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Jon Langford: Welsh Punk Explores the Soul of the South
(image) Recently I spoke with Jon Langford, founding member of the punk/post-punk British group the Mekons, not to mention other, more country-influenced bands like the Waco Brothers and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, about his latest project, Four Lost Souls. With their debut album out just a few weeks ago, they'll be playing at the Stax Museum on Monday, and, as it turns out, bringing a bit of the Muscle Shoals sound back to Memphis. He had some thoughtful words about working in the South, and writing about the region for this new album.

Memphis Flyer: How did the Four Lost Souls come about?
Jon Langford: Well the story of the album initially is that I did some work for the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. And they just asked me to do a painting to illustrate that exhibit they had: Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City. That exhibit wasn't really about Dylan and Cash. It was about honoring all those guys who were the session musicians, and made such a contribution in the sixties. And kind of reviving the history, so it showed how, you know, the myth is that Dylan went down there and turned all these guys on to the kinda hip new ways, but he went down there because those guys were already hip.

One of the guys was Norbert Putnam, who was in the original Muscle Shoals rhythm section, and then moved up with David Briggs to Nashville, and he was one of the people they honored at the exhibit. He had subsequently moved back to Muscle Shoals and he was in the same hotel as me. The weird thing was, I did the illustrations for the show, and then they asked me if I'd be interested in singing at the opening ceremony. So I was like, "Yeah, I'll do that!" Ha ha.

So they flew me down, put us in a hotel, and Norbert was in the same hotel. And he played bass for me, and David Briggs played piano. Lloyd Green played steel guitar. Mac Gayden and Wayne Moss played guitar. Randy McCormick played harmonica. It was ... I felt a little humbled by the whole experience, but afterwards I had a drink with Norbert and he said, "You should come down to Muscle Shoals and make an album. In fact what he said was, 'You sing like a pirate,' is what he said.

And I said 'What would I do in Muscle Shoals?' and kinda went away and thought about it. And I told Tawny Newsome about it, whose been singing with me with Skull Orchard for quite a while. And then we'd been plotting on doing something with her friend Bethany Thomas as well. And it seemed to fit: to go down to Muscle Shoals and do a project which addressed sort of our love and disdain for the South. You know, love the culture, hate the history, sort of thing. Bethany knew a guitar player named John Szymanski, and I gave her the 'pirate songs', she took them away and poked them with a long stick to see if there was anything there...

Also, John Semansky is incredibly physically attractive, so we thought we should get him in the band as well.
So the four of us went to Muscle Shoals. Norbert said he'd put the band together. So then we took Pete Finney, since he was kind of a common link, since he knew Norbert, and he was involved in the exhibit at the CMHOF. So it was kind of a Chicago/Nashville/Muscle Shoals conglomerate in the end. But we had David Hood playing the bass. Initially, I thought Norbert was gonna play the bass, but he goes, 'No I think I'll just produce; I'll get David Hood to play the bass.' Which was pretty wild, considering the number of records I have with David Hood on them.

Was the songwriting collaborative?
Yeah, the concepts for the songs... A lot of the lyrics were written when I was in Nashville. And that was around the time I met Norbert and I thought maybe I should do this, and if I do this, what would it be about? I sort of thought it should be about my relationship with the South. I've been traveling quite a bit in the South. I go to New Orleans a lot. I go to Nashville quite a lot also. I've gone to Oxford, MS a few times and I had some thoughts about that place. You know, I live in Chicago, which is a very different vibe, politically. And it was interesting to think about what attracted me to America in the first place, why I ended up in America. The culture and all that music that I love, rock and roll music, jazz, and blues and country music. All that stuff came out of the South, you know. And then finding out that the South is kind of the bloody terrible history. What's the right word? I have an ambivalent relationship with the South. It's not really ambivalent, it's like something more extreme. Sort of a love hate relationship. But you can't have one without the other. And I was trying to write songs about that. The dark history. I was writing them while that kind of Trump thing was brewing up, but I didn't think he'd actually become elected. But, and then the week we went down, the songs were finished and we were going to go and record them. And he got elected. It was kind of like, "Wow." In the months since that, in the year since that, we've seen the fucking, you know, all the graves opened and all the zombies crawl out, so I just ... it's pretty, I don't know, it makes the album quite pertinent to me.

I'm glad I wrote it when I did. I'm glad we were doing it before the election, put the songs together, rather than afterwards.

So it was almost serendipity that you were going into the darker themes of the South just as...
Yeah, they were unavoidable for me on one level, but then, I don't know. I might have been, if I'd written stuff after the Trump election it might have been just too obsessed with him or something. And I think, frankly, he's just a symptom of an underlying rot that's going on in this country. Where the weight of money and consolidation of money and power that institutions obviously can't even really withstand. So...we don't really live in a democracy anymore. And what we do live in is gonna get worse and worse for all the normal people. He's just a symptom of that. But the history of the South is like, it's very telling, his unwillingness to denounce the KKK and white supremacists. I talk about Confederate Statues in the songs, and the fact that he thinks, "They take down Robert E. Lee, what are they gonna do next, take down George Washington?" The Union actually won the Civil War, and you have a president that doesn't actually know that. You know, it's like we lost. Ha ha. You'd never know it now, would you? It's just a big national misunderstanding and now it's all resolved! And the South won!

Musically I find the album really interesting. Getting back to the positive qualities of the South. I'm hearing a lot of Percy Sledge, kind of country soul.
Right. Well, that's Muscle Shoals, mate! Yeah, I was conscious of that, and I think we all wanted it to not be some sort of imitation, like a tribute band thing, but just to take those influences on board, and it's kind of inevitable if you have David Hood playing. Things were gonna go in that direction. But Bethany and John took the songs early on, they took them away, and when they brought 'em back it was a very subtle push in that direction. It's a direction old Welsh punk rockers don't go too often!

Four Lost Souls play with guest Norbert Putnam at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music on Monday, Oct. 16 at 7:00 pm. Free, but tickets are required.
Jeffrey and the Pacemakers: A Decade of Beat Boom
(image) "Come listen to my jingle jangle," sang the Troggs, as they rode the wave of the Beat Boom, a U.K. term for the explosion of post-Beatles bands in the '60s. In the U.S. it was called an invasion, and that may be more appropriate. If "boom" implies a passing fad, an invasion implies someone coming to stay. And the Beatles and their ilk certainly did that. They still occupy a place in our collective consciousness. Yet it's rare to find bands nowadays who recreate that jingle jangle faithfully.

At least, it's rare in other cities. For the past decade, Memphis has been lucky enough to host a band dedicated to that sound. This month, Jeffrey and the Pacemakers turn ten, and there are many ways to celebrate. They play Newby's October 8th, then head back to their familiar spot at Lafayette's Music Room on the 22nd, where they rather tend to pack the house. And no wonder, offering as they do the true sound of classic gear (it's gear!) as played by the Fabs, right down to the Vox amps. Beyond that, the band have the parts down to a T, and sing some mean harmonies. With bandleader Jeff Golightly bringing a bit of the new wave energy of his '80s band, the Crime, it adds up to a contagious sound.

But if your dance card is full on those nights, there's still hope: WYPL, the TV station headquartered in the basement of the Benjamin L. Hooks Library, just recorded a full set of the Pacemakers for their ever-popular Dialogue with Willie Bearden. A party atmosphere pervaded the studio halls as the band, in full Brit regalia, was joined by a gaggle of dancers and hoopers who could have been right out of Top of the Pops. With the wine flowing and the cameras rolling, one couldn't help imagining the scene from Hard Day's Night where the little clean old man rises up through the trap door in the stage. Watch for the segment to air in November.

Ponderosa Stomp Recap: 24 Hours in NOLA
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Although Ponderosa Stomp, the New Orleans-based love letter to lesser-known soul, blues, rockabilly, and garage artists, was cut short by the fizzled Hurricane Nate, the festival was hopping last Friday. Many of the performers and audience alike stayed at the Ace Hotel, where the daytime hours were filled with panel discussions and interviews as part of the event's Music History Conference. While vinyl junkies perused the record bins in a side room, and that evening's bands rehearsed in a closed space near the lobby, hundreds more filed through the hotel's main event hall to hear some history.

For those eager to hear personal tales of the music world, it was an embarrassment of riches. An early highlight was the panel dedicated to the late Billy Miller, visionary co-founder of Norton records. The label has released many Memphis treasures, from archival re-issues of rockabilly and Big Star to more recent works by the Reigning Sound. Miller passed away last year at the young age of 62, making this memorial panel an emotional one. His wife and partner, Miriam Linna, said that she was especially proud of his last labor of love, a collection of lost Dion tracks from 1965. The panel was moderated by the unflappable Michael Hurtt, of Royal Pendletons fame, also a musicologist in his own right.

Another Memphis panel featured Reggie Young, guitarist extraordinaire with Hi Records and American Studios. Young was not in the best health, but certainly of sound mind and body as he exchanged comments with moderator Red Kelly on the landmark singles and albums of his career, beginning with his first encounter with Jack Clement and Bill Black at the Memphis “Home for Incurables” in the 1950s. The success of the Bill Black Combo (who were known to wear “BBC” suit coats) led to tours with the Beatles, Kinks, and Yardbirds. When Kelly cued up James Carr's “The Dark End of the Street,” featuring Young's guitar work, the crowd gave the record a standing ovation. Similarly, upon hearing just the guitar break in Joe Tex's “Skinny Legs and All,” the crowd once again rose to applaud. Young also recalled taking a lunch break while recording with King Curtis. At the local diner, Curtis picked up a menu and began riffing on menu items in musical terms, including some “boiling Memphis guitar.” The group loved it so much, they skipped lunch and returned to the studio to cut “Memphis Soul Stew.”

Another fine panel tied to Memphis was Andria Lisle's discussion with Carla and Vaneese Thomas. They recounted their early love of the Teen Town Singers, and the pride they felt when Dave Clark, being dubbed “The World's Oldest Teenager” at an award ceremony, turned to kneel before Rufus Thomas as he looked on, saying that honor could only go to him. Carla also recalled writing songs just for fun as a teen, as her father recorded on a home reel-to-reel tape deck. One of these was a little tune called “Gee Whiz (Look at his Eyes),” the recording of which Rufus took down to Stax on a whim, launching her career.

When dusk settled on the Crescent City, festival goers migrated over to the Orpheum to see that evening's full roster of bands. It all kicked off with Billy Boy Arnold, who delivered a soft-spoken “I Wish You Would,” along with other blues. A swamp pop revue followed, featuring T.K. Hulin and G.G. Shinn, and the latter's “Harlem Shuffle” was galvanizing. Some fine, funky soul followed with Warren Storm and Willie West, but it was Winfield Parker who really brought the house down with his voice, an under-appreciated treasure of the soul genre.

It should be noted that a perplexing audio mix plagued much of the night, but every performer rose above it with aplomb. Barbara Lynn, a Stomp regular by now, was in fine voice and demonstrated some sublime guitar work. Archie Bell whipped the house into a frenzy, both with his “Tighten Up” and the lesser-known “Strategy,” which had him screaming “I'm soaking wet! I'm soaking wet” at the song's climactic chorus, perhaps in sympathy with the Gulf Coast being on the receiving end of Hurricane Nate.

Roy Head carried on over the full horn section rave up during “Treat Her Right,” another Stomp favorite. And then came the abrupt shift to cajun stomping music with Doug Kershaw, who was a little out of it, but sang with gusto every word of his hit that he could recall. “He’s got Muskrat hides hanging by the dozens/ Even got a lady Mink, a Muskrat’s cousin/ Got ‘em out drying in the hot, hot sun/ Tomorrow papa’s gonna turn ‘em into money.” It had the floor shaking with knee-slapping joy, and Kershaw's freestyle fiddling over the chord changes made the band sound almost psychedelic.

But the psychedelia was just beginning. Roky Erickson, who's reprise of 13th Floor Elevators cuts has been known to be spotty at other festivals, was completely on point this night, and the band supported him mightily. The chemistry in this band led “Dr. Ike,” festival organizer Ira Padnos, to exclaim that it was the closest thing he could imagine to seeing the Elevators themselves.

Finally, show closers the Gories hit the stage fast and furious, building a glorious wall of noise with minimalist, primitivist swagger. Again, the ferocious music rose above the sound mix and the house was gyrating to Mick Collins' blasts of noise guitar, soaring over the wiry groove of guitarist Dan Kroha and drummer Peggy O'Neill. For those Memphians who have long adulated this stunning band, it was a fine, gritty apotheosis to the night and the perfect melding of R&B, blues, punk, and unclassifiable parts and grease off the garage floor.

Alas, though Nate was a fizzle in the Big Easy the next day, a city curfew forced the cancellation of the second night's show. Although there was an impromptu concert in the Ace Hotel on Saturday afternoon, this did not include performances by Don Bryant or the Thomas sisters. Indeed, the Bo-Keys, crack soul band of the current era in Memphis music, didn't even make it to New Orleans due to bad weather or the threat of it.
Art of Science Call for Entries


It's about that time of year, everyone! The Art of Science 2018 Call for Entries is here and we're eager for you to apply! The deadline for submissions is October 18, 2017. Get your application here: https://mca.formstack.com/forms/artofscience 

This year's exhibit will take place at Memphis College of Art's Rust Hall in Overton Park on February 22-April 18, 2018. The reception will be March 3, 2018. 


Feel free to send any questions to artofsciencememphis@gmail.com and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. We’re happy to help! 

Art of Science, Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, and University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) will be pairing local artists with medical research scientists and doctors from across Memphis. Art of Science 2018 will be the sixth exhibit of its kind. Our hope is that together, scientists and artists will create work that introduces new audiences to the science that is saving children's lives everyday here in Memphis. Researchers at Le Bonheur and UTHSC not only strive to prevent and cure childhood illnesses, but are also making discoveries that can improve the health and well-being of all Memphians. By making art inspired by their research, AOS artists create unique portals that enable viewers to peer inside the laboratories of these renowned facilities. In the exhibit, scientific images and original interpretive artworks will hang side by side. 

Applications can be submitted here: https://mca.formstack.com/forms/artofscience. Our submission deadline is October 18, 2017. Please feel free to email us any questions at artofsciencememphis@gmail.com. 

Please help us spread the message! We hope to hear from you soon!


Local Talent
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Local Talent
October 6 - November 7
Marshall Arts

ARTISTS

DAN BALL 

J. RAYMOND MIRELES 
BIRDCAP / MICHAEL ROY 

TARRIK MOORE 
DWAYNE BUTCHER 

GREELY MYATT
GENE DUNCAN III 

JACK ROBINSON
PINKNEY HERBERT 

JASON STOUT
JED JACKSON 

JADE THIRAWAS
DICK KNOWLES 

LANCE TURNER
JOHNNY LOWEBOW 

DENISE WAKEMAN
LAWRENCE MATTHEWS 

NILES WALLACE
LESTER MERRIWEATHER

PIXY YIJUN LIAO 
JASON MILLER
Juilliard String Quartet to Perform
(image) A collaboration and the Juilliard String Quartet.

Almost every time the Memphis Chamber Music Society presents a concert, it's in the landmark home of someone who volunteers to open their doors to a few dozen classical music lovers. It's been that way for 29 years, but this Sunday, there will be that rare exception when the Juilliard String Quartet will perform Sunday, October 15th at 3 p.m. at the Clark Opera Memphis Center.

You can attribute that to a collaboration between two presenters: the Society and the similarly chamber-oriented Concerts International (CI) organization. CI has been around longer — in its 45th year — and offers five or six concerts a year of ensembles with a global reputation, mostly at the University of Memphis. The Chamber Music Society presents nine concerts a year and typically draws from regional musicians who are often with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra or faculty at schools and colleges.

Marsha Evans, founder and artistic director of the Chamber Music Society, says her organization came about somewhat by accident. "I was teaching at Rhodes College and had formed a trio with violinist Max Huls and cellist Linda Minke. We needed a place to do our run-through the evening before our opening night debut."

It happened that William R. Eubanks, the noted interior designer, was glad to have the performance in his posh home, which included a nine-foot piano. "We played the concert to about 60 people," Evans says. "It turned out to be a big hit, and people started calling Bill and saying, 'When are you going to do it again?' That's when I realized this could be a concert series."

The first year of the series there were three concerts and they sold out right away. "The next year we increased to six," she says. "The next year we increased to nine, and that's what we're doing now."

Julie Schap, the artistic director of Concerts International, says the collaboration for this Sunday's concert came about quite naturally, although CI had first dibs on the Juilliard String Quartet for this season. Evans, at the Chamber Music Society, emailed Schap saying she was a little disappointed because she'd hoped to book the quartet, especially since cellist Astrid Schween, a favorite guest at the Society's concerts, was a new member of the group.

Schap says she told Evans that Concerts International would be glad to let the Society have the quartet. But then the two of them talked it through some more and decided a collaboration would be even better. "We have a wonderful history together," Schap says. "She coached me for my first big concert in Memphis." (Schap, a vice president at Merrill Lynch, is also an accomplished pianist.)

For Evans, this is an opportunity to have additional visibility for the Society and show more people what her passion is about. "I strive for variety," she says. "And I strive for the musicians to be thrilled with what they're playing. I try to get programs that represent the passions of the players — and then I get to pick a piece, too."

The Juilliard String Quartet's performance at the Clark Opera Memphis Center will be done in the round, Schap says, giving audience members an atypical view of the musicians — from front, side, and rear — as they perform.

It won't be quite like a concert in the intimate confines of someone's home, although some of those performances have had their unusual moments. Evans recalls that one time the Blair String Quartet was performing at a home and the resident cat managed to find its way into the event after intermission. As the violist was sawing away, the cat jumped onto his lap to general amusement and consternation. But the player kept his cool, raising his bow and raising the viola to accommodate the curious feline.

Sunday's program: Beethoven's Quartet in A Major, Op. 18, No. 5; Haydn's Quartet in D Major, Op. 76, No. 5; and Beethoven's String Quartet in E flat Major, Op. 127. Tickets are $50. Contact cimemphis.org or 527-3067. Cats not permitted.

MemphoFest debuts, nice and easy
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Saturday afternoon began with anticipation as curious music lovers trickled in to the brand spanking new MemphoFest on the expansive grounds of Shelby Farms. The day before was the first day of what organizers expect to be the first of many annual festivals, and it was blessed with good attendance, pleasant weather, and a well-organized operation.

By mid-afternoon Saturday, the crowd flow continued to increase, coming to sample two stages of sounds, including bluegrass by Devil Train, no-nonsense rock by Hard Working Americans, and the funk/steel guitar power of Robert Randolph and the Family Band, who did a tribute to the victims of the Las Vegas tragedy.

By the time Booker T. Jones settled behind his keyboard around 530 p.m., the mellow crowd was ready to soak up some Stax-flavored tunes delivered by first rate performers backing up the man who brought the world the MGs.

While the tunes of Booker T. and the MGs are ingrained in pop culture consciousness, Jones still wants to scratch that creative itch. The 1969 hit "Time is Tight" was on the MemphoFest playlist, but the very different version Saturday echoed one Jones presented five years ago at a concert with the late, lamented Opus One ensemble from the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. It began with a slow, gorgeous, and thoughtful extended prelude far different from the East McLemore original. Eventually it morphed into the recognizable hit we remember, backed at MemphoFest by a superb band, even as it was backed by an orchestra in 2012.

Next on the First Tennessee Main Stage was Steve Cropper, the only other surviving MG, who did a number with Jones and then played on with his band, including some tunes with fellow Stax star Eddie Floyd.

Other bands at MemphoFest included Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Chinese Embassy Dub Connection, Objekt 12, and Marcella and Her Lovers. Friday's lineup included Southern Avenue, Dead Soldiers, Star & Micey and Cage the Elephant.

Diego Winegardner,  the festival’s founder and the CEO of Big River Presents, which is putting on the event, was in high cotton about the way the festival was going. Discussions about doing a fall music festival at Shelby Farms got underway in earnest only about nine months ago and went into high gear in April. He says there were no surprises, due in large part to painstaking planning with Jen Andrews, executive director of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy. Security, parking, production values, and food were well thought out, he says, and of course it was nice of the weather to cooperate (rain was forecast for Saturday; didn't happen).

Paul Chandler, executive director of the Germantown Performing Arts Center, was in on the creation of MemphoFest, bringing people together. As he looked over Saturday's crowd from the Super VIP tent, he remarked that, "There's a sense of happiness and calm here, even with a band rocking out on stage."

ArtsAccelerator Grant Workshop
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ArtsAccelerator Grant Workshop
Tuesday, October 17, 6pm
Crosstown Arts
422 N Cleveland

What is ArtsAccelerator?
ArtsMemphis offers five $5,000 ArtsAccelerator Grants annually to visual artists living and working in Shelby County. The ArtsAccelerator Grants are incentive grants for visual artists who are at a critical juncture in their careers and are intended to deepen and expand artistic work to advance the grant recipient’s artistic accomplishments. The ArtsAccelerator Program supports artists working in any media, including painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, installation art, performance art, video art, or social practice

https://www.artsmemphis.org/artsaccelerator-grants

ArtsAccelerator Grant Workshop
Crosstown Arts: 430 N. Cleveland, Memphis, TN 38104

Hustle: Apply to ArtSpace & ArtsAccelerator

The fall season comes with arts opportunities! Get all the details on how to apply for affordable housing for artists (right here and Memphis!). ArtsMemphis will have all the details on applying for a $5,000 ArtsAccelerator Grant. There is no better time to be an artist in Memphis.

Hustle: professional development for artists is a free program organized by ArtsMemphis, UrbanArt Commission, and Crosstown Arts.
Le Monster Returns! Don't Miss Le Monster, Part Boo

Le Monster Returns: MCA Artists Bring Le Bonheur Patient Drawings to Life
Exhibit on View from Oct 7 – Nov 4 with Monster-themed Reception on Oct 28
After its enormously successful inaugural Le Monster exhibit last fall, MCA and Le Bonheur collaborate again to bring the community Le Monster, Part Boo. In this whimsical exhibit, MCA’s community of students, faculty, and staff have reimagined drawings of monsters originally created by the hospital’s child patients.
The project aligned with Le Bonheur’s Child Life “Art Cart” program over the summer, which gave patients the option of expressing themselves by drawing a monster. Some patients drew interpretations of their favorite classic monsters and villains, while others produced original creations ranging from scary and silly, to benevolent and bizarre.
The MCA community of artists then selected from among the 125 monster drawings and reimagined the monsters in their own styles and in various media, including drawings, paintings, sculpture, sewn fabric creations, collages, digitally created images, metal structures and wood-turned figures. The project was proposed by MCA Associate Professor Michele Noiset after being inspired by The Monster Project, an international program in which artists from around the world reinterpret children’s original artwork.
“We’re thrilled to have so many students, faculty, and local creatives participate. Funlola Coker, Lisa Tribo, Veda Reed, and Haley Morris-Cafiero will all be making monsters for the exhibit,” says MCA Gallery, Exhibit, and Lecture Coordinator, Melissa Farris, who is also creating a monster this year.
Photos of in-process and completed work may be found online through the event’s work-in-progress Facebook page.
A family-friendly, monster-themed celebration of the exhibition will take place on Saturday, Oct. 28 from 6–9 p.m. in the Main Gallery of Rust Hall in Overton Park. Guests are encouraged to wear costumes or monster-themed attire. Attendees have the opportunity to meet the MCA artists, view the original artwork, and purchase selected works. All proceeds benefit the artist directly, Memphis College of Art’s Scholarship Fund, and Le Bonheur’s Child Life Program.
Le Monster is one of many exhibitions that MCA hosts for the community every year. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday noon–5 p.m., and Saturday noon–7 p.m. All MCA exhibitions and receptions are free and open to the public.
James Hunter
(image) Talking Junior Wells and the roots of soul.

If you're new to the James Hunter Six, you're in for a treat this Saturday. The group is perhaps England's best-kept secret here in the South, though they're Grammy nominees whose last record was with the venerable U.S.-based Daptone Records. Like most Daptone acts, Hunter's group has learned the lessons of classic soul well, with a taut, groovy sound anchored in '60's R&B that matches the wry wit of his lyrics and heartfelt catch in his voice.

Memphis Flyer: I reckon everyone in the band is quite a soul fan.

James Hunter: It's really a mixed lot. Their tastes are very eclectic. Each one of us is into different stuff. It kind of helps that each one brings his own vibe to the music. It stops it from getting too purist and train-spottery. You know? It can sometimes turn into a stuffed museum piece. It's meant to be music that's alive and evolving. When people start trying to maintain daft notions of purity and all that, it turns into something like the heritage industry. You kill something and stuff it in order to preserve it. I've never gone along with that.

Have you ever felt in danger of doing that?

No, we've always been shy of that kind of thing. That's why we're always quite shy of terms like "retro" or "authenticity" and that kind of stuff. It's not even genre bound. We just call it music, really. If we have to put it under a label, we call it soul, but that's just for convenience really. As Peter Cook once said, "The Americans have their soul singers, and we English have our-soul singers [laughing]." (Note: this sounds hilarious if one knows about arses).

Well, the Beatles and bands in their wake did have a lot of soul ...

Yeah, it's a bit of a tradition for us British to come empty your dustbin and present the contents back to you.

It's rather fitting you were "discovered" by Van Morrison.

Yeah! I remember the day. He said, "Oh, there you are!"

Is that an ongoing collaboration?

It was ongoing, but then it stopped! He had this Blues and Soul Revue that I was in. So I met people like Junior Wells through him. ... You know Junior Wells, he's a bit out of your area. He's one of them Northerners, isn't he?

Right, out of Chicago.

I don't suppose you talk to those Northern Herberts, do you?

Well, I'm from Nebraska myself.

Don't worry, we can still be friends. I'm from Colchester; that's nothing to boast about.

Right, right, the one-time capital.

It was! When it was still the Roman Empire. We still have the Roman influence. I mean, Christianity never took on in Colchester. But to our credit, we stopped throwing Christians to the lions in about 1948.

Now, that's progress.

Well, it was the cruelty to animals people that put a stop to that.

So who are some of your earliest heroes who inspired you to play?

The 5 Royales and Johnny Guitar Watson, people like that. Lou Johnson. And as far as writers go, it was Leiber and Stoller, Smokey Robinson, Allen Toussaint. All the people who were really literary. Because you know, Ray Charles and James Brown wrote their own stuff, but you wouldn't really call them writers in a literary sense. Whereas people like Sam Cooke were. Ray Charles and James Brown just wrote when they made a record. They were almost more producers, weren't they?

Speaking of Ray Charles, your lyrical approach and R&B feel reminds me of Percy Mayfield, who wrote for Charles. Are you familiar with his stuff?

Oh yeah! Yes, he was a helluva writer, wasn't he? I mean, sort of morose ...

"Life Is Suicide" and things like that.

I suppose I have more kinship with him. I mean the sweetness of Smokey Robinson kind of eludes me, as it were. As much as I admire it, I can't duplicate it, but I'm much more ... if you want a slightly more sour vision, I guess that'd be me.

The James Hunter Six play the Buckman Performing Arts Center on Saturday, October 14th, at 8 p.m.

Freeworld: A Jam for the Ages
(image) In a town like Memphis, buzzing with so much talent that players lend their chops to multiple bands, ensembles that retain their name and personnel for many years are rare. Jeffrey and the Pacemakers, just celebrating their ten year anniversary, are notable for their longevity. Yet Freeworld leaves all the others in the dust where longevity is concerned: for 30 years, they have been a fixture on the local scene, and show no sign of slowing now.

The group was jump-started when young bassist Richard Cushing met saxophonist Herman Green back in 1986-87. The veteran jazz man, now in his 87th year, instantly took a liking to the youngster. To his credit, Green needed no coaxing to step out of his jazz/soul wheelhouse and work with a generation of players who grew up admiring the Grateful Dead or Frank Zappa. As other players were added to the line up, Freeworld grew into what one writer described as “the best of Memphis, New Orleans, and San Francisco.”

Of course, other players have circulated through the band over the decades, but the core and vision of the band has remained constant. One reason is that their particular blend of influences has played very well on Beale Street, which has served as ground zero for most of their tenure.

This week will witness celebrations of that longevity. Tonight (Wednesday), they'll be hosting a listening party for their latest album, What It Is, at Ardent Studios, where it was recorded. Dedicated to longtime drummer David Skypeck, whose ill health has interfered with his ability to play lately, the album is as tightly arranged as anything they've done, with an emphasis on their funk influences. The outliers might be the Beale St. boogie of “Another Sunday Night,” which name checks Herman Green and the street where he first played professionally; “Dinja Babe,” which evokes '70s power pop and includes Big Star's Jody Stephens on drums; and “Eve Waits,” which evokes Indian tonalities. For the most part, the group's latest dispenses with the Dead-influenced jams and conjures up more raucous nights of funk with powerful horn and synth blasts.

They've seen plenty of those, and Memphians can hear them celebrating their many years together this weekend. They'll be the featured group in the Levitt Shell's Orion Free Music Concert Series this Friday, with guest artists joining them. And the next night, they'll throw down at The Bluff on Highland, with members from every period of the band joining them onstage as the night rolls on.

The Freeworld listening party will be at Ardent Studios, tonight (Wednesday, Oct. 11) at 8:00 pm.
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