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Weekend Roundup 69: Steep Canyon Rangers, The Sheiks, Gregg Allman
Happy Friday and welcome to the 69th edition of my Weekend Roundup. You should probably go ahead and start hydrating now because the next three days are CHOCK FULL of shows, and you're not going to want to miss any of the action. From Gregg Allman to punk bands at Murphy's, it's a great time to be a music lover in Memphis. 

Friday, June 24th.
McStays and James, Graham Winchester, 6 p.m. at Shangri-La.

Steep Canyon Rangers, 7:30 p.m. at the Levitt Shell, free.
The Band Camino, Jet Black Alley Cat, Brothers & Co, 8 p.m. at the Hi-Tone, $10.
Deering and Down, 8 p.m. at the Galloway House, free.
Faux Killas, Leche, Borzoi, Data Drums, 10 p.m. at Murphy's, $5.

Saturday, June 25th.
Leland Sundries, 6 p.m. at Shangri-La, free.

Stax Music Academy, 7:30 p.m. at the Levitt Shell, free.
John Kilzer, Steve Selvidge, 8 p.m. at Otherlands, $5.

The Nobility, Whiskey Republic 8 p.m. at the Hi-Tone, $10.

Dead Soldiers, Dirty Streets, Crockett Hall, 8 p.m. at the Young Avenue Deli, $10.
Borgeous, 10 p.m. at the New Daisy, $15-$25.
The Sheiks, 10:30 p.m. at Bar DKDC, $7.

Sunday, June 26th.
Loveland Duren, 4 p.m. at Lafayette's Music Room.

Motel Mirrors, 4 p.m. at Loflin Yard, free.
Gregg Allman, 6 p.m. at the Memphis Botanic Garden, prices vary.
Amy Black, 10 p.m. at Lafayette's Music Room.

The Band Road
(image) The Band Camino on their recent local success.

Since forming in the summer of last year, the Band Camino has become one of the hottest acts in the city, landing gigs at Minglewood Hall, BankPlus Amphitheater, and at Beale Street Music Fest, all on the strength of their debut EP, My Thoughts on You. I caught up with the pop rock band (three of whom are full-time students at the U of M) to find out the secret to their early success. — Chris Shaw

The Memphis Flyer: You guys formed less than a year ago, but you've already played all these big-time shows. How did all that happen so fast?

Spencer Stewart (guitar, vocals): I think there's mixed explanations for each of the big shows we've played. Putting ourselves in the right places at the right time has helped a lot. A lot of it is luck, too. Somebody just happening to be in a good mood that day. It's kind of unspoken for us, but we have always had a plan in action before we put us out there.

Graham Rowell (bass): And I think it's about us actually wanting to play these shows. A lot of bands say they want to do it, but they don't actually try. We care about being as good as we can be. It's like that Rudy Gay quote, "Make your own luck."

Andrew Isbell (drums): We also had our brand kind of put together before we even started playing shows. I think that's really important, too. A lot of the higher-ups at different places started taking notice, and that helped tremendously as well.

How'd you come up with the band name?

Rowell: I just saw an El Camino and thought the word looked cool.

Stewart: We also looked up the name and saw that it meant the road or the path, and so we came up with the idea that we chose the band life.

How has the EP been received so far?

Stewart: It's been getting some great feedback on Spotify. We were on the top 50 viral songs on Spotify for days, but then bigger albums came out and we got bumped. We have about 150,000 plays in all.

Isbell: Jeffery [Jordan] also sent out a ton of emails to people at music websites, and they added us on to a few Spotify playlists, which helped tremendously.

The University of Memphis music scene has always been isolated. It's always tough to get students out to shows. Have you guys been able to do that?

Jeffery Jordan (guitar, vocals): We all have different friend groups at school, and since we all know different people, we'd just send out massive texts about an upcoming show we were playing. Now we are at the point when we don't have to text everyone anymore. People just show up whenever we play. If the songs are good enough, they will speak for themselves. I think we have more high school kids at our shows than college students, though.

Stewart: We wanted to secure Memphis before we venture out somewhere else, but there are good shows at parties here, too. We played the frat party at Sig Ep, and it was really cool. You have to convince those guys that you are cool, and you're not just some nerd who plays guitar.

You guys have already experienced all of this success on the local level. What's the goal going forward?

Jordan: I've always said that 2017 is the year we try to go big. When 2015 was ending, I said I wanted to get signed, but this year has been our building year. We've been gaining ground on Spotify, and we've been gaining a lot of new fans. We're releasing a new EP on July 1st. It still seems like it's moving really slowly, but it's really been only about nine months since all this started.

The Barbaras Rule, OK?

Welcome back to another "___ Rule(s), OK?" column. I took a break for a while, but I'm back with a new fist full of records to analyze for your reading pleasure. First up we have one of the most underrated local bands of the past 10 years: The Barbaras.

Now sure, any local jelly neck who knows where The Buccaneer or Murphy's is knows who The Barbaras were, but on a national level, The Barbaras could have easily taken over the greater indie/garage/punk/ whatever scene, but that's not the way it worked out for these glitter covered creeps.

Instead, the band is remembered by the single "Summertime Road" and the post-humous LP Barbaras 2006-2008, both of which were released on Goner Records. There are also the countless live shows that pushed the limits between music and performance art, sort of like if Richard Simmons and Pee-Wee Herman listened to Lou Christie and R. Stevie Moore and then started a band. 

The band reunited for the 'final" Hi-Tone show at the old Hi-Tone on Poplar, but with members pursuing other bands and activities, don't expect a reunion anytime soon. Listen to The Barbaras below, and recall a time when nudity, glitter, and balloons, were vital parts of the underground music scene.
Elvis Guitarist Scotty Moore Dies
(image) Scotty Moore has died. The influential Elvis Presley guitarist, and pillar of the early rock-and-roll sound was 84.
Moore was Elvis' senior by a few years and a couple of years younger than bassist Bill Black. But, to his fellow musicians, he was known as, "the old man." In a field full of flighty creative types, Moore was famously reliable and, during his tenure as Elvis' first manager, he kept photo albums filled with receipts the way other musicians collected photographs and souvenirs. It's not surprising that "the old man" would move into a management position for Fernwood Records when Elvis got the G.I. Blues for real. 
If Moore was uncommonly reliable behind the scenes, the licks he choked out of his big Gibson hollow body electric guitars were reliably hot. His unique style blended the contemporary R&B of B.B. King with hillbilly blues sounds pioneered by artists like Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams. He whisked it all together with the jazzier electric lead stylings of Nashville cat Chet Atkins. If Moore didn't really sound like any of his influences, it was close enough for rock-and-roll. 
Moore wasn't serious all the time. He sometimes joked that he was in the only band in the world conducted by the gyrations of its lead singer's backside. And for all his usual humbleness and modesty no album has ever been more perfectly named than his 1964 solo release, The Guitar that Changed the World. Elvis may have been crowned the King of Rock and Roll, but according to most accounts his highness didn't get in the way too much when Moore and Black were working out arrangements on recordings of songs like "Mystery Train," "That's Alright," and "Baby Let's Play House." 
Moore was inducted into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2015. 

Blasts of Static
(image) Fat Possum set to release Grifters albums.

Earlier this month, Fat Possum Records announced that the label would grant a long-overdue reissue campaign to the second and third Grifters full-lengths, 1993's One Sock Missing and 1994's Crappin' You Negative (title taken from one of the best lines in Raising Arizona). Both albums, along with a slew of related 7"s and an EP, were originally released by our own Shangri-La Records but had fallen out of print during the post-millennial years, especially on vinyl.

The Grifters, formed by Stan Gallimore (drums), Tripp Lamkins (bass), Dave Shouse (vocals, guitar), and Scott Taylor (vocals, guitar) in 1990 out of the ashes of A Band Called Bud, had already hit the road hard and built a small nationwide following after the release of their 1992 debut So Happy Together. When they dropped sophomore effort One Sock Missing in 1993, the band garnered its next level of attention. Either unfairly lumped into the then-exploding Lo-Fi scene or the deconstructionist blues leanings of the also popular Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the Grifters really sounded like very few of their contemporaries.

Dark, heavy, extremely noisy, fatalist, and often very catchy, the band made the absolute most out of the economical accommodations provided by Easley Studios, creating layer upon layer of noise pop in which there was actually quite a bit going on to the attentive ear. Printing Easley's phone number in all of their liner notes was also a huge driving force in making the studio a major destination (Pavement, Sonic Youth, etc.) as the middle of the decade played out.

It could also be argued that this era of the Grifters played a big hand in spreading Ohio's Guided by Voices to a larger underground audience, as both bands often found themselves touring together. One Sock Missing contains veritable Grifters' classics "Bummer," "She Blows Blasts of Static" (also a stand-alone 7" on Shangri-La), "Corolla Hoist," the brooding urban-psych nightmare of "Just Passing Out," and wailing emotional catastrophe, "Encrusted," among many others.

1994's Crappin' You Negative was a noticeable step forward and capitalized on the momentum achieved by slightly scaling back on the abstract dissonance and songs that just fell apart out of nowhere. Local shows had become capacity affairs at the Antenna and Barristers, and the Grifters were getting a ton of great press nationwide. Crappin' You Negative, also recorded at Easley, kicks off with the bulldozing "Rats" and, like its predecessors, isn't afraid to delve into the darker, more depressed enclaves of early '90s indie rock with songs like "Dead Already," "Junkie Blood," and "Black Fuel Incinerator." Each album side closes with one of the Grifters' great sleeper "hits"; the plodding-but-beautiful dirge of "Felt Tipped Over" on the A-side and the stumbling power-pop brilliance of "Cinnamon."

Live shows, of which quite a few serve as formative memories for this writer, could be a total mess or could be transcendent but were always worth seeing as the Grifters really made one proud to claim Memphis as a home base. As mentioned above, the band was getting noticed outside of town in magazines like Spin, and following a set at CBGB in NYC in 1994, The New York Times wrote:

"Beneath the fuzz and the clatter, the secrets of the band's underground allure lay intact. The guitars were dipped deep in the blues tradition of their hometown, and the rhythm section often took detours into jazz. Mr. Shouse had a sixth sense for pop melody that made the audience work to retrieve the perfect pop pearl that lay inside cracked new rockers."

Fat Possum's release date for the two reissues is August 12th. Record label head honcho Bruce Watson explained that this project was a long time in the making.

"I'd always been a big fan, and we started talks with the band and Sherman (Willmott, of Shangri-La Projects/Records) around the turn of the year, and everyone came to an agreement about us buying the masters and making this stuff available on vinyl again," Watson said.

"There isn't any bonus material, because I don't think any existed really, but each album will have great liner notes by Andria Lisle."

Steep Canyon Rangers At The Levitt Shell

Grammy award-winning bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers play the Levitt Shell this Friday night. The Summer Series is in full swing over at the Shell, and last Thursday night the Bo-Keys (featuring the amazing Percy Wiggins) delivered an amazing set of Memphis hits that set the bar pretty high for the rest of the performers scheduled for June. Steep Canyon Rangers should be up to the challenge, as they've been heralded by Rolling Stone as "hard-charging innovators" in the bluegrass genre. The band also has a handful of awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association to go along with a Grammy award and Grammy nomination.

Formed in 2000 at the University of North Carolina, Steep Canyon Rangers released six albums before their breakthrough with 2011's Rare Bird Alert — a genre-defining album that featured comedian Steve Martin on banjo. The band also collaborates with Martin Short, and both comedians were featured on Steep Canyon Rangers' spring tour. Neither comedian has committed to performing with the band on Friday, but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying one of the best modern bluegrass bands going. Steep Canyon Rangers take modern bluegrass to new levels without watering down the genre, and percussionist Michael Ashworth has brought a tremendous amount of versatility to the band since joining in 2013, with his signature "box kit" giving the Steep Canyon Rangers a backbone without overpowering the intricate string work.

There won't be many opportunities to see Grammy-sized talent at the Levitt Shell this summer, but other concerts of note in the next two weeks include performances by Elizabeth Cook and Lera Lynn, the singer featured in multiple episodes of the second season of True Detective.

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