Friday, February 23, 2007

A Memphis Weekend

A Big Memphis Weekend

Throughout the calendar year, Memphis has a handful of weekends when everything happens at once. Memphis in May is an obvious one, when the month long festival peaks with the International BBQ Contest and Beale Street Music fest. Southern Heritage Classic Weekend is also a big event in the Bluff City as it falls on the same weekend as the Cooper-Young Festival, a 3-mile neighborhood street fair in arguably the coolest part of Midtown.

And then there are weekends like this weekend, when the soul of Memphis shakes off the past few months of cold weather (it should hit 70 this weekend!) and decides to throw down.

The first event to kick the pig was last night's Memphis premier of Craig Brewer's new film, Black Snake Moan, which was, in the humble opinion of this blogger, fantastic. The locals-only crowd made it a homecoming for Brewer who told the two packed theaters that this was the film's most important screening.

The annual Folk Alliance conference, however, will dominate the rest of the weekend. An international gathering held each February, the conference is, according to Folk Alliance's website: "the annual town hall of the folk community. Nearly 2000 members of Folk Alliance attend each year to conduct business and connect with their peers. What this means is that Downtown Memphis is teeming with musicians."

But events are not limited to downtown this weekend. Goner Records, in Cooper-Young, is throwing their own folk fest today at 5pm, featuring Peter Case, formerly of the Plimsouls, and Tommy Erdelyi, an ex-Ramone, and then again tomorrow with our very own Harlan T Bobo.

The Hi-Tone tonight is hosting a benefit show for a handful of local musicians trying to get to Austin next month for SXSW music conference and festival. The show is $8 and features Snowglobe, Giant Bear, Jamie Randolph and the Bloodsuckers, soul band Jump Back Jake, and Holly Cole.

For more information on these events, I recommend checking out a few local Memphis websites:

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Current State of Soul: Isaac Hayes and Willie Mitchell

In recent soul news, Isaac Hayes sold out two shows at B.B. King's Club in New York City in January. Hitting the crowd with well-known favorites, "Shaft," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Walk On By," Hayes delivered a moving performance that focused primarily on his work from the 70s, as well as a few new pieces. According to the Bergen Record, Hayes enjoyed the fact that the crowd included a great mix of fans: "It's great because the audience is black, white, young, old. It's a mix. And the show's always fresh because I'm doing it."

Walk down the street from Stax Records in Memphis and you'll find Willie Mitchell's Royal Studio. The mastermind behind Hi Records, and the sweet soul sounds of Al Green, Ann Peebles and, recently, John Mayer (one track from the Grammy Award winning "Continuum"), Willie Mitchell is entering into a joint venture with RNB Entertainment Group that will release both past records and new works from Willie's Way-Lo Records.

For a little history on Willie, click here:

Monday, February 12, 2007

"Stax Was In The House!"

Last night's Grammy's featured a serious nod to southern soul music and the Stax label with Lifetime Achievment Awards to both Estelle Axton, co-founder of Stax, and legendary house band, Booker T. and the MG's.

While I could go on an on about the evening and its significance to Memphis and this year's 50th Anniversary celebration, go check out Bob Mehr's piece in the Commercial Appeal @

Friday, February 09, 2007

Gibson Soul

The smell of freshly carved tonewoods. The incandescent flutterings of abalone and pearl inlay. Classic details of a Gibson, arguably the most famous guitar brand in music. Gibson's Memphis factory offers tours of its state-of-the art production facility, home of the revered ES series guitars, which have been played by the likes of b.B. King, Scotty Moore, Carl Perkins and Chuck Berry. But it's not just the factory that draws crowds, the Gibson Lounge does an amazing job of booking superb local and regional talent.

In recent years, Gibson has hosted such acts as Jim Dickinson, our own Amy LaVere, and a very special rooftop performance from Wilco. In the coming months, the Lounge will feature a number of soul and soul-related artists, including New Orlean pianist, Henry Butler, Soulful Sundays, a new monthly event, and The Temprees, the original Stax Records vocal groups.

For more information on these and other events, please check out our Soul Events page:

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Soul, in the Strangest Places

To visit Memphis is to be surrounded by music. Beale Street has a lot to do with this, but if you’re lucky enough to spend some time here, you come across the music that made Memphis famous in the oddest places. I bought milk one night at my local Wallgreens and they were playing a live Earth, Wind and Fire show on the PA system. Same thing at a local shoe store, an Ann Peebles record. Both times the music was played at a low level, somewhere above ambient, but it caught my attention, not because the music was great (it is), but because of the setting. Even though people weren’t dancing in the aisles, they were humming, bobbing, reaching for paper towel rolls and casual flats. This isn’t any different from any other city. People love music everywhere, but what struck me as important was how Memphis continues to celebrate this music, even in the most mundane locations.

Two of the better-known attractions in Memphis that openly celebrate this history are the Smithsonian Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

The Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum tells the complete story of Memphis music. More than a sound, Memphis music was about a movement. From the rural fields of the 1930’s, to the Sun and Stax era of the 1970’s, to its continuing influence today, the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum tells the story of the musical pioneers who overcame racial and socio-economic barriers to create the music that shook the world. With over 100 songs, the audio tour is a museum in and of itself.

Stax, on the other hand, takes an intense look at arguably the most Memphis of all Memphis music, Soul. Home to more than 2,000 cultural artifacts dating back to the 1959 launch of Stax Records—the tiny studio that somehow managed to crank out a huge catalog of hits from soul icons like Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Rufus Thomas, the Staples Singers and countless more. On the original site of Stax Records, this 17,000-square-foot museum celebrates not just the artists, but also the music that changed our culture forever.

And if the inherint drama of this museum doesn't get you, there's always Isaac Hayes’ Cadillac from the film, Shaft. I’ll write more on that later.