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Late Summer Record Reviews
(image) New albums from Hartle Road, the Numero Group, and NOTS

Hartle Road — Maxx (Jenny Records)

Hartle Road have been gigging around Memphis and Oxford, Mississippi, for a while now but have only just recently picked up traction at dive bars around Midtown. The band hails from Columbus, Mississippi, so it makes sense that they'd make the drive to Memphis to draw a fan base, which now includes a lot of musicians loosely or directly associated with Goner Records. On Maxx, the band's debut LP, Hartle Road flirt with garage rock, Krautrock, and '60s psychedelia. Album opener "New!" is most certainly a nod to German band Neu!, and the song is aiming at the same target that bands like Neu! and La Düsseldorf hit back in the '70s.

The other nine tracks on Maxx stay within the groundwork laid out by "New!," with a few detours into post-punk thrown in for good measure. While things start to get weird on "To the Maxx," there aren't a whole lot of wrong turns on Maxx. The 10-track album is a concise and fully realized piece of work, and it serves as an interesting first look into the outsider world that the members of Hartle Road must find themselves living in given their home base.

It's a safe bet that this is the most interesting band from Columbus, Mississippi. Hell, they might even be one of the most interesting bands currently on the Murphy's/Lamplighter/Hi-Tone dirt circuit. Maxx was recorded in Mississippi by Myles Jordan and Max Hartleroad (hence the album name) and is available on vinyl and on cassette through Jenny Records. If you like Krautrock, off-center psych rock, or identify yourself as any kind of weirdo, Maxx is definitely recommended.

Favorite track: tied between "Garbage Wizard" and "Lemmy"

Various Artists — The 123s of Kid Soul (Numero Group)

Much like the record label Light in the Attic, Numero Group is responsible for digging up some of the best "forgotten music" out there, from stoner rock to forgotten soul. The 123s of Kid Soul is a collection of kid/teenage singers and bands who were seeking the same fame that the Jackson 5 found with their kid-centric songs. The album features 19 tracks, and while some might be a little, umm, childish, this isn't a kids-only affair, especially "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" cover by the Brothers Rap. If you were a fan of the Home Schooled compilation that came out on Numero a decade ago, The 123s of Kid Soul should definitely be in your collection.

Favorite Track: The Dynamics — "I'm Free, No Dope for Me"

NOTS — Cosmetic (Goner Records)NOTS opted to record their follow-up album to We Are NOTS with Keith Cooper instead of Doug Easley, making for a less polished, more "garage" sound.

Album opener "Blank Reflection" starts with a snare-centric beat before the synth rolls in and Natalie Hoffmann's familiar scream takes command of the song. The following eight songs don't exactly reinvent the sound that NOTS has been creating for the past four years, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Punk music — or synth punk, if you insist on calling it that — doesn't need to reinvent itself to remain relevant or interesting, and the members of NOTS know that. So do their fans.

Keeping that in mind, Cosmetic serves as an excellent second helping of NOTS. The songs are mostly short and sweet, and the dissonant synth parts have been brought to the front of the mix, which was probably a product of the Keith Cooper treatment. His studio might be getting a few more phone calls from local musicians once this album drops.

Favorite Track: "Cosmetic."

Cities Aviv at the Brooks Museum
(image) This Wednesday night Cities Aviv will perform at the Brooks Museum. The performance will feature unreleased music and video from the Memphis rapper, and is in correlation with the ongoing exhibit "Hassan Hajjaj: My Rock Stars," organized by the Newark Museum and on view through September 4th. 

Cities Aviv (real name Gavin Mays) is back in Memphis, but stays busy performing on the East Coast frequently, including a recent jaunt with underground rapper Antwon. Wednesday's show is his last appearance of the summer. The show starts at 7 p.m. and is $10 or $5 with a student ID. Watch his latest video for "Walk" below. 

The Rebel at the Hi-Tone

This Saturday night Ben Wallers returns to Memphis as the Rebel, alongside tour mates Spray Paint and local openers Hash Redactor. Wallers has been making controversial racket since he formed the highly influential yet highly offensive garage band the Country Teasers in 1993. The Country Teasers specialized in making audiences uncomfortable with deconstructed garage-rock songs chock full of historical commentary that was equally as offensive as it was socially relevant. The band had a successful run of over 20 years, releasing records on A-list garage-rock labels like Crypt, In the Red, Guided Missile, and Fat Possum.

If it was possible for Wallers to get weirder with age, the British songwriter certainly achieved it with the Rebel, the project he's been performing under for nearly two decades. Early recorded output from the Rebel doesn't stray too far from the oddball country songs that Wallers cooked up with the Country Teasers, but, just as the Teasers got weirder toward the end of their discography (see the band's cover of the Ice Cube classic "We Had to Tear This Motherfucker Up"), the Rebel has also been known to go off the deep end.

Also on the bill are Texas noise rockers Spray Paint, a band we've covered in this section before. Spray Paint recently released their debut album, Feel the Clamps, for Goner Records, and they are currently on tour with the Rebel, a trip they've opted to do before. Locals Hash Redactor open the show. Advance tickets are available at the Goner Records storefront.

Sweatfest II at Shangri-La

This Saturday afternoon Shangri-La Records will host their second annual Sweatfest in the store's front parking lot. Much like Sweatfest I, Sweatfest II is a gathering of local rock-and-roll bands playing in the middle of the day in what is normally the hottest month of summer. There will also be discounts on all music memorabilia, including budget CDs, LPs, 45s, cassette tapes, and everything else that Shangri-La decides to slap a sale sticker on. The fest is "bring your own whatever," but cooling tents and water will be available for those who can't take the heat.

The music starts at 2 p.m., and, while the set times haven't been announced yet, the lineup is finely curated and features some of the best local rockers in town. Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars is the biggest name on the bill, and it's a safe bet his performance will be closer to the end of the evening. Another highlight is the Subtractions (featuring the great Jeremy Scott), who just got done performing at the first annual Monkee-Mania show at Lafayette's Music Room. Ben Baker will perform with friends, Graham Winchester and the Ammunition, plus, his other band, the Sheiks, will be on hand, in addition to James and the Ultrasounds. SVU and Ten High are also set to play.

Shangri-La has had a busy month, first hosting the listening party for the Johnnie Frierson reissue Have You Been Good to Yourself, and then having the first two Grifters albums reissued by Fat Possum Records out of Oxford. Viva la Vinyl!

Rodrigo Valenzuela - Artist Talk

Artist Lecture - Rodrigo Valenzuela
Thursday, August 25, 8:30pm
Martha and Robert Fogelman Galleries of Contemporary Art
University of Memphis Department of Art 
Art & Communication Bldg Rm 200

Chilean-born, Houston-based artist Rodrigo Valenzuela speaks about his practice and the social issues that inform his work in video, photography, and painting. Much of his work relies on the aesthetic of the construction site and the subject of “invisible labor,” a term Valenzuela uses to describe the manual labor that often goes unseen by those who benefit from it. Having lived for three years in the United States without documentation, much of these references stem from the artist’s own experiences finding temporary work in construction and other forms of labor. 

This lecture is presented in conjunction with the exhibition "Rodrigo Valenzuela: Frontiers," on view at The Martha and Robert Fogelman Galleries of Contemporary Art from August 26 – October 14, 2016.

The lecture will be held in Art and Communication Bldg. Room 310 (3715 Central Ave., Memphis). 

Photo by Claire Reiner.

5 Reasons To Celebrate 901 Day at Exposure

This year, I Love Memphis is getting in on the 901 Day action in an official event capacity. I’m working with New Memphis Institute for a big to-do we’re calling “Exposure”. It’s next Thursday, September 1 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. What It Isn’t Exposure isn’t a strictly-professional networking event (though it could be!) It’s […]

Weekend Roundup 76: The Rebel, Tony Joe White, Tora Tora
By now you the drill, here are your top concerts going down in M-town this weekend. 

Friday, August 19th.
Have You Been Good to Yourself release party, 5:30 p.m. at Shangri-La.
Devices Devide Us, Inches From Eden, Drasco, The Summers, Frenchie!, Philadelphia 7:45 p.m. at the Hi-Tone.
Susan Halloway Band, 8 Minglewood Hall.

The Sheiks, 10 p.m. at the Buccaneer, $5.

Saturday, August 20th.
The Australian Pink Floyd Show, 8 p.m. at the Horseshoe Casino, prices vary.

The Rebel, Spray Paint, Hash Redactor, 9 p.m. at the Hi-Tone, $10.Tony Joe White, 9 p.m. at the Rum Boogie Cafe, $10.
Hauteur, 9 p.m. at Murphy's, $5.

Sundady, August 21st.
Benefit show for Patrick Francis of Tora Tora featuring EVERY MOTHERS NIGHTMARE, Roxy Blue, TheShotgunBillys, Zach Myers Band, Fevertree, Surrender The Fall, Jeff and Leslie Caughron 2 p.m. at Minglewood Hall, $10.
Steve Moakler, JJ Moore 6 p.m. at Minglewood Hall, $12-$15.

The Gloryholes, Arliss Nancy, 9 p.m. at the Buccaneer, $5.

Rpld Ghsts, Duma, Intimacy, Dadabase, 9 p.m. at the HI-Tone, $5.
Being Good Pays Off
(image) Johnnie Frierson gets the vinyl treatment.

Roughly six years ago, former Memphian Jameson Schwieger was thumbing through the cassette bin at a thrift store on Summer Avenue. Along the way, one item in particular — an obviously homemade tape by the largely unknown local gospel/blues artist Johnnie Frierson — caught his eye.

"I went there a few times and bought random tapes," says Schwieger, who is now a professional DJ and record dealer in Mankato, in addition to being a borderline obsessive record collector. "Because I buy so many random tapes, I actively chose not to buy this particular one."

Instead, Schwieger chose to place the tape "on display" in a prominent position on the shelf, so that someone else might purchase it. But when he returned a few months later, it was still sitting where he left it.

"I saw it exactly where I placed it and knew I needed to buy it," he says. "I can't believe I ever thought twice about spending 50 cents for it."

And that's because when Schwieger got Have You Been Good to Yourself home and listened to it, he instantly realized he'd struck gold.

"On first listen I was amazed," he says. "When you are digging that deep, this is exactly what you look for. Pure soul music."

For those who don't know, Johnnie Frierson was a longtime, hard-working Memphis musician who passed away in 2010. As a member of the Drapels, along with Marianne Brittenum, Wilbur Mondie, and his little sister, Mary Frierson — later to be known as Wendy Rene — he got his real break, cutting two largely unheard singles for Stax in the early '60s. Neither really caught on, but the Friersons and company did. The group provided backing vocals on cuts by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, and Frierson penned songs for the Soulful Seven, Ollie & the Nightingales, and his kid sister.

Frierson also did some work at Willie Mitchell's Royal Studios, even (credited as James Fry) fronting the legendary Hi Rhythm Section for the single "Tumbling Down," which was released on Hi Records in 1968. But in 1970, Frierson was drafted into the United States Army and sent to Vietnam. By all accounts, the experience changed him, and not for the better — he struggled with mental health issues for the rest of his life.

Throughout the rest of his career, Frierson worked more sporadically. His last major project was a short-lived gospel group called Whole Truth, which he formed in 1975 with a pair of friends from high school. After that, he essentially worked musical odd jobs — he gigged around occasionally, sometimes sitting in with the Blues Alley Orchestra, hosted a gospel show on WEVL, and distributed his homemade cassette tapes (some released under his given name, some under the name Khafele Ajanaku).

A few years after discovering that copy of Have You Been Good to Yourself, Schwieger was working behind the counter at Shangri-La Records when a mutual acquaintance introduced him to Light in the Attic Records' founder Matt Sullivan. (Light in the Attic is an imprint known for re-releasing lost and/or forgotten treasures. In 2012, the label was responsible for issuing a tremendous anthology on Frierson's sister Wendy Rene.) Sullivan and Schwieger hit it off, and the two made plans to hang out and listen to records later back at Schwieger's house.

"Jameson pulled out his cassette of Have You Been Good to Yourself, and everything changed," Sullivan says. "[I was] mesmerized. I was immediately hooked."

From there, it took very little convincing to get Sullivan and Light in the Attic behind the seven-song album, which was transferred and re-mastered from Schwieger's single cassette copy for worldwide release on August 19th. It will mark the first time the material has been available on LP or in digital formats.

"No doubt this is one of my favorite things in our catalog," Sullivan says.  "It's one of those special albums where you feel like you're in the room with the man, almost eavesdropping on an incredibly personal moment. He's singing from the bottom of his heart and soul. Personally, it doesn't get better than this."

To celebrate the re-release of Have You Been Good to Yourself, Shangri-La Records is staging a free, in-store listening party this Friday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., hosted by local writer and Brooks Museum Associate Curator Andria Lisle. Lisle, who wrote the liner notes for both the Wendy Rene and Johnnie Frierson Light in the Attic releases, is as avid a supporter of Frierson's music as anyone.

"Jameson scored big-time when he found this cassette. I got chill bumps listening to it for the first time, and still get [them]," she says. "Johnnie's home recordings are so laid-back, yet so commanding. Matt and I talk quite a bit about other cassettes that Johnnie recorded and self-released in the 1990s. They're out there somewhere!"

Have You Been Good to Yourself is out on Friday, August 19th.

Live Review: Cody Dickinson at the Grammy Museum
(image)  “This album is really my love letter to the road,” Cody Dickinson said on stage at the Mississippi Grammy Museum. He was seated in a comfortable armchair in the intimate performance theater next to past Grammy nominee, Shannon McNally, who was there to talk to him about his debut solo album, Leeway for the Freeway.

Cody has been the drummer for the North Mississippi All-Stars for about twenty years. His father Jim Dickinson, played keys on the original studio recording of “Wild Horses” when the Rolling Stones took a few days’ break in a Muscle Shoals studio during their 1969 American Tour. His older brother, Luther Dickinson, front man of the All-Stars, has released four solo albums as of this year, having brought his bluesy folk-rock singing and guitar style to collaborations with greats such as the Black Crowes and Shawn Lane.

At forty years old, the Dickinson family has cast a long shadow over Cody, the younger of the two Dickinson brothers. Cody explained that he had to start learning some new instruments and reinvent himself to push his career in a new direction. After a short, five song set, it became obvious that his songwriting ability has what it takes to keep pace with his family’s legacy.

The All-Stars drummer can hold his own weight down, having toured with Robert Plant. He’s just come off of tour playing drums for the Latin band, Los Lobos.

“We were at Red Rocks this summer, and it was the last song… and the band went into playing ‘La Bamba.’ It was just incredible to be playing this song that all these people knew. It was so visceral,” Cody explained to Shannon and the audience.

“It was sort of intimidating to be the drummer,” he continued, “the backbone of this incredible Latin band. I admit I dropped the ball a couple of times during the tour…”

“But you probably learned from those mistakes. The next night’s audience benefited from your mistake. I know that’s how it works for me,” Shannon chimed in.

As he brandished his shiny electric guitar to begin his set, Cody admitted that this was the first time he had ever performed the first track of his album, “Equinox Blues.” On this track and several others, he played percussion with his feet and guitar with his hands all while singing.

“I’m loving this one-man-band scenario. If I slow down or if I want to speed up… it’s alright.”

He went on to play several heartfelt songs on the keyboard, alternating between the one-man-band setup. “Stranger” is one of his originals co-written with C. Neville that starts out with a “Riders of the Storm” sort of rainy-day psychedelic sound. Cody cited the floods of New Orleans and our low-lying part of the South as inspiration.

“You’ve got nowhere to go [in a flood] like Indiana Jones in the tomb.”

The title track, “Leeway for the Freeway,” offers an easy listening, major chord melody on the pop side of blues-rock. It sounds a lot like the All-Stars debut album. He originally wrote it for Greg Allman, but since Greg never recorded it, he decided to put it on the album. It sounds like a highway song. Like something that would bring your American dream to life at some interstate Waffle House at 4:00am. He even got the audience to chime in as back-up vocals for the song.

After the show, the audience meandered out around the gift shop where we had a chance to buy our copy of album with its unmistakable Mississippi photography as artwork. I have been lucky to hear the All-Stars play a handful of times, but this was the first time I had met a member of the band.

A couple of years ago, on Christmas Eve, I had a ring in my pocket as I drove up to the levee to take my dogs for a run. On the way back, the original recording of “Wild Horses” came on the radio. This was the song I listened to before I asked my wife to marry me. I had to tell Cody this story.

“Well, did she say yes?” He laughed.

“She’s right over there. She said ‘no,’ but she still goes around with me,” I joked.

They say that there’s only about two degrees of separation in Mississippi. I may never get a chance to meet Mick Jagger or Keith Richards, but it was pretty special to hear Jim Dickinson’s son Cody play keys on a Saturday night in the Delta. Check out his new album, Leeway for the Freeway. With songs by John Hiatt, T Model Ford, Ry Cooder, Jim Dickinson, Chuck Berry and several Cody Dickinson originals, it’s a modern American classic.
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