting. The Memphis-born and London-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist comes into his own on this gutsy, grooving album, produced by Norah Jones alum Adam Levy.
With a song list culled from the catalogues of some of today’s greatest songsmiths (Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, and Tom Waits, to name a few), Wood heaps a healthy dose of piano, B-3, and Wurlitzer alongside his soulful vocals. He even contributes more than a few impressive originals to the mix. On Simon’s “American Tune,” Wood works the Hammond organ like a church pew pro, pulling pupit-like chords from its double manuals. And on his own “Doin’ the Blah Blah Blah,” his piano takes us to Mardi Gras for a rocking, rolling good time. Definitely worth the price of admission.
Featured Artist: Charlie Wood
from Jazz Reviews: November 9, 2009
In some old movie and TV dramas (that is, pre- 1965), there be a singer/pianist working at a local bistro/watering hole wherein the main character/hero/protagonist hangs out. This singer (usually male, rarely female) would often be a pal, confidant, and/or an informant of the main character, or simply sing some cool songs to provide or accent the mood or “atmosphere” for the movie. Hoagy Carmichael, Bobby Troup, or Hadda Brooks, all fine (and iconic) performer/writers of songs, would be tapped for this role of “hep Greek chorus.” If a hip director or screenwriter would like to assign such a movie part in our modern times, whom might be considered? Of the old guard, not many are left: Mose Allison, Georgie Fame, Tom Waits, perhaps the aging pop star Billy Joel (give credit where it’s due - listen to his “Piano Man” hit)…but if s/he wanted a younger hepcat to be the piano-driven songster for their Slow Club or Le Chat Bleu scenes, I got the guy: Charlie Wood.
This Wood fellow plays both sides of the street - he writes his own (the swaggering soul-jazz flavored “Let’s Get Up and Walk Around Some”) and knows how to cherry-picky good ‘uns from other pros (Waits’ laconically yearning “Johnsburg, Illinois,” Paul Simon, Elvis Costello). Wood’s voice is as genuine as the soot on your Akron windowsill and the gin-mill smell from Anywheresville, USA - a born storyteller with a slight drawl and strong old-school Memphis soul/R&B undertones, Wood recalls Allison, Fame, and Jack Sheldon (though his phrasing is much smoother) and occasionally Van Morrison, with a touch of Randy Newman. Musically, it walks the line betwixt jazz and blues, a la Dr. John and Uncle Mose. As a songster, Charlie Wood embodies hepcat worldliness and barroom empathy; he’s got style but also the wisdom that gives it heftiness. Whether that movie gets made or not, catch him.
Charlie Wood - Flutter and Wow
from Blogcritics.org: October 26, 2009
by Holly Hughes
If I lived in Memphis, I’d already have known who Charlie Wood was. Having begun his career in 1990 as Albert King’s touring pianist, for years Wood and his trio were a fixture on Memphis’ Beale Street, exploring that beguiling intersection where blues, rock, and jazz meet.
But I’d never heard of the guy; I picked up this album on a whim, curious to hear the five cover songs he’d chosen to include. I see no point in covering another artist’s work unless you put a new twist on the original song; on that score, Charlie Wood succeeds brilliantly. He turns Paul Simon’s “American Song” (a tune that Simon himself ripped off from Bach) into an irresistible finger-snapper, and Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” into a menacing slinky tango. He splashes some extra funky swing into Elvis Costello’s “Flutter and Wow,” gives a syncopated jolt of soul to Ron Sexsmith’s “Not Too Big,” and layers lush cocktail-lounge sophistication onto Tom Waits’ wistful “Johnsburg, Illinois.” These covers work so well, in some cases I even prefer them to the originals.
Lured in by the covers, I stayed to sample Wood’s own songs - and I was pleasantly surprised. If that sounds like I’m damning it with faint praise, think again. It’s a rare delight to sink into an album this effortlessly pleasurable - the musical equivalent of a damned good read. And there are surprises on every track, for Wood is an absurdly versatile keyboardist. On “Doing the Blah Blah Blah” he channels Allen Toussaint’s elegant brand of New Orleans funk; the boogie-woogie of “Be My Ball” evokes Dr. John, and “Last Dance” dives into a jazz-rock groove in the vein of Donald Fagen. The wordplay and bluesy bop of “Let’s Get Up and Walk Around” are pure Mose Allison, while “Up in the Attic” percolates with Georgie Fame-style pop-infused jazz. By the time Wood hits the gentle samba of “What You Will” (to my ears the standout track on the album) I’ve given up trying to trace the bloodlines of Wood’s eclectic style. Name-checking all those influences makes this album sound derivative; I assure you, it absolutely isn’t.
Wood’s nimble fingering and muscular sense of rhythm lend his songs an irresistible swing, but it’s his butterscotch-smooth tenor - flirting, cajoling, scolding, teasing - that truly makes this album engaging. While jazz purists and blues hardliners may dismiss Wood’s sound as easy listening, I’m betting that producer Adam Levy - best known as Norah Jones’ guitarist - came on board specifically to win Charlie Wood more of a crossover audience (hence the eclectic choice of covers). That’s a tough leap to make, but this album could be the springboard for Wood to find the wider audience he deserves.
Charlie Wood’s music isn’t driven by social commentary or personal confession; it doesn’t strive to be provocative or profound. What it does have is consummate musicianship, tight arrangements, and songs that’ll lift your spirits—and all that is intentional. Wood finally declares his musical manifesto in the album’s last track, simply titled “A Song” - a ready-made jazz standard, something I could easily hear sung by Harry Connick Jr. or Ben Sidran (not coincidentally, one of Charlie Wood’s champions). “Before everyone got indoctrinated,” Wood sings wistfully, “Before everything had been bought and sold / Remember how music intoxicated? / How it got in your heart and your head and took hold?” He’s clever to wait until the last track before laying out his creed - by then he’s proven that he has the musical chops to intoxicate us whenever he wants.
Charlie Wood - Flutter and Wow
from Midwest Record: September 15, 2009
by Chris Spector
Jim Dickinson is probably smiling down on this Memphis project from Albert King’s former keyboard player stepping out as a solo after crossing paths with the greats for years. Hooking up with a member of the Norah Jones camp for a date they take to church, but only in the back row, this is Americana in the tradition of Band solo works from the group’s ‘background’ members. Roots rock with some energy and passion, Wood gets the party started and doesn’t desert it half way through. Fun, adult rock.
Susan Marshall - Little Red (feat. David Cousar)
Susan Marshall - Little Red
(Featuring David Cousar)
from Vintage Guitar Magazine: September 2009
...Long overdue recognition - on the record at least - of the soul power of the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” finally comes with Marshall’s duet with Lucinda Williams who reveals a hitherto unsuspected secret identity as a red hot mama on that one as guitarists David Cousar and Steve Selvidge echo Cornell Dupree behind the powerful vocals. Al Green guitarist Teenie Hodges’ sublime contribution makes Marshall’s original “Oh My Soul” a main reason to pay attention, though Cousar’s fine work on most of the rest of the album makes Hodges’ bit more of a bonus than a necessity…
Read the full review in the September issue of Vintage Guitar Magazine.
These Hands Belong to the World
from Iranian.com: Sept. 12, 2009
by Ari Siletz
Lily Afshar will be one of the performers at the iranian.com music festival in San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts on September 26, 2009.
Try mentioning your Iranian background in a circle of cultured American friends. Instead of the usual questions about politics they may ask, “Do you know of Lily Afshar?” This is because Afshar is one of the world’s leading classical guitarists, with remarkable innovations furthering the influence of the instrument.
In fact, someone once asked Afshar herself where she was from. That “someone” was Maestro Andres Segovia, the terrifyingly eminent virtuoso authority on the classical guitar. The setting was a master class held in Los Angeles in 1986. A group of 12 young guitarists had been selected out of hundreds of international competitors vying for the honor of playing in front of the guitar legend, hoping for an approving nod. That simple nod or—God forbid—a shake of the head could begin or end a young artist’s career. If a performer could remain intensely focused on her art, keeping her mind and fingers from going rubbery in front of this ultimate say-so on the classical guitar, she was ready to take command of any audience. To showcase her skills, Afshar had chosen to include Sevilla by Isaac Albeniz—it would be futile to pick a less demanding piece, Segovia would spot artistic timidity before the first measure was played out. During a lyrical passage in Sevilla, the Maestro stopped Afshar. “Where are you from,” he asked.
Afshar is from a musical family. Her grandmother was a tar player, and her father was a violinist and a pianist (as well as pilot and engineer). Her romance with the classical guitar began at the age of ten when she first heard the instrument at a cousin’s house. The very next day her father got her a guitar and signed her up for private lessons, later enrolling her for night classes at the Tehran Conservatory of Music. Afshar remembers very clearly her father giving her instructions in music theory. He was the one who inspired her to aim for an international reputation. “There was nothing his daughter couldn’t do,” says Afshar. “He encouraged me to get to the top of my field and I ended up getting my doctorate and becoming the first woman in the world [italics mine] to get a doctorate in classical guitar performance.” With this degree of parental love and support, it is no wonder that on first hearing a Segovia recording as a child, Afshar said to herself, “If Segovia can do this, I can too.” Years later in 1986, she would sit in the presence of the great master himself, embracing her guitar; ready to show him that she is just as good. And she wasn’t nervous at all. She thought of Segovia as a grandfather. Family!
There is a photo of that event with grandpa Segovia coddling Afshar’s guitar like an infant grandchild. Aptly, Afshar had named her guitar “bambina:” Spanish for little baby girl. The artist, with her dark wavy hair accenting the rural colors of her dress, stands like a proud young mother, while onlookers crane their necks for a view of “bambina.”
Four successful guitar albums and a (recent) DVD later, with a Doctor of Music degree form Florida State University, Afshar now leads her own master classes. As she juggles a busy concert schedule with a professorship at the University of Memphis, she makes time to travel the world sharing her musical knowledge with aspiring future guitarists—it helps that she speaks five languages. During these travels she continues to soak up world cultures, heeding her own advice that a good musician must possess “loads of culture,” as it can be critical to music interpretation. Her concerts and master classes in Iran are always packed. “They love the guitar,” she says. “Everywhere I go, Kerman, Mashad, Shiraz, Tehran, there are youngsters coming to hear good music and to learn.” The problem she is attempting to address in Iranian classical guitar education is the lack of good editions of music with proper fingering. So the educator often carries her own editions in her suitcase. A related problem she has noted is that Iranian guitar students tend to borrow their interpretations from recordings, rarely relying on their own ideas. I think this may also have to do with the student trying to stay on the teacher’s good side. After all, this is how Afshar remembers preparing for that master class with Segovia, “...I knew what kind of things Segovia liked and what kind of musicianship he looked for…” While classroom diplomacy is universal, in Iran it can reach debilitating proportions. I have heard many good musicians trained in Iranian conservatories complain of being dinged in grades for breaking tradition. Perhaps breaking tradition is a fine art in itself, and Afshar aims to teach her students the right way to do it.
An important lesson in tradition breaking that Afshar teaches the classical guitar world is reflected in her choice of programming. Aren’t classical guitarists supposed to be playing the Bach Chaconne or the Fernando Sor Variations—or at worst a Lennox Berkeley Sonatina? Whoever heard of modifying your instrument with extra frets so that you could mess around with avaz e dashti in dastgah e shur? How dare she ask gifted composers to base their guitar compositions on Morgh e Sahar? Well she dares, and the result is fresh territory for the guitar, or rather a nostalgic return of the guitar to the territory of its birth. Afshar often makes a point of the last syllable in the word “guitar” being of Persian origin and she references physicist Michael Kasha’s works [see footnote] on the true origin of the guitar and other instruments whose names end in “tar.” Instruments as in the se-tar, which she plays.
Dr. Afshar has high praise for tar and se-tar virtuoso Hossein Alizadeh and popular se-tar singer Mohsen Namjoo, saying, “[They] are incredibly innovative and they have, each in their own way stretched traditional boundaries.” She also likes Keyvan Saket. “I love his Albinoni Adagio on the tar,” she declares. “It makes me cry. It’s the first time I hear a tar player playing Western pieces. He has incredible technique, but the great thing is that he plays the pieces just like the original and you think it was written for the tar and orchestra.”
As Afshar directs her musical energies to Persian instruments, it is highly likely that she will bring upheavals of her own to our classic traditions. Already challenging the standard se-tar techniques she says, “I think, the middle and ring fingers in combination with the index finger could create more arpeggios and strumming techniques than just using the index finger, just like it is done on the guitar.” Alizadeh occasionally does that already, but it took him years to get there. Standing on the shoulders of our tar and se-tar giants, and with the discipline of the classical guitar under her belt, Afshar is launching her se-tar adventures from higher grounds. She used to practice guitar 10 hours a day, and still practices 5 hours a day on top of her rehearsals with other musicians. At one point she had to cancel a concert because she injured a finger through overzealous practice. Her fierce drive keeps me eagerly anticipating what we may hear from her se-tar or Persia-inspired guitar a few years down the line. Another reason for my anticipation is that for the Afshar family, the sky has always been the limit, literally—Lily Afshar’s grandfather helped found Iran Air! He was one of the first Iranians at Columbia University. Her sister went to Harvard. Her father studied at Stanford. Two years ago, in recognition of her international artistic and academic stature, she was invited to perform at the highly regarded Fajr Music Festival in Iran. So she has the connections to hang out in the stratospheres of Iranian culture and contribute ideas to some of the Segovias of Persian music.
She may have had in mind her future contribution to our culture when she pondered Segovia’s difficult question, “Where are you from?” The young Afshar answered in the cultural context, “I am Persian.” And the master said to her, “Yes, I can see you have the flamenco spirit and the Persian blood in you,” going on to correctly predict, “She will be a beautiful celebrity.” What would Segovia have said if Afshar had said she was from Iran? That is a question she is in default of answering for History. What she has answered for Iran, however, can be seen in the hundreds who throng her in Vahdat Hall or other concert venues in Iran asking for autographs, or just to shake hands. The fans are so excited after hearing her that sometimes they press her hand too enthusiastically, making it necessary for her to wear a protective glove after concerts. So when you go backstage to congratulate her after the Iranian.com Music Festival, don’t press her hand too hard. Those hands belong to Iran, in fact they belong to the world.
Note: See Guitar Review #30 pages 2-12, 1968 for the original Michael Kasha article.
Memphis Roots Cross the Big Pond for Musician Charlie Wood
from Commercial Appeal: September 11, 2009
by Bob Mehr
As Charlie Wood might tell you: you can take the musician out of Memphis, but you can’t take Memphis out of the musician.
The 42-year-old Wood has been a fixture on Beale Street and the city’s music scene for two decades. But for the last few months he’s been living in London, where he went to promote the U.K. release of his latest album for the local Archer Records label, Flutter and Wow.
Although he’s back in town this week for a series of local performances — including a free show at the Levitt Shell at Overton Park Friday — Wood says he’s planning on “being stationed in London for the foreseeable future at this point.”
Wood has a history with Great Britain, having lived there briefly in the mid-‘90s. Since then, Wood has been a regular visitor to the country — making half a dozen trips there to perform in 2008 alone — where interest in his brand of soulful organ-fueled roots music runs high.
“Given that, it made more sense to be based there,” says Wood. “There’s such a huge industry presence in London, so much going on all the time, and a lot of opportunities in writing and publishing. I think it’s the smart place to be right now.”
Wood has been splitting his time in London, co-writing songs, playing solo and trio shows in clubs, and being a guest on stage and on records with a variety of British musicians.
He says his Memphis pedigree has been invaluable asset. “It’s a huge thing. It opens a lot of doors. People are very aware — in England specifically, and Europe in general — about the legacy of music from Memphis,” says Wood.
“It matters to people when I’m hired as a vocalist or as a player; it’s a difference they can hear and appreciate in my songwriting as well. There’s an approach to language I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t from here. So it’s a great calling card.”
An equally strong calling card is Wood’s new record (due in U.S. stores next month, but already available locally). Produced by Norah Jones’ New York City-based collaborator Adam Levy, Flutter and Wow was recorded at the Archer-owned Music + Arts studio in Midtown last fall. The disc features an all-star cast of Wood’s Bluff City compatriots including bassist Sham Shoup, drummer Tom Lenardo, sax man Jim Spake, and harmonica player Billy Gibson.
Although a gifted singer and stellar organist, Wood said the motivation behind the album was to emphasize the material. “Although you might be able to do a lot of things musically or vocally, I think on a record you have to choose, and this album was done with a specific focus on the songs themselves,” he says.
Unlike his past records, which were self-produced, Levy’s presence helped to free up Wood in the studio. “One of the joys of the record was that I didn’t have to come up with all the ideas; all I had to do was sing and play as well as I could. So it was liberating in a way,” says Wood.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with just anybody, but with Adam, whom I trust and whose work I really like, I just felt comfortable, relaxed and confident with what we would end up with. I think the record reflects that.”
In addition to half a dozen originals, Wood reinterprets a selection of classics by Leonard Cohen, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, and Paul Simon. “I wanted to present this as my take on the new ‘Great American Songbook.’ These were writers I grew up listening to and who influenced my work,” he says.
Wood will be marking the album’s forthcoming release with the Levitt Shell performance Friday evening, where he’ll be backed by the Flutter and Wow studio band, including Levy.
Wood says that although his stay in Memphis will be brief — he’s flying back to England next week — it will give him the opportunity to enjoy the creature comforts of home.
“The company is what I miss the most about Memphis. I miss hanging out with my family, friends and colleagues. Food is also definitely a factor,” says Wood, laughing. “Friends, music and food. I’m hoping to catch up on all of that while I’m here.”
Charlie Wood’s Homecoming
from Memphis Flyer: September 11, 2009
by Chris Herrington
On his 2005 album Somethin’ Else, Memphis organ master Charlie Wood delivered a sardonic, knowing paean to his hometown, pledging fidelity but with a comic caveat: “This is where I’m from/And it’s where I’ll stay/My heart and soul’s in Memphis ... But if you think you can get me a gig/And it pays pretty well/In a Paris café or New York hotel/Or some Tokyo nightclub/Oh man, what the hell/Come talk to me in Memphis/I wouldn’t come back ‘til fall/If I dig it, I might not come back at all/But I’d dream sometimes of Memphis.”
That flourish became prophecy this summer when Wood made a “full-on move” across the Atlantic.
“I’ve been based in London since late May,” Wood says in an e-mail exchange from his current home base. “I really love being here, got a lot of friends and colleagues here, but I can’t say it’s a permanent move at this point. Musicians are in transit a lot of the time. But London is such a thriving cultural center in general and a music-business center specifically, plus it’s logistically and geographically convenient for the kind of touring I’ve been doing lately. So I think it’s a good spot to hang my hat for now. I’d never rule out returning to Memphis, though.”
Wood will return home this week, if only for a brief time, to celebrate the U.S. release of his latest album, Flutter and Wow, his first for Memphis’ Archer Records label. Wood will play the Levitt Shell at 7 p.m. Friday, September 11th.
Wood, a Memphis fixture known, in part, for his longtime residency at Beale Street’s King’s Palace club, signed with Archer roughly a year ago and recorded Flutter and Wow at the label’s Music + Arts Studio with producer Adam Levy (a Norah Jones collaborator).
The album was released in Europe in May and will get a wide release in the U.S. on October 20th.
“I’ve been playing gigs in Europe for a long time now and have built up a following, as well as relationships with promoters, club owners, etc., so [Archer Records honcho] Ward [Archer] and I thought it would be a good idea to do a European release first,” Wood says. “Also, the retail market for CDs is still much stronger in Europe than it is in the States.”
Wood first met Levy at the 2008 Folk Alliance conference in Memphis, a connection encouraged by Wood’s friend, Memphis saxophonist Jim Spake, who had played on an album Levy recorded in Memphis.
Working together, the pair came up with a batch of material — originals and covers — that emphasizes Wood’s pop/jazz side and his compositional and interpretive skills, with versions of songs by Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, and Elvis Costello and Wood originals in a similar vein.
“We deliberately drew on work by the composers of the ‘New American Songbook,’ if you will,” Wood says. “The CD is as much about songwriting as it is performance or production, so we really wanted to stress that element in the covers we chose as well as in my work. Adam selected almost all of these covers, by the way. He had this amazing ability to pick less-recorded material from often-covered artists that always seemed perfectly appropriate to me and to the project.”
Wood says that about half of his own contributions were written specifically for the album.
“I’ve been participating with Adam in some songwriting workshops in recent months and a big burst of creative output often follows those workshops, so I guess we timed that well for the recording,” Wood says. “For the ones written specifically for Flutter and Wow, the covers we’d chosen definitely informed my writing and also affected my selection of which of my originals to record. I’m in pretty illustrious company on this record in terms of songwriters, so I had to try to measure up.”
Levy will join Wood onstage at the Shell Friday, along with a lineup of frequent Memphis collaborators, including bassist Sam Shoup and drummer Tom Lonardo (the rhythm section on the album) and a horn section of Spake, Kirk Smothers, Marc Franklin, and Scott Thompson. Wood will also return to King’s Palace Friday, September 18th, accompanied by the City Champs’ Joe Restivo and George Sluppick.
Jim Dickinson is Gone, Amy LaVere Returns
from KDHX FM: Aug. 20, 2009
by Roy Kasten
Amy LaVere is no stranger to Saint Louis, though she’s only had a handful of shows in town. This past June she opened up the first night of Twangfest, filling the cavernous space of the Pageant with her alluring voice, a uniquely Memphis blend of grit and delicacy, and her rhythmically supple (she’s an underrated slap bass player) jazz, blues, soul and rockabilly songs. If Hot Club of Cowtown and Alejandro Escovedo hadn’t been waiting in the wings, I could have listened to her all night.
It’s safe to say she would have found her voice on her own, but the voice she did find owes much to Jim Dickinson, the legendary (adjective not used lightly) Memphis producer, session man and mentor to many, who passed away on August 15. I spoke to Amy on the phone the day before, and she was hopeful for his recovery, saying that Jim seemed to be getting better as he was greeting visitors by flipping them off. She desperately wanted to record another album with Jim (who produced her first two LPs). My full interview with Amy will run in the August 27 Riverfront Times, but here’s a salient quote:
“[Jim] encouraged me to take risks, to make mistakes, and to experiment. He reminded me that music is about being spontaneous and youthful and not agenda driven.”
You can hear that in nearly every recording Dickinson produced, played on, or inspired. The list is long and essential: Big Star’s Third, The Replacements’ Pleased To Meet Me, Aretha Franklin’s Spirit In the Dark, Ry Cooder’s Into the Purple Valley, Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind, and a little record called Sticky Fingers. That’s Jim’s piano on “Wild Horses.”
Jim is gone now, but Amy LaVere will be coming back to Saint Louis, playing a full night at Off Broadway on Sunday, August 30. I wouldn’t miss that evening for all the soul food in Memphis.
Charlie Wood - Flutter and Wow
from Blues Matters: July 2009
by David Styles
Born in Memphis in 1967, Charlie Wood is a talented and respected singer, keyboardist and songwriter whose work blends elements of blues, jazz, soul and R&B. For fifteen years, he had a nightly residence at Memphis’ Kings Palace Cafe on Beale Street, during which time he played with such legends as B.B. King and Rufus Thomas, and, in 1990, Charlie toured with Albert King. “Flutter and Wow” blends Charlie’s influences into seven original songs, augmented by covers of works by influences such as Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, Tom Waits, and Leonard Cohen - Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” proving to be one of the CD’s highlights. Elsewhere, I liked “What You Will” and the New Orleans inspired “Doin the Blah Blah Blah”. There is some fine playing throughout and Charlie is joined by some equally talented musicians, especially Billy Gibson on harmonica.
Charlie Wood - Flutter and Wow
from Rock ‘n’ Reel Magazine: July 2009
by Dai Jeffries
Charlie Wood, singer, songwriter and keyboard virtuoso, probably has Memphis tatooed on his soul. Jazz, blues, Hammond organ and grand piano, electric guitar, upright bass, drums and a horn section compromise his musical arsenal while his voice has a timeless quality somewhat reminiscent of Rick Danko.
Wood is also an interpreter of other people’s songs, with an eclectic taste. Choosing Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” and Tom Waits’s “Johnsburg, Illinois” makes perfect sense but “American Tune”? Actually, the Paul Simon song is a real revelation. With such familiar songs in the set CHarlie’s own have to work hard. “Last Dance” is the pick - it’s either the end of the evening or the end of the world and nobody cares which - but “Let’s Get Up and Walk Around Some” seems curiously old-fashioned. Put it in a 50s documentary and it wouldn’t be out of place but maybe that what they like down on Beale Street. “A Song” is pure lounge jazz and I’m sure they like that too, although, its words are firmly 21st century.
Perhaps the record lacks sufficient cohesion to succeed completely but I rather like it.
Charlie Wood - Flutter and Wow
from Maverick Magazine: June 15, 2009
Recorded in Memphis, Tennessee where Charlie Wood was born and raised, this fine singer-songwriter and great keyboardist will at times make your senses flutter when singing tunes like the brooding and contemplative Leonard Cohen song “Everybody Knows”, or when you hear how silky and smooth the song “Johnsburg, Illinois” is, from the pen of Tom Waits. Then you get both together as he sings the jazz-blues ballad “Flutter and Wow” by Elvis Costello, as his velvety voice is quite stimulating. Not always a big fan of jazz music so a few of the tracks did not do much for me, such as “Doin’ the Blah, Blah, Blah” and “Be My Ball”, although the breezy “What You Will” was lovely and dreamy. I did enjoy a lot of the CD and have to admit that he has a very good voice as well as being a great keyboard player.
More of the Elan of that Memphis Man
from Mojo Magazine: June 2009
by Mat Snow
4 stars out of 4
Now on album four, Mempian Charlie Wood is building on Mose Allison’s nightclub jazz-blues foundations, but has a greater emotional span as measured by the songs he covers here: American Tune (Paul Simon), Not Too Big (Ron Sexsmith), Johnsburg, Illinois (Tom Waits), a fabulous Everybody Knows (Leonard Cohen) and the title track (Elvis Costello). Like Costello without the jitters, Wood the songsmith switches from playful pasticheur to pensive poet; owner of a big, clear and warm voice and prodigious technique on piano, Wurlitzer and Hammond B-3, he evokes the rolling Mississippi rather than the Mersey, Thames or Tyne. Also like Costello, he’s studio old-school, cutting this album on two-inch magnetic tape with a crack band, including the album’s producer, Adam Levy of Norah Jones fame, on guitar. The sound is a grade-A natural beauty. As is the whole swinging album - enjoy!
Charlie Wood - Flutter and Wow
from Irish Times: May 22, 2009
by Joe Breen
Possibly too jazzy for serious rhythm ‘n’ blues folks but definitely too rockist for serious jazzers, Charlie Wood has a struggle on his hands to find his true métier. This noteable Memphis piano and organ whiz is not just good at skinning the keys; he also possesses a smoldering southern white soul voice that sometimes goes under cover as a late-night cocktail bar balladeer. And he has plenty of opportunity to showcase both sides on these 12 tracks, including Elvis Costello’s title track, covers of Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen songs, and a fine version of Tom Waits’s Johnsburg, Illinois . Most of the songs, however, are Wood’s own. The best of a variable bunch are the Latin ballad What You Will , the stomping Doin’ the Blah Blah Blah and a neat pop tune, Last Dance. Add to that some mart playing and you’ve got an interesting if uneven set. http://www.charliewood.us
Download tracks: Johnsburg, Illinois, Doin’ the Blah Blah Blah
Lily Afshar - Virtuoso Guitar
from Classical Guitar Magazine: May 2009
by Steve Marsh
Born in Tehran, Lily Afshar began playing the guitar when she was 10 years old and during her illustrious career has received many commendations and awards including first prize in the Guitar Foundation of America Competition, and three-time winner of the Annual ‘Premier Guitarist’ awards given by the Memphis Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. She was also chosen “Artistic Ambassador” for the United States Information Agency to Africa and is currently head of the University of Memphis guitar section.
After the opening track, Carlo Domeniconi’s possibly greatest hit for the classical guitar, “Koyunbaba”, one has the notion that Afshar seems born to perform music of this nature, so innate is her presentation of this masterwork (which comes complete with her own mini-cadenza in the finale).
Carrying on with music from the Middle East, Afshar plays “Kara Toprak (Black Earth)” by the Turkish songwriter Asik Veysel, followed by her own arrangements of five Persian ballads and finally “Gozaar” by Iranian composer Reza Vali. Some of these compositions require quarter tones and for the particular notes Afshar has had small ‘fretlets’ glued onto the fingerboard of her Thomas Humphrey guitar.
The remainder of the programme contains music from Italy, Spain and South America, hence we have “Misionera” by Bustamente, “Un Dia de Noviembre” by Brouwer, “Andaluza” by Granados and three of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s “24 Caprichos de Goya” (Afshar has recorded the complete series on a separate CD).
During the entire programme Lily Afshar performs cleanly, precisely and authoritatively with a beautiful tone and technical virtuosity. This is playing of the highest order and her genuine respect for the music shines through every piece.
The sound and picture quality throughout is exceptional…this is, by all standards, a remarkable performance by a player whose technical assuredness, judiciously shrewd musicality and charismatic personality makes this disc an absolute must for all guitarists to have in their collection. The disc concludes with an interview with Afshar in which she talks about her life and career, influences and her guitar. The DVD also has an attractive photograph gallery beginning from when she was seven years old.
Killing Him Didn’t Make the Love Go Away
from Compulsive Reader: May 13, 2009
by Daniel Garrett
“Killing Him” is one of those rare songs that seem perfect upon first listening and forever after. As described by Amy LaVere’s girlish, country voice, supported by a sultry bass, the story-song’s couple argue until the woman’s maddened violence and subsequent incarceration. Amy LaVere’s voice is quite pleasant (I wonder how it will age?) in David Schnaufer’s “Tennessee Valentine,” a country ballad with dance steps; and there is a bit of tango in her interpretation of Carla Thomas’s “That Beat,” featuring Bob Furgo’s gypsy violin and Paul Taylor’s percussion, and LaVere’s voice is given to spontaneous, thoughtful inflections, but the strong initial impression made by “Killing Him” remains.
What are the acts that begin, nurture, sabotage, and end a life? Paul Taylor’s “Pointless Drinking” is a drinking song that critiques drinking, drawing focus to the contradictions and disappointments that could cause weeping but are here merely sobering, the kind of song selection that suggests significant intelligence in a singer, in Amy LaVere. Amy LaVere’s voice has a unique vocal quality; it is compact and conversational, and it is a formidable instrument for delivering songs about female constraint and domestic labor, such as Kristi Witt’s “Washing Machine.” The domestic drudgery in “Overcome,” written by LaVere, in which a woman finds it difficult to leave (“songbirds need homes and live oak trees”) is not a new subject but it is a timeless one.
About the conflict between perspectives and motives, about the conflict among people, Paul Taylor’s “People Get Mad,” with its fast rhythm, possibly funk, is about more than manners and moods; it is about conformity. Freedoms are disapproved of, the song observes.
Disappointment in love is inspiration, and an arrow is returned for a song in LaVere’s “Cupid’s Arrow”; and Kristi Witt’s “Time is a Train” is metaphorical and moody too. With songs such as those, Amy LaVere’s album Anchors & Anvils seems to expand under examination. LaVere’s interpretation of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Remember You” is intimate—the nice thing is that it sounds as if it could be one of the songs that she herself wrote. That, and much else here, makes Amy LaVere a very interesting writer and singer.
Amy LaVere’s Died of Love, her short-playing album that is a successor to the longer Anchors & Anvils, has an orientation to rock music rather than country music, and, obviously, continues a theme of love and death. Amy LaVere is helped on Died of Love by drummer Paul Taylor and guitarist Steve Selvidge. LaVere’s voice is wailing in the traditional song “Railroad Boy (Died of Love),” and her voice is more than a match for the music. In Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan’s “Green Grass,” with a mournful, metaphysical theme, featuring lyrics about spiritual disbursements, Amy LaVere’s voice can be both narrative and expressionistic. “If Love Was A Train” (by Michelle Shocked) has a rumbling rock rhythm. Another traditional song featuring a sheriff and the devil and a shooting, “Lazarus,” is arranged and sung by LaVere’s collaborator Steve Selvidge, and becomes a fusion of rock, rhythm-and-blues, and gospel. Kristi Witt’s “Washing Machine” is given a heavy rock sound, completing Amy LaVere’s move in a new direction.
from The New Yorker: May 11, 2009
by Ben Greenman
I don’t usually watch TV just because it’s free on iTunes, but MTV’s new quasi-reality series, “$5 Cover,” had intriguing plot descriptions and a high concept: take some up-and-coming music stars in Memphis, film their musical performances, and then build a soap opera around them. I have only watched a few of the episodes, including the one that’s free, but I am pleasantly surprised by the show so far.
For starters, one of the main musical acts is the singer and upright bass player Amy LaVere—I loved her first album, “The World is Not My Home,” and it’s voyeuristically gratifying to watch her fume over the way her sometime boyfriend/drummer takes up with another woman.
It doesn’t hurt matters that the other woman is Clare Grant, a young actress who, to date, has starred mostly in low-budget horror movies that require her to show lots of skin; Grant is fairly magnetic, at least on the small screen.
The project, at least initially, is overseen by Craig Brewer, who rose to prominence as a result of his hip-hop film “Hustle and Flow”; Brewer is a Memphis native who has wanted to make a film about the broader Memphis scene (country, but also rock, hip-hop, and even comedy) since before “Hustle and Flow,” and he decided, for this particular project, to tell the story in a series of fifteen-minute Web-distributed episodes. The show premiered May 1st—new episodes post Friday at midnight—and it has a blog, because it’s 2009, and everything has a blog.
Charlie Wood - Flutter and Wow
from Blues in Britain: May 4, 2009 (Vol. 1/Issue 89)
by Kit Packham
42 minutes and 45 seconds of sheer delight! Wood is not only an appealing and skilled keyboard player and singer, he’s a writer of killer songs that express modern themes with old style artistry.
His Myspace page lists Mose Allison, Percy Mayfield and Ray Charles among his influences. I was also reminded of Harry Connick Jr., Georgie Fame, and to go way back, Hoagy Carmichael - and their fans are likely to enjoy this album too. 5 of the 12 tracks are well chosen covers from Paul Simon, Ron Sexsmith, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and the title track by Elvis Costello. Most of the songs are played as a basic quartet of Wood with Sam Shoup on bass, Tom Lonardo on drums and producer Adam Levy on guitar. A horn section enhances 2 tracks and Billy Gibson plays harmonica solos on 2 more.
On Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” the darkly atmospheric feeling of Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western scores are recreated with an unexpected verse of whistling and later Gibson’s breathy harmonica. During “Up in the Attic” Levy (I think) creates some eerie pipe work sound effects behind evocative lyrics: “Who is this guy trying to be?//That’s my name, but who is he?//Auto-archeaology//Investigating being me.” The closer, “A Song”, recalls the age of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and the Gershwins with a suitably wistful melody carrying words that regret today’s corporate stranglehold on popular music: “Before everyone got indoctrinated//Before everything had been bought and sold//Remember how music intoxicated?//How it got in your heart and your head and took hold?” Well, yes I do, Charlie. Thank God a few people like you still believe in doing it that way.
Rating - 10
Lily Afshar - Hemispheres
from Classical Source: by William Yeoman
A melange of the exotic and the slightly-twisted-askew familiar awaits the listener of Tehran-born head of the University of Memphis guitar program Lily Afshar’s latest recording ‘Hemispheres’, with Orient and Occident dancing together in complete accord.
Ms Afshar begins her programme with an instrumental arrangement (by guitarist/composer Ricardo Moyano) of Anatolian Asik (minstrel) Asik Veysel’s nature song ‘Kara Toprak’ (Black Earth), easing us via a taqsim (improvisatory prelude) into a hypnotic sound world where the simple melody played over a dominant-tonic progression becomes increasingly ecstatic. Italian composer Carlo Domeniconi’s wistful ‘Schnee in Istanbul’ (Snow in Istanbul) follows, Afshar’s full, sweet tone emphasising this gentle portrait, before the quiet mood is shattered by the colourful and intense Gozaar by Reza Vali, the Persian mode of which necessitates the use of extra frets inserted into the fretboard to accomodate the quarter-tones.
Gerard Drozd’s ‘Triptych’, written for Ms. Afshar and here receiving its premiere recording, forms a tightly-organised suite, with a toccata-like Prelude reminiscent of Ponce’s psuedo-baroque writing leading to the dreamy ‘Eternal Song’ before the capricious and whimsical ‘Dreams of a Clown’ brings the work to its close. The next three pieces also look back to baroque forms, with John Schneider’s Prelude and Fugato (their complex part-writing displaying Ms. Afshar’s ability in delineating multiple voices through the use of tone colour and dynamics) being followed by Drozd’s homage to Bach with his ‘Adagio’ in the style of an Italianate concerto movement.
Danza del Altiplano by Leo Brouwer pays homage a sort as well, being based on a Peruvian folk tune ‘Viva Jujury’; here Ms. Afshar relishes the chiaroscuro offered up by the dark harmonies and jaunty rhythms before entering the entirely different sound world of another world premiere recording, Garry Eister’s Fantasia on a Traditional Persian Song. Its rich resonance and improvisatory character is directly inspired by the improvisations of the Seh-tar (a traditional Persian instrument with a long, thin neck, small body and four strings) masters, and just how close Eister manages to get to the spirit of this music is demonstrated by the next work, (the melody of which is directly quoted by Eister), Morteza Neydavood’d Morgh-eh-Sahar (Bird of Dawn), which Ms. Afshar plays on a Seh-tar. The programme is then brought to a festive conclusion with Fernando Bustamante’s ‘Misionera’, an Argentinean work for harp and guitars or piano and arranged for solo guitar by Jorge Morel.
Ms. Afshar’s considerable technique and good taste (none of the works is ever ‘over-sold’) is equalled by excellent booklet notes and a warm, if slightly close, recorded sound. Lovers of guitar music should derive much pleasure from this undemanding yet superbly crafted repertoire - especially with such an advocate as Lily Afshar to hand.
from New Statesman: Great song lyrics have always been something of a rarity: the trouble started as soon as someone figured out that “moon” rhymes with “June”. But it isn’t just feebleminded nostalgia calling when one hankers for the scintillating days of Cole Porter and Larry Hart. Just as pop is increasingly confected to the standards set by processed cheese, so its words come to resemble the line-by-line symmetry of scripted jingles. I don’t expect Dorothy Parker or William Wordsworth, but when rappers are constantly thumbing their thesaurus for new flourishes of the vernacular, why is it that nine-to-five songwriters settle for ever more mundane language?
What set off this chain of thought wasn’t so much a blizzard of mediocrity, but a writer whose current unassuming offering is the only record so far this year that has made me laugh out loud at the sheer pleasure of it. Fittingly, Charlie Wood is from Memphis, Tennessee, the spiritual home of one of the wittiest writers in the style, Chuck Berry; Who I Am (Go Jazz) is Wood’s second album. He sings in a lean, unblemished voice which has the high, lonesome timbre of a dedicated bluesman: in fact, he’s an English major whose bashful erudition keeps peeking through lyrics that refuse to settle for the easy way to the end of the verse. Take, for example, these lines from track two, the devastating put-down song “Don’t You Ever Stop Talking”: “Did your daddy not have time to listen to you whine?/Did your best friend get the best part in the school play every year?/Were your lips taped shut by mama, or some other Freudian trauma?/Bet it couldn’t beat the
suffering that you’re doling out here.”
I could fill up the rest of the page with Wood’s quotable quotations. But, in most cases, his titles tell enough of a story: “You Are Not Among Friends”; “Back When I Was Stupid”; “The Art of Leaving Well Enough Alone”.
The man is never at a loss for words, and words fill up these songs. But the results aren’t the tiresome, wise-guy fills that sometimes masquerade for urbanity. Wood measures his way through a song. He loves the sound of a good line, but he’s shy about beating us over the head with it, preferring to let us notice it for ourselves. The penultimate track is an almost medicinal rejoinder to the rest of the record: in “Look at the Moon”, the author muses on a natural wonder and suggests that we might benefit if we “Turn off the television, hang up the telephone/Log off the internet and look at the moon”.
Wood draws heavily on Mose Allison, the Mississippi bluesman-poet par excellence; with a delivery that stretches from laconic to aggrieved, he has the Allison tinge down to a fine shade of accuracy. But there’s something else that sets the record apart: the sound of it. Most contemporary records, of whatever style, are subject to so much studio doctoring that the musicians involved are in deep trouble if asked to reproduce them in a live context. Wood’s band—himself on the sturdy old Hammond B-3 organ, with guitar, drums and occasional horns and saxes for assistance—play the music in a sound mix that is thick, hot and necessarily heavy—no glamorous reverb, nothing that makes you think the players aren’t there, giving you their best just the other side of the speakers. Sometimes it’s easy to be shocked by how full and immediate a live band can be, having spent many listening hours in front of neutered and cosmeticised records. Who I Am has the
wallop of a live album, but with a degree of finesse that b etrays the care and thought that’s gone into it.
At the close of it, Wood turns in a song called “20th Century”, a double-edged farewell to that long-ago time. Or has it really gone? “Heavy on chronology, easy on theology/It’s just Justinian, not solar, not lunar/Not really begun till two thousand and one.” Book him for next New Year’s Eve.
Amy LaVere: Queen of the Memphis Dream
from The Aquarian: January 28,2009
by Martin Halo
For Amy LaVere her brand of soulful Memphis-based Americana has captivated audiences with a sweet warm-hearted charm. After the release of Anchors & Anvils back in 2007 the journey has taken her to foreign shores for a performance at Jools in Holland. After recording with famed Bob Dylan producer Jim Dickinson, things for the songwriter forge forward.
LaVere will be embarking on a short East Coast leg before rollin’-n-tumblin’ back to Tennessee for some well deserved down time. The area performances are noted by a taping at the Conan O’Brien Show on Feb. 2.
A phone call in the late afternoon woke the bass plucking LaVere from a cat nap. With a voice to die for, it got right down to business.
How was the taping of Jools in Holland as far as an experience for you?
That went really well. I was really nervous but it went well. We played with Coldplay and Glenn Campbell which was amazing.
Did you get to spend any time with Jools himself?
Not really. I was introduced to him before the show but he is a very busy man.
He didn’t invite you out for a steak after the show?
Sadly not [laughs].
How was the UK leg? Did you have any memorable stories?
You got me on the spot here. I could tell you something tragic.
We were really excited to go to Liverpool for the obvious reasons. We had a list of places that we wanted to see—places that were relevant to the Beatles. We wanted to check out some of their hangs. We stopped at the pub that they apparently used to ‘plan world domination’ in. There were others places we wanted to hit but we decided to go check out the Beatles Museum. It was something outrageous to get in, like $26. I don’t remember how that works out in pounds, but it was expensive. I am a Sun Studios tour guide back home in Memphis and I pulled my card and told them that back in Memphis we let touring bands get in for free, which is true. We will let them tour for free in trade of a CD. I asked them if they would work the same deal and they said they would. We ended up being really disappointed with the museum. Most of all was a bunch of Beatles mannequins that were hanging out in a mock studio that kind of made me feel a little uneasy. The drag of it was that it took so long to get through it that by the time we got out we didn’t have enough time to see more of the real places.
Now that you are back in the States, is it just a Northeast leg that is on the books?
Yea we are just going to pull back down to Memphis in a round about way. I don’t really love touring in the winter because the roads could really be treacherous. I was always one to hit it really hard in the spring.
I find that the truly great artists have a level of inaccessibility that force people to be drunk with wonder. Do you feel because of Internet connectivity that it is hard to keep a basic level of the unknown in the eyes of the fans?
It is funny you should mention that because it gets really disillusioning to read so much about yourself in the papers sometimes. I don’t think there is just room for some wonder, but rather a need for it to return a little. Once you lay everything out there, then what do you have left for yourself?
For me personally I really don’t enjoy reading all of that stuff. I am not one that picks up rock magazines regularly, but my band does. They find literature about what is happening in the music industry.
As a teenager that is what kind of got me hooked, the wonder. The artists I was drawn to were bands who had spots I had to fill in my own mind.
Totally! You will hear an amazing song, or see a few photographs of an artist. In-between the material and the imagery you can make up your own story about them. Sometimes the proof in an artist’s bio might be more disappointing to a fan that is searching for something [laughs].
When we first had the chance to catch up over the summer you were touring in support of Anchors & Anvils, do you have plans for a follow-up?
Actually we just did a little ‘under the radar’ EP because I was desperate to record something. Most of it is just a handful of cover tunes that I kept in rotation during my live show that people would say, ‘What record is that song on?’ We just really knocked them out live at the studio in Archer Records, which sort of filled the void until we get the chance to cut the next record. It looks like I am about to get some broader distribution, especially in Europe. There is a little contract clause that says I cannot release anything until the first of next year.
Amy LaVere will be performing on the Conan O’Brien Show on Feb. 2, at Joe’s Pub on Feb. 3, and Mexicali Blues in Teaneck on Feb. 5. For more information you can visit her homepage at amylavere.com.
Bass-Slapping Singer Brings Strut and Gothic Melancholy
from Mojo Magazine: November 26, 2008
The sight of little Amy LaVere lugging her double-bass out of some basement club late at night can inspire chivalric offers of help from almost any man. Or rather, almost any drunk. “So I get nervous and tell them no,” she says. “But with the amps, anyone’s welcome…”
Next time in the UK, though, she may be able to afford roadies, give the zoot-cute allure of her October shows supporting Seasick Steve and her spot on Jools Holland’s Later…Lavere and her off-kilter blues-country trio (with guitarist Steve Selvidge and her boyfriend, drummer Paul Taylor) rocked and waltzed and tangoed while she imparted strange takes on life that work for everyday everywhere - from a woman mired in the mundane and aching to get away (“Washing Machine”) to the one who stabbed her man to death (“Killing Him”, with its haunting chorus: “Killing him didn’t make the love go away”).
LaVere, aged “25” in UK press cuttings and not arguing, spent her first seven years in a stationary mobile home in the woods near Bethany, a hamlet on the Texas/Louisiana state line. Her father, Charlie, came and went because of his work - constructing oil rigs in Norway, a bridge in Alaska. Then, until she was 13, the family moved around America with him before settling in tiny Ortonville, Michigan, where her parents promptly separated. Her mother, Catherine, made up her own songs, so from childhood AMy did too, right on through her mohican-flaunting teen rebellion spell with an art-punky combo.
At 20, she followed a job in band management to Nashville where she discovered her natural slap-bass aptitude and married fellow bull fiddler Gabe Kudela after an extensive three-week courtship. They took off for Memphis and gigged together a lot - “We were great! We did our own songs and some Replacements and Hank Williams” - until the broke up. Hence LaVere’s 2006 “heartbreak album”, the solo debut “This World Is Not My Home.”
Unfortunately, after years playing live, she detested recording it. The rockers sounded stiff so she dumped them. But then the quiet confessionals involved studio strangers looking on while she put painful emotions “under the microscope; it was like surgically removing an organ.”
However, her second album, “Anchors & Anvils”, captured her delicate oeuvre with the confidence-boosting help of Memphis music doyen Jim Dickinson (sideman or producer for Aretha, Dylan, Big Star, Primal Scream).
Although LaVere has lately earned a more-or-less living from music, she still goes back to the freelance job she loves as a tour guide at Elvis and Sam Phillips’ old stomping ground Sun Studios. Complacency is hardly an option. Having climbed to motel level on tour in America, in pricey Britain the trio returned to dossing on friends of friends’ floors.
“Still, I always figure it out,” she says equably, “if I need a buck I’ll ask the neighbor if I can rake the leaves off her lawn…”
Too Much Talk. But Bluesman Stays Out of the Dog House
from Edinburgh Evening News: October 27, 2008
by Martin Lennon
DESCRIBING Amy LaVere as a support act would be a mistake. Every single aspect of her music and its performance was first class and, as a headline act would struggle to get much less than 5 stars.
The capacity audience at the Queen’s Hall this weekend had to make do with a measly half hour or so, but hopefully, she’ll come back and play for considerably longer.
Accompanied by world class musicians, drummer Paul Taylor and guitarist Stephen Selvidge, the diminutive, but outstanding upright bass player wowed the predominantly standing crowd with songs like If Love Was A Train, That Beat and Killing Him. These songs, which effortlessly blended country blues, torch song and even pop, got her noticed, but it was her breathless and utterly emotional delivery which made her unforgettable and won her a lot of new fans.
She was the perfect foil for actual headliner, Steve Wold, better known to the world as Seasick Steve. Having played at more festivals than anyone else in 2007, Wold had really only one flaw in an otherwise faultless performance. The Queen’s Hall is a more intimate venue than any festival stage and required a different kind of atmosphere.
That said, he held the audience in the palm of his hand as he trundled through songs like Started Out With Nothing, Thunderbird and of course, Dog House Boogie. Accompanied by Dan Magnusson on percussion, and his own, famous 3 string trance wonder guitar, and the one stringed Diddley Bow, among other instruments, every note sung or played grabbed the crowd’s attention and wouldn’t let go.
Fond of storytelling, the Mississippi bluesman sometimes talked for a little too long. Having wound the audience up, most seemed to simply want a relentless stream of his pure, Southern ‘gentleman of the road’ blues. Despite the intimate venue, chit-chat didn’t satisfy them, which Wold didn’t seem to pick up on.
Despite this, and his occasionally miscalculated theatrics, the crowd went home deliriously happy and sated. And why not? Several hours of unadulterated gitbox stomp and boogie is enough to put a smile on even the grumpiest bluesman’s face.
Rising Star Amy to Play Special Gig in Torpenhow
from Whitehaven News: October 16, 2008
by Gillian Ellison
As seen on Jools Holland last week, the next big thing, Amy LaVere, is coming to Cumbria. An up and coming star of Americana music, Amy’s latest album Anchors and Anvils has played to critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. She will be performing at Torpenhow Village Hall (between Cockermouth and Carlisle) on October 20, at 8pm.
Memphis-based Amy performs with an upright bass that comfortably exceeds her height. She has appeared in Samuel L Jackson’s Black Snake Moan and also in the Oscar winning Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line alongside Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Amy opened her UK tour at the Albert Hall. Tickets are priced £12 can be obtained from Keswick Post Office, Billy Bowman Music in Cockermouth or direct by calling 016973 23354.
Something for the Weekend Meets Amy LaVere
from The Sun: October 10, 2008
by SIMON COSYNS
THE sun sets on a balmy autumn day in Nashville, Tennessee.
All over town, the clubs, honky-tonks and concert halls are cranking up the volume. I venture into a small, packed place called The Basement, on 8th Avenue South, which bills itself as a “cellar full of noise”. It’s November 2007 and I’m there for a showcase organised by the Americana Music Association. That night, one of the performers makes a vivid, lasting impression.
Dwarfed by her giant, upright bass, which she plays with righteous fervour, Amy LaVere sings like a bird but her themes are deep and dark. She’s slightly built, with a cloud of raven curls, and looks every inch a star in the making.
I meet her manager, David Macias, and say: “She’s amazing. Britain will love her. I can just see her on Jools Holland’s show.” Then I put him in touch with the influential London publicist Andy Prevezer.
Wind forward to this week and Amy is one of the stars of Later ... alongside Coldplay and country icon Glen Campbell. She’s also just played the Royal Albert Hall as support for bluesman Seasick Steve.
Amy was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, but lives in Memphis, the city that broke Elvis, and records for a local independent label. Her recent album Anchors & Anvils is 40 minutes of aching hearts and broken dreams (and washing machines), mixing originals with a sprinkling of covers, including Bob Dylan’s I’ll Remember You.
It begins with a devastating true-story song about a woman who kills her brute of a husband but professes she still loves him.
“Killing him didn’t make the love go away,” sighs Amy over sultry rhythms.
There’s a song most of us can identify with, called Pointless Drinking, and a deadpan waltz, Overcome, with pin-sharp observational lyrics.
It’s the upright bass that gives Amy her unique selling point, making her as individual as, say, Joanna Newsom and her harp.
“I find it perfectly natural,” she says. “In fact, I don’t know if I could sing without it. I had no idea it was a hard thing to do, it was real natural to me.
“I always thought I had to play an instrument, because I have more respect for artists who play and sing. Also, I struggled with the guitar. I’d basically known cowboy chords since I was a little kid, because my mother played, but that’s about it.
“We lived in a tiny poor-people trailer and she played guitar and wrote folk songs. She would liven up every get-together.”
Today Amy enjoys being based in Memphis with it’s great music tradition. “Rock and roll was created there. You can’t really top that,” she says. “There must be something magical in the water there and there are some amazing bands and musicians.”
Her album was produced by Jim Dickinson, who she calls “a legend and home-town hero”. Jim has worked with Dylan, the Stones and Aretha Franklin but has always stayed true to his Memphis roots.
All that’s left to say is: Let’s extend a big, warm UK welcome to Amy LaVere and her big bass.
Shared musical passion was their soundtrack for finding life together
from Commercial Appeal: September 30, 2008
by Sara Hoover
Up close and personal
When Chris Parker and Kelley Hurt met at the University of Memphis in the music program, they became best friends but nothing more. At first.
“I was too young for her,” said Parker, 35.
“I used to call him ‘the kid,’ ” said Hurt, 42.
Hurt, a jazz vocalist, is from the Orange Mound area. Parker, a jazz pianist, is from Little Rock and moved to Memphis in 1991 to get a bachelor’s in music.
Around that time, Hurt returned to Memphis to finish her degree, after touring the globe for 10 years. They met when Parker was 19.
Both got their start in families with musical backgrounds.
“My whole family is musically inclined. My mom was a singer. My brother plays piano. I tried to play the piano. When he got good at it, I didn’t play anymore,” said Hurt.
Three generations of Parker’s family sang and played piano.
“We had a piano in the house, and I ended up taking lessons. My mother bought me the Smithsonian collection of classic jazz records in seventh grade. Once I heard Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker, that was pretty much it for me,” he said.
Hurt’s interest was piqued by seeing Fred Ford, Honeymoon Garner and Bill Tyus play at The Peabody.
“Those were my first mentors—where somebody really wanted me to come to the gig and actually listen,” said Hurt, who started out in premed before she switched to jazz.
Parker’s training came from several great pianists, notably Charles Thomas and Art Porter Sr.
“I ended up meeting guys who had mentored generations of musicians. There’s musicians you read about in a magazine, and then there’s the real musicians. You go to them because they are craftsmen,” he said.
Unbeknownst to each other at first, they knew many of the same people.
“We both have pretty much the same mentors. While he was in Little Rock being introduced or told about these people, I was growing up with them. It was one thing we instantly realized we had in common,” said Hurt.
The two started dating in 1995, and married in 2000.
Hurt’s senior project kick-started their dating.
“I was her piano player and we started spending late hours together. She was always out of my league. She was older than me. I was this little kid from Arkansas, but finally I made my move. I waited for years. I knew a good thing when I saw it.”
During the time the two have been together, they’ve worked on many successful solo and joint projects.
Hurt’s first CD, “Raindance”, was released on Archer Records in 2003, and included several of her own compositions with Parker on piano.
The couple played in the band DDT, an early incarnation of the North Mississippi Allstars.
Hurt won the Phillips Award for Best New Artist from the Memphis chapter of the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 1997. She also had the distinction of recording the song “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda” with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins at Phillips Recording Service in Memphis.
She toured Italy with the Memphis Blues Revue and performed internationally with Bruce Willis and the Accelerators on a Planet Hollywood tour.
Parker has performed with many notables, including Herman Green, Joe Jennings and Alvin Fielder, and has traveled the world to play many festivals. Most recently, he performed in Brazil with the University of Memphis faculty jazz band.
After he received his bachelor’s in 1996, Parker felt New York City would be the place to truly learn jazz. The couple lived there on and off for three years.
“I realized when I went to New York, I had already missed the jazz thing. That was between 1945 and 1975. It will never be like that again. That’s a period of time you can’t re-create.”
They knew it was time to head south when Parker was playing in a subway, during winter, wearing a hat, coat and gloves. The temperature was so cold, he broke a note on his keyboard. The couple returned to Memphis in 2000, and make their home in a Downtown condo with their 15-year-old Tonkinese cat, Simba.
Parker received his master’s in music in August from the U of M, and teaches there and plays with various bands.
Hurt has taken this year off to deal with health issues related to celiac disorder, an intolerance to gluten.
They have two albums recorded as a duo and a third album Parker recorded with another group that they plan to release.
“We just don’t always have the money to print one up. Whenever we get the money, we do and put one out,” said Parker.
The benefit of putting the records out themselves is the ability to experiment.
“I was able to do some stuff I would always think about but wouldn’t do, like real avant-garde music,” said Hurt.
“If you’re only playing music for the money, you’re a sucker. ‘Cause you ain’t gonna get the money that’s worth all the trouble you had to go through to get it. You better be playing because you love music and that’s where your heart is,” said Parker.
What inspires you?
Parker: Dedication and sincerity
What do you like best about your spouse?
Hurt: His spontaneity
Parker: She’s my heart
The hardest thing as a couple?
Parker: Learning to leave each other alone.
Another String to Amy LaVere’s Bow
The singer’s new album is the bassist’s latest triumph in a long list of creative achievements
from Sunday Times: July 27, 2008
by Dan Cairns
When Amy LaVere was young, her mother said of her daughter that she was “the only child I know whom you could drop off, naked, in the middle of New York City with a $1 bill and she’d come out, clothed, with $100”.
Today, the diminutive 25-year-old singer, who performs with an upright bass that comfortably exceeds her height, is as determined as the child her mother once perceived so acutely. A pint-sized pugilist whose charm-sweetened combativeness recalls the television-producer character played by Holly Hunter in the film Broadcast News, LaVere is on a creative roll.
Her new (second) album, Anchors & Anvils, has just come out, and her acting career — roles to date have included Wanda Jackson in Walk the Line and a part in the Samuel L Jackson/Christina Ricci film Black Snake Moan — is also taking off. In person, her self-deprecation seems natural, not calculating; but an iron will coexists with it, and the conflict, LaVere herself implies, is her fuel.
This perhaps explains new songs such as the self-written Cupid’s Arrow, on which a lyric as deliciously dark as “I set off on a hunt with my arrow and my bow / Till in my sights had fallen one who hurt me long ago” is delivered in a swoonsome croon over a fiddle-flecked, Nancy Sinatra-like canter. And on Killing Him, which is based on a true story of a wife murdering the unfaithful husband she still loved fiercely, LaVere relishes lines such as “She’d have to kill him to get him to stay”, over a wonderfully contrasting country-blues shuffle, her voice a languid sigh worthy of Loretta Lynn.
At one point in the interview, when LaVere’s serenity seems so suspect that I raise a doubting eyebrow, she says: “You don’t think I’m laid-back? Why? Do you think I’m a walking storm?” She immediately laughs and concedes: “I really love a frenzy. I find that I’m never more calm than when I’m in the middle of some extremely erratic experience. I have no idea why. That’s a sickness, isn’t it? Help me.”
Baggage, its weight and the shedding of it, clearly preoccupies her, as does a strong impulsive streak she seems to find both energising and scary. Shortly after settling in Nashville, Tennessee, after a childhood in which she moved 13 times, LaVere eloped with a penniless artist and musician, with whom she formed a duo called the Gabe & Amy Show. It was while performing in this setup that she moved to Memphis (where she still, to this day, works as a part-time tour guide at Sun Studios), took up the upright bass and began edging towards the front of the stage to sing a few of the numbers herself.
“It became obvious that people enjoyed what I did equally,” she says. “And didn’t exactly love that. When I met him, I’d always had that balance of knowing I had to pay my bills, this pragmatic side I felt could not equal genuine artistry. Whereas Gabriel, he was totally, like, come hell or high water, he was going to paint and not work. So I fell into the supportive role, as a caretaker.”
Earning the right to sing, to perform her own songs, was a process LaVere felt she had to go through. In part, she says, this was because “the musicians I’ve worked with have always been way more ahead of the game than me”. But it was also about finding her own voice. Intriguingly, like another singer, Feist, LaVere once fronted a punk band, where she in a sense betrayed, or did her best to disguise, a natural talent, shouting and wailing where she now coos and deploys restraint. You can hear that search on her first album, This World Is Not My Home (2005), where she sounds tentative and lacking in confidence.
“I was nervous,” she admits. “It was a very, very invasive and strange experience.I was really insecure. I mean, I’m still insecure, but I was even more so then, surely so. We beat the vocals to death, to the point where, yes, perhaps they did become a caricature. Then you get all this pressure about what the image should be and, well, one day, I feel like wearing high heels, the next, you know? I have no style; there’s no stamp. I’m not Amy Winehouse. And I won’t be busting out pornographic pictures of myself any time soon.”
On Anchors & Anvils, LaVere got to work with the Memphis producer Jim Dickinson (the Stones, Ry Cooder, Big Star et al), who got most of her vocals down first take and who clearly understood the need to liberate LaVere from her doubts. The results, she feels, are “what I actually sound like. It is definitely more honest”. A mix of her own songs, those of her boyfriend, the drummer and producer Paul Taylor, covers of Dylan (I’ll Remember You) and David Schnaufer (a straight-up and heartbreaking serving of Tennessee Valentine), and songs by her friend Kristi Witt, a Memphis musician, the album cleaves to no one genre — and LaVere admits to a horror of being described purely as a country singer. This is not because of any dislike of the music, merely a sense that being boxed in (that baggage again) restricts her right to roam. And roam she does, on a record where even a song such as Overcome, which is notionally an uncomplicated country song, soon wanders off in directions that include show tunes and Viennese waltz music.
LaVere, whose father oversees the building of car plants — “I was a General Motors brat,” she jokes — maintains that the nomadic element of her childhood didn’t bother her at all. “I was quick and easy to make new friends,” she says, “so I enjoyed it.” She still moves house or apartment regularly. “And neighbourhoods, too,” she adds breezily. When her parents divorced, she was a teenager who went off the rails, and she still conveys a slight sense of danger. Her mother was a songwriter, “but she wouldn’t write clean country songs”, LaVere laughs. “They were about acid trips, smoking marijuana and expanding your mind.” From her, LaVere says she gets a sanguine approach to life, “that what will be will be, that the universe will provide”. Her father, on the other hand, “makes lists each morning, and knows exactly what they will entail”. Later, discussing what she thinks their opinion is of her, LaVere says: “They had ultimate confidence in me, just in terms of my ability to be very crafty.”
Of her chosen instrument, LaVere says: “It’s something I get to interact with, to dance with and to hide behind when I’m feeling uncomfortable. So it is a bit of a prop, and thank God for that.” Her opinion of her voice hasn’t changed, she says; it’s the confidence that has. “I’m more a storyteller than a singer,” she suggests. “I’m not a vocal acrobat. I have to use phrasing and discretion. I’m not going to bring you to your knees with this amazing held note.”
She’s being a touch too modest. LaVere, after all, is someone you could drop off, apparently lacking in confidence, in a recording studio, and she’d come out, wilful and self-assured, with a great album. Which is, it occurs to me, exactly what has happened.
Anchors & Anvils is out now on Archer
Flash Forward: She Grew Up in the Backwoods and then Led a Punk Band
No wonder Amy LaVere is something other than your usual Southern belle
from Observer Music Monthly: July 13, 2008
by Sarah Boden
In the late afternoon before her Austin gig, Amy LaVere looks right at home wandering through the cattle stalls at the Star of Texas state rodeo, home of bucking broncos, gunslingers, lasso tricksters and chilli cook-offs. The 26-year-old grew up on the Texas/Louisiana border in a place that sounds like the setting for a Leadbelly song. ‘It was called Piney Woods, because it’s part of the country where there’s nothing but big old tall pine trees,’ says LaVere, in her mellifluous sing-song twang. ‘The population was nothing ... nobody. We lived down a little dirt road.’
LaVere’s love of country was inherited from her parents; her dad was a Willie Nelson fan, but it was her mum’s affection for folk and ‘creepy ballads’ that made a lasting impression on her. ‘Early on, I really wanted to be her. When we had family get-togethers my Mum would get out her guitar to sing and everyone would light up.’
LaVere’s new album, Anchors and Anvils (her second in the US), was recorded with sometime Dylan and Rolling Stones producer Jim Dickinson in rural Mississippi, and is a rich, exquisite 10-song set of classic country that unfolds to reveal flavours of tango, blues, and jazz noir.
Beneath the Southern belle edifice and velvet manners, there’s a nonconformist sensibility that places LaVere outside Nashville’s saccharine mainstream. Her family moved 13 times before settling in Detroit, and, as an angry, muddle-headed teen, Amy fronted a punk band called Last Minute. ‘I guess I was doing drugs and my parents were divorcing and I wasn’t doing good at school,’ she says. ‘If you’re going to be an honest artist you’re going to be expressing where you’re at.’
Now, she says, there’s still angst but she’s no longer screaming at the audience. Live, she plays a doghouse bass that dwarfs her tiny frame, while singing in a sad, whispering smoulder. Her subject matter yanks her into country’s fringe, with mordant paeans to murderous passion (‘Killing Him’), emotional breakdown (‘Overcome’) and everyday drudgery (‘Washing Machine’).
Her shows have garnered such critical acclaim that it’s unlikely she’ll continue her occasional job as a guide at Sun Studio in Memphis, where she’s currently settled. The silver screen beckons, too, after a recent cameo as rockabilly dame Wanda Jackson in Walk the Line left her with a taste for acting. You sense that LaVere won’t succumb to Hollywood hubris, though.
‘I’ve always been a bit of a haaam,’ she says with a phlegmatic drawl, stretching the last word out like bubblegum. ‘But the self-importance that everyone puts on themselves on set ... there’s something very comic about that to me.’
a Southern Star Is Born
from London Evening Standard: July 11, 2008
by David Smyth
She’s only 25 but Memphis based Amy LaVere is so immersed in rock ‘n’ roll history that she and her upright bass might have time-travelled here from the mid-Fifties. She has jetted in for three dates at Soho’s 12 Bar Club and there are several good reasons to catch her.
First there’s her swoonsome new album, Anchors & Anvils (Archer Records), recorded in the depths of the Mississippi Delta by Bob Dylan collaborator Jim Dickinson. It features 10 acoustic, retro songs with countrified titles such as Tennessee Valentine and Pointless Drinking, all sung in a gentle croon that recalls Norah Jones with a downhome twang.
Though LaVere is new to London audiences, Anchors & Anvils is her second album - and she has spent enough time living in the past to feel like a veteran. when a casting director spotted her covering Funnel of Love, originally done by Fifties queen of rockabilly and Elvis Presley’s former girlfriend wanda Jackson, she was invited to play Jackson in the oscar-winning Johnny Cash biopic walk the Line. “I’m in that movie for such a blink it’s barely worth talking about it,” she confesses, but the connection hasn’t done her music career any harm.
Nor has the fact that when she’s not touring she spends her days working as a tour guide at Sun Studios, which has a strong claim to being the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll as the regular haunt of Roy orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and, of course, Cash and Elvis. “I get to talk to people about rock ‘n’ roll all day. What an amazing place to go to work.” when we meet between radio spots, she’s still reeling from being introduced live on Radio 4’s Midweek programme as “a country singer who looks a lot like Alanis Morissette”. If I had to choose which of the two made her bristle more, it would be the country tag. She’s not keen to be lumped in with the Nashville crowd, and seems happier when her sound is described more broadly as Americana. on the album that incorporates sultry gipsy fiddle on her cover of Carla Thomas’s That Beat, chugging rock on washing Machine and bright mandolin on Cupid’s Arrow.
Then there’s the jazzy feel of Killing Him, a murder ballad about the revenge of a two-timed wife, which shows she isn’t as sweet as she sounds. There’s also a Bob Dylan obscurity, I’ll Remember You, thrown in.
As a child, LaVere was inspired by her folk-singing mother to pick up the guitar, then took formal piano lessons. She can competently play drums, too, but likes her double bass the best, which she learned from a musician flatmate much later on. “The first time I ever picked it up I was able to slap it rockabilly style. I didn’t realise that was supposed to be hard. I truly fell in love with it. I love having it as a prop onstage, and as something to hide behind. It’s bigger than I am.”
Next on her career ladder is more acting, in the next film by writer/ director and LaVere fan Craig Brewer, who has cast her before, in his Samuel L Jackson vehicle Black Snake Moan. And the continued conversion of European audiences, who would surely fall for her low-key charms as they have those of Norah Jones or Alison Krauss. watch out for a new Southern star.
Amy LaVere: Anchors and Anvils (4 stars)
Upright Bassist’s Second Album. Gorgeous.
from Q Magazine: July 1, 2008
by David Smyth
Memphis resident Amy LaVere played rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson in Walk The Line, but here she’s a crooner, not a bawler. With a creamy voice that seems to be cooing inches from your ear, her collection of tasteful covers (Dylan’s “I’ll Remember You,” Carla Thomas’s “That Beat”) and a few originals has as soothing a sound as you’ll find this year.
Gypsy violin and the darkness of murder ballad “Killing Him” edges her away from Norah Jones territory, though the downhome charm of simple slowies such as Tennessee Valentine makes any edginess superfluous.
from Malton& Pickering Mercury (UK): June 25, 2008
The Band Room is preparing to welcome a singer who has been called a “rootsier, more dangerous Norah Jones” next month.
As a follow up to her low-key UK debut earlier this year Amy Lavere is back to tour the British release of her second album Anchors & Anvils in Farndale on July 12 at 7.30pm.
The album - a mix of self-penned originals and well-chosed covers such as Bob Dylan’s I’ll Remember You - has already been released on an American independent label and complements her debut release This World Is Not My Home in 2006.
Described as a country-soul belle from Memphis with her own take on classic Americana, critics say she will appeal to fans of Norah Jones and anyone who loves Robert Plant’s and Alison Krauss’s Raising Sand.
She said: “The songs are all about relationships, but that was never a conscious thing. I like my songs to be theatrical. I want people to be lifted out of the moment and taken on a journey.”
Amy, who also plays the double bass, added: “There are some artists who can get away with being different. I’d like to think I can be one of them.”
Born in a small town on the border between Texas and Louisiana, 25-year-old Amy spent time in Detroit and Nashville before moving to Memphis in the Nineties.
She fronted a teenage punk band, Last Minute, before developing her mix of sultry country and playful, funky soul. Despite a burgeoning acting career that saw her land cameo roles in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line and Black Snake Moan, music is Amy’s first love.
Tickets are available from The Band Room box office.
Southern Charm to Die For
from the Waster: June 23, 2008
by Martin Halo
Since the turn of the 20th Century Memphis has always been a hub for the musical minds, the open cased street beggars, and the ghostly spirits of mythical legends. Originally settled by Scottish immigrants, who forged west through the Application frontier before being over run by the blues tradition buried on Beale Street, the city limits strut with the scars of American art. Its most important characteristic, the railroad, became the lifeline for freed black slaves to migrate north in order to land industrial job opportunities in Chicago during the 1930s. With all Southern trains running through Memphis the line created a hot bed for scorching juke joint moans. Those musicians who were not good enough to get paid in the clubs littered the streets.
The times have changed since then and so has the cultural makeup of Memphis. The railroad still exists, the city is still tough with resilience, but instead of an eerie wooden outpost of oozing groove sits a commercialized district that has pushed out the ol’ time tradition of mojo workers in favor of the edge and modernization surrounding garage rock and indie music. Amy LaVere is in the middle of the cultural inundation as an Americana, bass-swindling, brunette with a voice filled with just enough southern charm to melt the heart.
With the release of her sophomore LP Anchors and Anvils, in May of 2007 alongside longtime Bob Dylan producer Jim Dickinson, LaVere has gained national buzz and recognition through embarking on road work with Langhorne Slim, The North Mississippi All Stars, and most recently a European adventure that passed her through the thrown of Jools in Holland.
“It is a real incestuous music town, if you don’t feel the mojo down here then you are not paying attention” says Amy LaVere from the backseat of her touring van, still idling in the Southwest corner of Tennessee before an over night journey to New York City. “I went to Memphis because that is where all the cool rock n’ roll shows were traveling through,” she offers with a soft, sweet, tone. “I spent three years down on Beale Street playing afternoon gigs. Memphis is not what it was when I first moved here in 1999. The blues is hard to find here; the really good blues that is. Believe it or not there is a hotel lounge at the airport where the traditional blues players perform. Every now and then I will try and catch some, but you just don’t find it there much anymore.”
She addresses the shift, “there is a strong indie and garage rock scene in Memphis, much more than you would find in Nashville or Knoxville. The further you get east, into Mississippi and Atlanta you will find towns sticking to roots music more so than Memphis. I would say as a cultural center it is pretty cutting edge.”
“But in Memphis there are so many great musicians in such a small area,” she continues. “Everybody is hungry and everybody is in three or four bands. Those that have grown up there can’t help but to be infused by the blues tradition; it is so powerful.”
“But that isn’t want is going on in town now, kids are not studying blues music anymore. I think that is because the important founding fathers of the genre are no longer arounde. Just in the last few years we lost Ike Turner, Bo Diddley, and R.L. Burnside. Being able to get out and touch the stone, so to speak, just is not that easy. Even the rockabilly bands coming out of Sun Records—nobody plays rockabilly anymore. It has seemed to go out of fashion, which is crazy to me because it is rock n’ roll music for crying out loud,” LaVere exclaims.
With LaVere fronting her Americana exploration alongside Steve Selvidge (guitar), and Paul Taylor (drums), the trio is no stranger to the community of artists bubbling up from the murky South. One of them is friend and North Mississippi All Stars’ axe cannon Luther Dickinson, son of Anchors and Anvils producer Jim Dickinson.
While fresh off a tour leg with the NMA and leaving just as fast as he arrived for the airport to rendezvous with the Black Crowes, Dickinson sheds some light. “We have known Amy for many years around the Memphis music scene. Her band mates grew up with my brother Cody and I. Her drummer Paul Taylor used to live with us and we had a band together from 1990 to 1997. And Steve, her guitar player, has a band with my father called Mud Boy and The Neutrons. I grew up inspired by them.”
“As for this past leg of dates with Amy,” Luther Dickinson continues, “we had a blast,” as laughter follows. “We would always push the shows back a little bit to make sure she had a good crowd and the people ate her up. It is cool because, in the middle of those mellow songs, Amy is holding it down with that fat ass bass. What she does musically I always found to be very interesting.”
Though Luther is by Amy’s side while nestled in on the road, it was papa dukes, Jim, which nurtured her in the studio.
“I was in a pretty insecure place going into recording this record. I had it all mapped out in my head and I knew what I wanted to do. I felt as if I was taking a leap of faith by picking some musicians to work on the record; musicians I didn’t think I deserved. I just had to suck it up and ask,” LaVere offers. “Then working with Jim [Dickinson] was terribly intimidating.”
“Is he still intimidating to me?,” she responses with a smile on her face, “he is a very large man in the sense of his reputation, knowledge, and what he has accomplished. He is such a generous storyteller and everything that he has done over his lifetime, for my purposes at least, adds to the pressure.”
“To ask somebody to help you with your art is nerve racking because you never know how influential they will be. But with Jim, by the time it was over we had such a relationship, and I admire him so much. I felt like he nurtured the project. I don’t know how better to explain it. He really is a ‘man behind the curtain’ kind of magic. If a guitar player wasn’t laying down what we were looking for he could just tell him a story that would realign a musician to a place where he needed to be,” concludes LaVere.
Show Reviews: Langhorne Slim/Amy LaVere
The Mohawk - Austin, TX 5/10/08
from Jambase: June 4, 2008
by Sarah Hagerman
Perhaps the most telling image of the night was the sticker subtly slapped on the side of Amy LaVere’s bass. It was that famous picture of Johnny Cash flipping the bird, his face creased in fuck-you rage but his dark eyes laughing underneath the tough exterior. A DIY homage to towering legends and the true grit to weave something original out of homespun traditions, the icon spoke to the deep rebellious undercurrent of Americana that both she and Langhorne Slim ride, constantly challenging the assumptions of their musical heritage while walking the line. Their quirky subversions of country, folk and several points in between swept us up in that tide as the heavy rains let up into a humid night, where we swam in beer and lovelorn tales.
Lord almighty was it a sweaty Saturday, even once inside The Mohawk. LaVere herself remarked, in her slight, lilting voice, “I love Austin, but my bass doesn’t like this humidity - and neither does my hair.” Although LaVere channels Patsy Cline’s class and composure, there’s a rough and rocking edge to her music and a sardonic wit beneath those brown curls. Her songwriting paints vivid pictures and weaves unforgettable scenes and characters, such as “Killing Him” (which is based on a true story):
She gave him everything that she had
Changed anything he said was bad
Love weighed on her heart like marble stone
A flash of the knife and he was gone
He said he would give her the sun and the moon
Now all she has is this eight-by-eight room
But killing him didn’t make the love go away
While standing poised next to her upright bass, her fingers were a flurry of movement as she picked out deep grooving rhythms that made you move in spite of yourself, resonating throughout The Mohawk with turns both funky and crunchy. Adding swirling jams and bluesy fret-work, guitarist/flurry of curly hair Steve Selvidge is the kind of unassuming yet obvious talent that makes even drunk hipsters pause to watch what he’s doing. Paul Taylor rounds out the trio, and having penned one of my personal favorite pastimes… er… I mean songs, “Pointless Drinking,” one can be assured he shares the same sort of sly smarts and lack of rock star bravado that make LaVere and her backing musicians unique. LaVere and co. are that damn good they don’t need flash. They are simply down home, even if it’s the home you have to bolt from with a shotgun in tow.
To see more visit jambase.com.
The Majestic and Graceful Music of Amy LaVere
from Swampland: May 27, 2008
by James Calemine
Amy LaVere ranks as one of the most talented musicians on the rise. Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, LaVere was raised in a musical family where she began honing her musical talents. The humble Amy LaVere’s voice evokes true emotion. She portrayed Wanda Jackson in Walk The Line as well as appearing in Craig Brewer’s Black Snake Moan, which will surely lead her to larger roles in film.
LaVere’s two albums This World Is Not My Home and Anchors & Anvils encapsulates her depth, aptitude and power regarding her musical ethos. As a Memphis resident, LaVere soon fell in with the nucleus of Memphis musical company when she began working with Jim Dickinson, The North Mississippi All-Stars and the wide network of musicians located in those environs. LaVere is now out on the road opening for the North Mississippi Allstars. She intends to tour until it’s time for her to record this fall.
In this Mystery And Manners interview, LaVere discusses her musical upbringing, musical influences, the Memphis music scene, literary preferences, Jim Dickinson, Anchors & Anvils, Bob Dylan and various other avenues of interest. Her inspirational voice and talent behooves one to seek out her soulful work. We’re proud to have her in our rotation…
Congratulations, Anchors & Anvils sounds great…
AL: Ah, thank you…
You recorded it last year…
AL: Yeah, it’s been a little longer than a year at this point. We released it last May a year ago.
You were born in Louisiana…
AL: Yeah, Shreveport.
And your parents were pretty musical, right?
AL: Right. My dad was a drummer. My Mom was a songwriter and guitar player. They really didn’t play in a band together. My dad played in a band and my mom was a folksinger. I saw my Mom playing a lot more music than my dad. She would play at home all the time.
Did you get an instrument at Christmas one year and that’s how it started?
AL: No, nothing like that. Just one old Alvarez guitar that was beaten around the house…I never got great at it, but enough to play country chords.
From what I’ve read you family moved like 13 times before you settled in Detroit. Did you decide early music was going to be your ticket out of town?
AL: Yeah, it was always music. My parents were real social. There were always parties at the house with people coming and going. Mom would entertain everybody. I guess I just wanted to be her. I wanted to light up the room like she did.
When you were in Detroit, was that when you played in your first band?
AL: My very first band was called Blatant Death Mongers, which was a group of 13 year old kids who started a band in a garage. I played drums. The kid lost his drum sticks and I played with wooden spoons. We had two shows at school. That was my first band. After that I was invited to sing for a band that had already been around for a about a year—they were called Last Minute. It was two brothers—a drummer and a bass player…we had a few different guitar players over the years. They asked me if I wanted to sing for them. We were together in an on and off again way for about six years. Then we’d go through spells where we’d go into Detroit and Flint and play shows. Then we would hole up in the basement. We rehearsed every single week—it was more of a party than anything else. It was a blast. I want to clarify—initially, I think I wrongfully said it was a punk band, where I was probably selling short my interviewers short because it was so much more aggressive than what I do now…it was an alternative-teen angst thing.
What instruments can you play?
AL: I won’t pretend I can play anything with any real virtuosity. The upright bass—not to sell short any other upright bass players, but the way I play it—it’s more percussive—holding down the big notes. It’s something to hide behind. I enjoy playing and singing at the same time—having to do something besides just sing onstage. Like any other hack, I can play a little piano, drums, guitar, bass—the only lessons I really ever took formally was mountain dulcimer from David Schnaffner who I wrote one of the songs on the record with who passed away before he could play on it.
AL: He wrote “Tennessee Valentine”…it’s pretty far removed from something that I would write, but it always struck such a sweet chord with me. I always loved it. When we got ready to do this record I asked him if I could record it and he said I could. Of course, I insisted he play on the song, but he passed away just a few weeks before we got to do it…
AL: …I know…it was awful. I loved him so much. He was my neighbor. That was the only thing I took lessons for…
Eventually you moved to Nashville…
AL: Yeah, Nashville was the second place I ever moved to on my own…outside of my family moving around all the time. I tried to move back to Louisiana because I felt like I didn’t know my extended family. We’d go back for Christmas, but I never really had that big family feeling. It was always the four of us against the world. So, I wanted to get to know my cousins, aunts and uncles so at the last minute I went down there and it only took me three months to realize I didn’t like it at all. The only reason I moved to Nashville was because I had an offer for a job to work in a management office. I thought, ‘Well, I’ve got a job waiting on me there if I want it and I’m not quite 21’, so I decided to go try it out. I lasted almost two years in Nashville.
Let’s talk about your appearances in a couple of films…
AL: Well, I didn’t do any acting until last year when I did a little indie film project. I’m not sure what happened to it.
Well, you played Wanda Jackson in Walk The Line…
AL: Yes, I did. That was totally surreal. I’m a total fan of Wanda’s work. I really admire her. It was very strange how it came about. I was playing at this little club called Murphy’s In Memphis. I had a regular gig there and the assistant casting director happened to be in the room unbeknownst to me. Every now and then I’d cover a Wanda Jackson song, and that night I happened to do one. He told me I should audition. So I did and somehow I got the part. I even went in there with a guitar. They had a handful of girls in there that had some semblance of likeness to Wanda Jackson with their acoustic guitars and I just thought I was awful, but somehow I got the gig. It was a real honor. It led to getting to meet her. I opened some shows for her. I think she’s really amazing.
The next movie was Craig Brewer’s film Black Snake Moan…
AL: Yeah, Craig Brewer is the first person who gave me a true acting opportunity. The Wanda Jackson role was nothing more than just having the appearance of Wanda Jackson in one particular scene. Then there was a duet with the other actor—Waylon Payne—who was playing Jay Lee—who finished the duet, but it didn’t make it into the scene. You could just hear us in the background, but they cut to Johnny Cash trashing his dressing room—so that scene got cut out, but it wasn’t an acting role, it was just…I was an extra that got to portray a famous singer.
Craig Brewer really gave me my first role. He—I guess you could say he was a fan of mine. Craig would come see us play. He liked my band and he just basically said there was a role that looked like me, and he thought I could do the role.
You were Christine Ricci’s friend, right?
AL: Yeah, but it’s a real brief role. It’s hardly a role. I’m just in a scene, but that was—aside from being both Dorothy and Cinderella in the school plays (Laughs) I’d never done any acting. Do you remember those Fischer-Price little black and white video cameras?
I think so…yes…
AL: …That look like a toy? My sister and I made a ton of film when she had that, but…nothing…
AL: …Yeah…so that was really my first role. Since then, I’ve had a few other indie film projects with much more meatier roles where I got to explore the craft of acting…
Where you actually had to remember some lines?
AL: (laughs) Yeah, I really enjoyed it. But at this point in my life I haven’t spent my life honing the craft of acting. At this point I feel like I do have an actual ability to do it, but it would be very assumptive to say I could step into some great acting career. I hope I get another opportunity to work on a major set at some point because it was really fun.
Well, nonetheless, those two films look really good on paper…
AL: I guess so because I see it a lot (laughs). I’m so thankful for the opportunity—it is making mountains out of mole hills. I hope one day I get to make a mountain out of it.
Well, a great voice like yours leads to other opportunities. So, you moved to Memphis in 1999. How did you meet the great Jim Dickinson?
AL: Well, I actually had become aware of Jim—living in Memphis I rented a room from this girl named Misty White. Her and her sister and some other girls have a pretty popular rock and roll band called the Hell cats. Misty was really wrapped up in the music community. She’s a great storyteller. I just got a lot of the history of Memphis music living in that house because she was all about it. I was already in love with Big Star, the Replacements—and to find out he had something to do with that I just couldn’t wait to meet him. I had brushes with him—we were aware of each other but it wasn’t until I started to play with Paul Taylor—my drummer now—who grew up with the Allstars. He was in a band for years with Luther and Cody called D-D-T, which was Dickinson-Dickinson and Taylor. Paul even lived out at their house some when he was a teenager. They’re family to him. It was Paul who truly made the connection. I actually got to back up Jim Dickinson on a couple shows before I ever got the nerve up to ask him to produce my first record (This World Is Not My Home). Without Paul playing in the band I don’t know if I would’ve had the nerve. He’s a huge presence…intimidating in his own right, but getting to know him…he’s so…
AL: …Yes, imposing…that’s a good word for him. He’s imposing, and he deserves every bit of credit he gets. I’d been playing around Memphis a while—doing my own thing by playing corporate and private parties. I’ve got that natural flap ability of the upright bass, and I could stand in on any country, blues or rockabilly outfit to make a living on. I had my own band too—so I’d get hired for all kinds of random events. It was a helluva lot more profitable than what I’m doing now, but this is more rewarding. It was Ward Archer—Archer Records—is a huge music lover who made things happen. I think the first band he signed was the Gamble Brothers. It was kinda like he loved music and he saw the need. They were really taking off in some ways but they just didn’t have any support or label help. Ward had a little bit of money to put a label together and he decided to do it. So, he signed them and he signed Sid Selvidge—who is actually my guitar player’s dad, and then he signed Lily Ashar—an Iranian classical guitarist—just a totally eclectic mix of bands and he also had a girl named Kelly Heard—this beautiful black jazz singer. So, he had this really weird mix of people that he was helping. There was no discrimination—if he loved it and thought it was quality…he helped.
When I met Jim…I was actually playing one of those private parties. I had been hired by the Arts Commission for some sort of fundraiser and it was the first amalgamation of my original band called Amy & the Tramps. It was Scott Bomar on guitar who is the guy who did the music for Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan. Paul Buchignani, who played with the Afghan Wigs was there. Scott Bomar was really helpful when I started out because I had my smattering of original material, but he was bringing things to the table. It was so long ago, but he was the one that bought me the Carla Thomas tune “That Beat” that I recorded on Anchors & Anvils. I guess that was four or five years ago that he brought that song to me. So, ward of Archer records approached me and it was probably a few months before that he called and invited me to lunch. I had actually…Young Avenue Studio was trying to start a new label, but I actually had a contract in my hand from Young Avenue, but I just got a feeling from Ward that really seemed much more homespun. It was a strange deal and I felt more comfortable with Ward. I’m so thankful that I did because he’s so much more of a friend than a label. I wouldn’t call him a benefactor—he was totally artist friendly and it felt more like a collaboration—as far as creating the way we’re going to do…it’s so loose and open-minded. It’s great working with Ward. He’s continually helped me me not to fail as far as being able to go on the road.
It’s just not as easy as people think…
AL: Oh, man. Especially now that I’m at this very strange level where it’s not like go to the club and make what you can. It’s getting to the point where I’m getting invited to open shows for people like the Allstars. We had wonderful fun with this guy Langhorne Slim. I hadn’t heard of him before being invited on that tour, but they’re amazing. When you do that you’re getting $100 guarantees a night—y’know because you’re big enough to get invited on a tour—they think you might bring some people to the table, but you’re not getting the door or getting a percentage. You’re just getting the guarantee. A week on the road with them for that amount a night when gas is $4 a gallon and I’m making sure Paul and Steve are making $100 a day or whatever…there’s no way we could do this without tour support at this point. What’s weird—though we’d be keeping the money if we went back doing what we were doing (laughs).
You still live in Memphis?
AL: Oh yeah.
But you’re in California today…
AL: Yeah, I’m in Santa Cruz in the middle of these fires. It’s really unbelievable.
What’s your approach to songwriting? Is that your main focus? I know you’re an Emmylou Harris fan—I also love her because Gram Parsons discovered her—she’s not necessarily a great songwriter, but she sure does convey an emotion with any material…
AL: Oh, I love Gram Parsons. I’m a huge fan of his. I labor over songwriting. I beat myself up over it. Songwriting is something that I feel like I have to do. There is a reward when you finally do something that is clever, meaningful or worthwhile—they’re just too few and far between for me. I’m totally critical. I know a good song when I hear one, but they’re not necessarily mine. I really don’t have any shame in that. I write constantly, but I make no apologies for playing someone else’s song. Paul is a wonderful songwriter. He’s more prolific than I am. I have a really close friend named Kristy Whitt—she’s not a performer—she’s got a whole other creative outlet, but songwriting is something she loves to do. It’s something she relaxes with and she’s always bringing me songs. I love that. Her songs deserve to be heard. I like being able to be a vehicle for other songwriters’ material.
It’s always indicative of an artist’s depth by what material—other than their own—they choose to cover. I’m very impressed with your rendition of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Remember You”…
AL: Yeah? Well thanks…
Through Luther and Paul you met Jimbo Mathus…
AL: Yeah, that was another Paul connection because Paul had been on the road with Jimbo. Actually it was Paul. I admired Jimbo, but it was Paul who said Jimbo would be good, and Jimbo just out of the blue brought me a song called “Nightingale” he wrote and he thought I’d be great on it. I just loved it, that’s one of my favorites on the road. I love Jimbo—we’ve become really good friends.
So, once again, we’re back recording Anchors & Anvils with Jim Dickinson.
AL: Oh yeah. I really hope I make the next one with Jim. We’re going into the studio during the fall. I’m so excited. It feels like forever since I’ve recorded. They’re releasing Anvils and anchors in the UK like it’s new. They didn’t want me to release anything else until the first of the year so I had to wait, which is probably for the best because every day you discover something new about yourself or a different song you want to record. It’s always a process. I guess it’s only right to do it when you do it. But I’m excited to do record again…
There’s a cohesive mood on Anchors & Anvils—it’s sequenced great. The opener, “Killing Him” is a spooky kind of song. By the way, how long did it take to record Anchors and Anvils?
AL: We paid for the studio for 20 days. It wasn’t a fill 20 days. It was a lot of fitting in musicians schedules—there’s a large cast of people on this record. Nobody came all at once. It was a scheduling nightmare. Some days it would be going down and just goofing off. Other days it might be someone just putting this or that on there. The bulk of it was all recorded live in two or three days. The meat and bulk of the record was just recorded with me, Jason Freeman—my longest running guitarist—who doesn’t play with me any more because he doesn’t like to tour, and Paul cut the record within the first three days. Then everything else was built upon from there.
Jim doesn’t fool around in the studio with un-necessary takes.
AL: You’re right. He doesn’t. Probably being the least experienced of anybody that was in the studio I definitely demanded more takes than necessary. I guess because I felt insecure and I wanted to do it better. But Jim was always right. Always…
“Pointless Drinking” is another favorite of mine.
AL: That’s a Paul Taylor song—my brilliant songwriting drummer. He just played it for me and apparently it was an old one from a couple of years ago. He didn’t want me to record it. He’s got a record out and then he’s got another one in the can that he hasn’t found the right home for. He’s really a genius. He’s got boxes around the house with all these projects around that he hasn’t done anything with but they’re just brilliant. But I heard that song and I felt it was very moving. It’s a funny song, but it’s so true. I just wanted it so bad—it took a couple of weeks before he agreed to let me record it because I think he was saving it for himself. I hope he still releases it. I don’t do it justice.
Well, tell me about recording the Bob Dylan song, “I’ll Remember You” from his Empire Burlesque album. Interesting choice…
AL: There was this concert of his and I can’t remember what it was, but it was an old Betamax concert that I loved of Dylan’s. I just loved it. I didn’t know it was on his Empire Burlesque record. It wasn’t until I went to record it on the first record when we tried to cut it. In my opinion that was the worst Bob Dylan record…
Yeah, but even at his worst, songs like “Seeing The Real You At Last”, “Something Is Burning”, “Dark Eyes” and “I’ll Remember You” are classic songs for anyone else.
AL: It’s a gem of a tune. Every time I sing it, it makes me think of somebody else. I’ll be singing it in my head to the person I met the night before or some old loves, or whatever—I can never go wrong performing that one. I can always think of someone to sing it to. It’s quite a pop song for Bob Dylan to sing isn’t it?
Certainly when you hear your version of it…
AL: The production that album is so bad…
The sonic production in the mid-80s was not a good time for the older rock and rollers…
AL: (Laughs) No, I guess not…
I intend to make your show here in Atlanta next Friday. I’ll bring you some 1940’s produced songs.
AL: Please do. Hey, before you go I’d really like to mention my band I’m touring with. We’ve talked a little about Paul on the drums. Steve Selvidge—he’s a longtime friend of Luther and Cody. Steve’s band was Big Ass Truck. This band that I have right now is definitely the closest thing to having a real band together on the road that I’ve ever had.
It’s a nice rock and roll trio.
AL: Yeah, at first it was economics—I couldn’t afford to bring along anyone else. We don’t even have a tour manager—I do all of that, but it’s grown into such a tight three piece that I prefer it more and more. I don’t think it’s lacking at all. We have a fantasy about doing a band record. The next one we want is true to what we’ve been doing. Sometimes with a couple new songs I say, ‘Oh, I can really hear a violin on this.’ Whatever my little whim is that day. But the next one I’m going to try and keep it close to a band record. I’m hoping when we get home we’ll be more collaborative instead just my ideas or the producers ideas. I want it to be more of a band experience.
What are you listening to in the van?
AL: We’ve been listening to a lot of Captain Beefheart. It’s funny, I have trouble reading in the van. It makes me sick. I get car sick. If I’m lying down it doesn’t bother me.
What are you reading?
AL: This trip I’ve been reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
A girl who sings Bob Dylan and reads Cormac McCarthy…what a dream…
AL: (laughs) I read The Road in the first week.
Read some of the older stuff like Outer Dark, Suttree and Blood Meridian.
AL: I’m almost finished with The Crossing. When I bought it, I didn’t realize it was the second one of the trilogy.
It’s all great…but Suttree and Blood Meridian rank as his best.
AL: I’ve heard about Suttree, I think I’ll read that one next. It’s been a Cormac McCarthy tour for me.
Well, next week, I’ll try and bring you a copy of some old music or maybe a new copy of Cormac for the road…
AL: I would love that so much. Please don’t forget. That would really be awesome.
I look forward to keeping you in our rotation.
AL: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you bothering to write something about me.
I’m sure it won’t be the last time.
AL: I hope not.
South by Southwest
Tennessee heats up Texas
from The Commercial Appeal: March 18, 2008
by Bob Mehr
AUSTIN, Texas—In 2008, the South by Southwest music conference reached what may be a peak in its nearly quarter-century history. Music experts, casual fans and everyone in between descended on the Texas capital for a perfect storm of day parties, nighttime showcases and after-hours events. If you said there wasn’t a single second of the four-day festival where someone wasn’t playing somewhere, you’d not be far wrong.
With so many sounds clattering from every club, corner and crevice of the city, it was hard for anyone to be heard over the din, and yet Memphis certainly made its presence felt, dispatching its largest ever contingent of local performers to SXSW. And those acts covered a wide spectrum, from the progressive hip-hop of Free Sol to the frenetic punk of Jay Reatard.
If there was a true “buzz” act (apart from the well documented and white-hot Reatard and the Memphis-connected but Brooklyn-based MGMT) it was Amy LaVere, who made a pair of showcase appearances, and had many repeat customers coming to catch her at both Antone’s on Thursday and Opal Divine’s Freehouse on Friday.
Since the release of her 2007 sophomore LP Anchors & Anvils, the roots-pop chanteuse has slowly but surely won over a legion of fans and critics—she most recently earned a nod from Esquire Magazine as “like Norah Jones but too sultry for Starbucks,” which is perhaps as good a description as any of the nature of her appeal. LaVere, backed by her crack unit of players, including guitarist Steve Selvidge and drummer Paul Taylor, charmed and beguiled the crowds during both sets, surprising many seeing her for the first time with the rockabilly intensity and spunk of her live act, which is a far cry from the simmering diffident cool of her studio work.
To read the rest of the article click here.
The Next Big Thing: Amy LaVere
from The Daily Mail, UK: March 8, 2008
by Adrian Thrills
A country-soul belle from Memphis with her own take on classic Americana. She should appeal to Norah Jones fans and anyone who loved Robert Plant’s and Alison Krauss’s Raising Sand.
Amy’s new album, Anchors & Anvils, is picking up plaudits in her homeland. A smart and sexy blend of self-penned originals and well-chosen covers such as Bob Dylan’s I’ll Remember You, it came out last year on a small American independent label, Archer Records, and gets a UK release in June. Like Aristazabal Hawkes, of the Guillemots, LaVere also plays the double bass. So, we wait years for a female double bassist to come along and then two arrive at once.
Born in a small town on the border between Texas and Louisiana, 25-year-old Amy spent time in Detroit and Nashville before moving to Memphis in the Nineties. She fronted a teenage punk band, Last Minute, before developing her seductive musical mix of sultry country and playful, funky soul.
Despite a burgeoning acting career that saw her land cameo roles in two Hollywood films, Walk The Line and Black Snake Moan, music is Amy’s first love. She released her debut album, This World Is Not My Home, in 2006 before hooking up with Memphis legend Jim Dickinson, an occasional keyboardist with the Rolling Stones, who produced Anchors & Anvils.
“The songs are all about relationships, but that was never a conscious thing,” says Amy. “I like my songs to be theatrical. I want people to be lifted out of the moment and taken on a journey.”
Amy, who made a low-key UK live debut last month, is expected back here to coincide with the British release of Anchors & Anvils. “There are some artists who can get away with being different,” she says. “I’d like to think that I can be one of them.”
Hear more at: http://www.myspace.com/amylavere
Amy LaVere: Anchors and Anvils
from Popular Music and Society: by George H. Lewis
OK, so here’s a girl who was born in Louisiana, fronted a punk band in Detroit in her teens, drifted down to Nashville, eloped with a bass player, painted houses for a living across Tennessee and Kentucky, landed at Misty White’s boarding house in Memphis. By then, she could slap the upright with the best of them and played on Beale Street for spare change during the day while trading stories with Misty at night (Misty toured with Townes Van Zandt and was also drummer for Cat Soko and the Hellcats). Then, to cap things off, she gets a job as tour guide for Sun Studios and winds up playing Wanda Jackson in the Johnny Cash biopic, I Walk The Line. This is someone who, when she decides to cover a Bob Dylan song on her stellar Jim Dickinson produced album, Anchors & Anvils, certainly seems entitled to do so. From changing her name (from Fant to LaVere), reinventing herself as she roamed the country collecting tall tales and experience, challenging established musicians in a musicians town, capturing the hearts and imaginations of the locals with wistful, almost comic performances laced through and through with huge talent, and recording an album that became the talk of that town, she and Dylan (in his earlier formative years) certainly have some things in common.
Amy’s voice, like Bob’s, is unique and distinctive. Each has developed a personal style and phrasing that helps to capture any song, whether penned by themselves or another, making it instantly recognizable as their own. If Bob’s early vocals referenced Woody Guthrie, Amy’s seem to reference another Amy—Amy Allison (Mose Allison’s hugely talented daughter), And, to push a point, both Amys echo the sound and vocal styling of Rosie (Hamblin) of The Originals, who had a huge teen radio hit in 1960 with “Angel Baby,” a song no doubt dear to Dylan’s heart. Picture a young woman in a local Memphis club like Murphys, slapping an upright bass that is taller than herself, singing homegrown songs like “This World Is Not My Home” and “Time Is A Train” and you perhaps begin to get the picture. Amy LaVere is a large talent who, in Memphis, is just beginning to blossom. And Anchors & Anvils, her second album for local Archer Records, is proof—as innovative and fully realized a musical work as any I have heard in these times.
No small partner to LaVere’s triumph in Anchors & Anvils is it’s producer, the legendary Jim Dickinson (who has worked on and off with Bob Dylan for four decades) and who also plays wurlitzer across the album cuts and contributes mightily to the feel and musical texture of this work. Recorded at his own Zebra Ranch Studio, Dickinson feels it is one of the best albums he has ever helped make. “As a producer,” he has said, “you take the artist out to the edge of the cliff, where they have to learn to trust you. And of course you push ‘em off. Amy has the wings to fly…plus she can triple-slap the upright bass like Willie Dixon on steroids.” Other terrific players on this album include multi-instrumentalist Paul Taylor on drums and guitar (even sitar, at one point), Chris Scruggs (grandson of Earl) on steel, and Bob Furgo, famed Leonard Cohen sideman, on the aptly named “gypsy” violin. Together these artists create a unique sound—a sort of swamp country swirled with gypsy jazz, all wrapped in the musical aura of Memphis.
Anvils and anchors—those relationships that tie us down, but also bind us to love, to others and to ourselves—are the literal themes of this album. It kicks off hard with a LaVere original, “Killing Him,” with Amy’s at-once childlike and weathered voice telling a tale of homicidal passion as the singer, after murdering her lover, keeps repeating “killing him didn’t make the love go away,” over and over, as a near mantra of devotion. Based on a news clip LaVere saw about a woman who murdered her husband of 30 years, the song rides on a swampy bass & drum line through which Furgo weaves dark ribbons of gypsy violin to create a spooky feel of inevitability and regret. LaVere and Furgo later combine in teasing Memphis Queen Carla Thomas’ song “The Beat” into a ragged tango, played out walking down a lonesome highway where the singer, rejected by her lover and “lost in a trance,” begins to hear the song of her own two feet, the possibility of an unrealized steadiness in her life—as they sound the strange beat of striding a now empty road. Alcohol, another well documented anvil and anchor of country songs (especially) is addressed head-on in Paul Taylor’s “Pointless Drinking,” where the firmly hit notes of a gospel piano lead into a poignantly frank admission that “I’m not an actor, but I act like I am…pretending my days hold the value of gold, when they only hold one thing, and it’s all that I’ve got…pointless drinking.”
Yet, just as all sounds lost, LaVere hits us with the sweetly tender “Tennessee Valentine,” a classic country waltz, all romantic violins and smooth pedal steel, in which the singer is dancing under the moon with her lover and kissing beneath the pines—“you hold the key to my melody, a song that is just you and me.” And further on, near the album’s close, she has us contemplate in the mischievous and sly “Cupid’s Arrow” a situation in which the singer discovers Cupid’s bow and arrow in a general store “full of nothing I was there for.” She exchanges one of her songs, which she has saved in her pocket, for the bow and arrow, then heads to the town park to practice her aim. When she gets really good, the singer goes hunting for a lover who had “hurt her long ago,” intending to send a bolt flying towards his heart. But, ruing her ideas of “revenge and redemption” and realizing she could never “kill him all alone”—that even that would not make the love go away—she winds up returning the bow and arrow to the store, getting back “this song”—the price of their purchase in the first place.
Fittingly, Anchors & Anvils closes with a Bob Dylan song. Seldom are other artists able to bring enough of themselves to a Dylan song to make it their own. Here, Amy LaVere does just that with the wistful and delicate “I’ll Remember You.” Dylan’s bitter-sweet lyrics of a long ago lover, sung by LaVere as part regret and part fragile affirmation, close this album perfectly; “Though I’d never say that I’d done it the way that you’d have liked me to…in the end, my dear sweet friend, I’ll remember you.”
Made For Music
Amy LaVere also finds time for Hollywood, Sun Studios
from Creative Loafing: March 5, 2008
by Jeff Hahne
Music runs through Amy LaVere’s veins. You can hear the passion she has for it in her voice. She even finds time when she’s not performing to give tours at Sun Studios in Memphis—for the money, but also for the enjoyment.
Acting? Sure, why not throw that into the mix, as well. “I love acting, but I started playing in my first band when I was 14 and fell in love with that type of performance,” she says by phone from a Vietnamese restaurant in Memphis. “I’ve done a couple of bit parts that will turn up at film festivals this year, but I haven’t really had time to really pursue acting.”
The roles she has taken so far—small parts in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line and the Samuel L. Jackson/Christina Ricci movie Black Snake Moan included—have found her while her focus remains music. “Either of those professions takes so much energy, you have to choose one,” she says. “I enjoy both a lot and I wouldn’t turn down a great part, but as far as searching for an agent and jockeying for a great role—I don’t have the energy to put into that.”
She says it’s not a stretch to think of doing both because she views each as a form of artistic expression. When you look at the Hollywood list of those in both fields, it can take a while to find them all—Billy Bob Thornton, Jared Leto, Juliette Lewis, Keanu Reeves, Jack Black, Kevin Bacon, Jada Pinkett Smith, Russell Crowe, Jamie Foxx and the list goes on ...
“I’m not an actor, but I act like I am/ I really am awful, but I act like I’m not,” she sings on “Pointless Drinking.” Though the song is actually written by her drummer, Paul Taylor, LaVere says she relates to the lyrics. “I begged and begged to record that song because I related to it so well,” she says.
LaVere’s second album, last year’s Anchors & Anvils, showcases her sweet, high-pitched vocals over a mix of music that lies somewhere in the middle of jazz, country and swing. While the album has a few guest spots taken up by Jimbo Mathus of the Squirrel Nut Zippers and legendary producer Jim Dickinson, her touring band remains a trio.
“When we scale down to a three piece—which is how I’ve always played live—it has a lot more energy and punch,” LaVere says. “The three-piece becomes a little bit more aggressive.”
It’s hard to imagine that the soft vocal stylings of LaVere were initially honed in the punk outfit Last Minute. “I fronted a band and flailed my arms and screamed,” she says. “It was probably more of a teen angst band instead of what people think of when you hear punk band. It was definitely some sort of strange.”
While she doesn’t like to limit herself by a particular genre, she says that the music records is the right fit for the moment. “I’m not as angry as I was when I was 15 years old,” LaVere says, “but I’m also not as content and relaxed as I was when I recorded Anchors & Anvils.”
Her first album, ‘06s This World is Not My Home, is looked at as a good representation of her at that time and she says she doesn’t like or dislike it when compared to her more recent effort. The only thing that has changed is the energy that comes forth when performing those songs when compared to the energy you have to find when creating music in a studio.
She’s tried to tour consistently over the last year and recently made their first trip to London. With any luck, she’ll wrap up a third album this year and release it early in 2009.
“I’m moving in a more aggressive direction,” LaVere says. “I’m obsessed with (working on it). If you asked me last month, I would have said it’s going to be a band record as a three-piece to represent what we’re doing live. This week, I’m thinking more about a random instrument that I’d like to hear on a given song and would encompass more than a three-piece. I’m still developing it in my mind, I suppose.”
Amy LaVere will perform at The Milestone on March 6 with The Bittersweets and Andy the Doorbum. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 on the day of the show.
Guitarist Displays Virtuosity
from Deseret Morning News: February 23, 2008
by Edward Reichel
The Iranian-born guitarist put her remarkable talent on display Thursday. While she does perform a good deal of contemporary works (and also commissions composers to write for her), Afshar’s program consisted of 19th and 20th century lyrical pieces that showcased her amazing musicality and wonderfully nuanced expressive playing.
In putting together a program, a guitarist in large part can choose either to play music by Spanish composers or transcriptions of keyboard works.
Lily Afshar chose the former for her recital Thursday night in Libby Gardner Concert Hall. Although there were a couple of transcriptions on her program, as well as a piece by an Italian, Afshar stayed true to the general theme of her concert — presenting an evening of wide-ranging pieces by Spanish and Latin American composers.
The Iranian-born guitarist put her remarkable talent on display Thursday. While she does perform a good deal of contemporary works (and also commissions composers to write for her), Afshar’s program consisted of 19th and 20th century lyrical pieces that showcased her amazing musicality and wonderfully nuanced expressive playing.
And in several of the works on the program, the sizable audience in attendance also got an impressive glimpse of her stunning virtuosity. Without any doubt, Afshar ranks in the top among today’s classically trained guitarists.
The one non-Spanish composer on the program, Carlo Domeniconi, was represented with a Middle Eastern inspired piece, “Koyunbaba” (“The Shepherd” in Turkish). Domeniconi spends part of his time in Turkey, and the four-movement piece is a delightful blend of Western and Eastern sonorities and harmonies.
The last two movements in particular were wonderfully played, with Afshar bringing out the eloquent lyricism of the third and the restless energy of the fourth . The finale certainly tests the mettle of the guitarist. And Afshar gave a forcefully dynamic performance. Her playing was spectacular in the manner in which she conveyed the movement’s hushed intensity and ceaseless drive.
The concert opened and closed with the only transcriptions on the program, both from piano pieces by Isaac Albeniz — the wistful “Mallorca” and the impassioned “Sevilla,” one of the composer’s most famous works, both of which Afshar played with profound expression.
Perhaps the most evocative piece on Thursday’s concert was the “Invocation and Dance” by Joaquin Rodrigo. An homage to Manuel de Falla, who was a close friend of Rodrigo’s, the piece incorporates quotes from de Falla’s ballet “El Amor Brujo,” which lends an air of mystery to the work. And Afshar gave a wonderfully compelling reading that captured the piece’s mystique.
Also on the program were sets of South American ballads and dances. Among the composers represented in these pieces, the Cuban-born Leo Brouwer and the Brazilian Egberto Gismonti are probably the best known. Their pieces were played with sensual lyricsm by Afshar.
Rounding out the concert was music by Agustin Barrios Mangore and Francisco Tarrega, whose tender “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” was given a gorgeous reading.
Afshar also played a couple of encores — two captivating Persian folk ballads in her own transcription.
Guitarist Shines With Skill. Warmth
from Salt Lake Tribune: February 23, 2008
by Katherine Reese Newton
Listening to Lily Afshar play Thursday night in Libby Gardner Concert Hall was like hanging out listening to a friend play guitar in the living room - if your friend happened to be one of the world’s best guitarists.
Afshar’s friendly, relaxed manner endeared her to her Virtuoso Series listeners, even as her seemingly effortless command of the instrument captivated them. In lieu of printed program notes, she introduced each piece from the stage, which she shared with a lovely floral arrangement roughly as big as she was.
The acoustic environment of Libby Gardner leaves no room for error. This was no problem for Afshar, who spun out intricate musical lines cleanly and with rich nuance. Even the quietest pianissimo registered decisively.
The Iranian-born guitarist displayed impressive range in a program composed primarily of Spanish and Latin American music from the 19th and 20th centuries. There were the picturesque, nostalgic “Mallorca” by Isaac Albéniz and “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” by Francisco Tarrega, a pair of delicate waltzes by Paraguayan composer Agustin Barrios Mangore and a sunny, carefree set of South American dances from Venezuela and Argentina. Three pieces by Cuban composer Leo Brouwer and one by Brazil’s Egberto Gismonti further showcased Afshar’s versatility; Brouwer’s “Danza del Altiplano” featured some delightful percussive passages.
Afshar’s knack for voice leading was especially apparent in Joaquín Rodrigo’s “Invocation and Dance,” whose distinct melodic lines played out in an appealing narrative.
She stepped off the Latin path with “Koyunbaba (Shepherd)” by Carlo Domeniconi, an Italian composer who spends part of the year teaching in Turkey. It was a delicious mix of Eastern and Western flavors.
Afshar played two of her transcriptions of Persian folk songs, encompassing an intriguing range of timbres, as an encore.
from Home of the Groove Audioblog: February 10, 2008
by Dan Phillips
The Grip, Grab This Thing (Archer Records, 2007) - OK. I’m going outside the concept here to plug an EP that some friends of mine in Memphis are involved in. It’s a side project that has taken on a life of its own. When these guys weren’t playing in their regular bands, they started gigging on a weeknight at a sidestreet club in Midtown Memphis called the Buccaneer Lounge. Calling themselves, The Grip, and using assumed (amused?) names, they began to groovilate on hot instrumental boogaloo music as a fourpiece: organ, drums, tenor sax, and guitar. And they are still at it, as time permits. Last year, they put out this short CD, plus a 45 (!), on Archer Records, Memphis’ best independent label.
Written by keyboardist Al Gamble, “Tutwiler” is a cookin’ funk boogie near to my heart, as that is the name of the street I lived on in Memphis before I moved to Louisiana. It reminds me of the many cool instrumentals Al and saxman Art Edmaiston used to write when they were playing in the Gamble Brothers Band full time. Both Art and Grip drummer, George Sluppick, tour with JJ Grey and MOFRO these days. George is a fine Memphis funk player who has done duty in the past with Albert King and Robert Walter’s 20th Congress. Rounding out the basic ensemble with heat and taste, is guitarist Joe Restivo. They were joined in the studio by Marc Franklin on trumpet and trombone, and Andy Oltremari on congas, who further intensified the sound.
The rest of the tunes on the CD are well-chosen covers, ranging from the Mar-Keys title track to Prince and….Ennio Morricone. You read me right. All of the band’s material has the spirit and feel of the cool organ combo stuff from that time around 40 years back when R&B, funk and jazz were first mixing it up. But The Grip still keep it soundng fresh. I have yet to hear them live, but it’ll happen, believe me. On the back of the CD it says “Volume One”. So, I’m looking forward to the next installment already. Make it soon, fellas.
from St. Louis Post-Dispatch: January 28,2008
by Sarah Bryan Miller
If you’ve ever wondered how good traditional Persian songs might sound when arranged for the six-string Spanish guitar, the answer is, “Very.”
Iranian-born guitarist Lily Afshar proved it Saturday night to an enthusiastic crowd — loaded with home folks and guitar aficionados — at the Ethical Society. Presented by the ever-imaginative St. Louis Classical Guitar Society, Afshar’s recital was further proof that there’s more to the world of classical guitar writing than the usual Spanish suspects.
Some works on the program were arranged by Afshar; others were commissioned by her. Her instrument has been adapted with some short frets in order to accommodate the playing of the quartertones that are a part of the Persian musical tradition. “If you hear what sound like wrong notes,” she cautioned, “they’re not.”
Afshar, a striking figure with dark hair and in a black dress heavily embroidered at the neck, cuffs and hem, gave informative, humorous spoken program notes and played with terrific technical skill and a real feel for the expectations of the music worlds she explored in miniature.
That was true both of the Persian and Turkish tunes, and of the more conventional Spanish and South American pieces on the program. Afshar also performed an ancient Persian folk song, “Morgh-eh-Sahar (Bird of Dawn)” on the traditional three-stringed Persian lute, the seh-tar.
That and the guitar piece that followed, “Fantasia on ‘Bird of Dawn,’” by Garry Eister, which explored the tune in imaginative fashion, were highlights of the program. So were the intricate Turkish dance tune “Kara Toprak (Black Earth)” and the Persian love song that was Afshar’s encore. (“Ohhhh!” said all the Iranians in the audience when she announced the title, and then snapped their fingers in time to the music.)