Greensky Bluegrass with Billy Strings
New Daisy Theatre
January 19, 2018
Memphis was hit with a snow storm (by Memphis standards) in the days leading up to the Greensky Bluegrass show at the New Daisy – schools were closed down for the entire week, and many businesses were working with skeleton crews.
To say Derek Trucks has come a long way is an understatement. For every child prodigy that has continued success in their field, there are dozens, maybe hundreds, that disappear from the public eye.
Well, Trucks made it.
That’s not news to anyone.
But, years removed from the Derek Trucks Band and months removed from the Allman Brothers’ final shows, the guitarist’s current outfit, the Tedeschi Trucks Band is his best “solo” act yet. The fully-formed Tedeschi Trucks Band is a powerful beast on all fronts, and provides a depth that Trucks never had with his self-named group. With two drummers the band has the percussive heft that the Allman Brothers had, but the horn section provides a different facet – a funk and soul dimension that propels the group to heights that weren’t really possible inside the Allman Brothers’ setting.
Simply put, this is one heavy group, and they proved it at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis.
Willie Watson opened the show, and set the table with his brand of bluegrass/folk. Watson, formerly of Old Crow Medicine Show, delivered songs tinged with a wry wit and sense of humor that retrospectively provided a foil to the main act. Watson is a great story-teller, but unfortunately there’s only so much one man can do on stage on his own, and after several songs they all seemed to blend together. He shook things up by switching between banjo and guitar (with some harmonica thrown in), but it’s became hard (for this ignorant writer) to differentiate one tune from the other.
When the Tedeschi Trucks Band finally hit the stage, the room was pretty full. While not a sell-out, the crowd was rowdy and ready for anything. The band started off with “Made Up Mind,” the title track from their latest album, and never looked back.
Watching Derek Trucks is simply a treat. There’s no flash or frills – just mind-blowing slide guitar and finger picking. Over the course of two hours, it was an absolute clinic on how to play guitar with ego set completely aside.
Vocalist Mike Mattison, who was lead for the Derek Trucks Band, took stage front for lead vocals on “Don’t Miss Me” and “Get What You Deserve,” tunes from the Derek Trucks Band days, and Susan’s vocals on the Derek & the Dominoes track “Keep On Growing” would have made Eric Clapton proud.
The band showed their versatility, toning it down a bit for “Shelter,” and paid homage to Bobby Bland with a take on his “I Pity the Fool.” The set-closing “Bound For Glory” was tremendous, and frankly Derek’s solo on the “The Storm” would have been worth the price of admission alone.
Derek and Susan have clear chemistry on stage, a good thing considering their husband-and-wife relationship. But, the bond is more than just familial – it’s musical, which is in its own right a powerful thing. It’s going to be really interesting to watch the band continue to evolve, because there are so many directions that Derek and Susan are capable of steering the ship.
Set: Made Up Mind, Do I Look Worried, The Sky Is Crying, Don’t Miss Me, Comin’ Home, Shelter, Keep on Growing, Get What You Deserve, I’ve Got a Feeling, Idle Wind, I Pity the Fool, Bound for Glory Encore: The Storm
While the summer hasn’t been particularly hot (yet) in Memphis, things were scorching at Minglewood Hall on June 13 when the John Butler Trio made its first appearance in the Bluff City at an indoor venue.
Butler’s opening act, Falls, was a great way to start the evening. The folky duo from Australia were along the lines of the Civil Wars – Melinda Kirwin on vocals and Simon Rudston-Brown on vocals and guitar – and they had a string section backing them for good measure. It was a subdued way to get the evening started, and while their catalogue seemed to be lost on most in attendance, their cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” was well-received.
By the time the John Butler Trio took the stage, Minglewood was packed and ready to rock. Butler did a great job of giving the crowd exactly what they wanted. While the band is touring behind Flesh and Blood, they did a phenomenal job of building a setlist that featured new songs and older cuts that have held up over time.
“Revolution” and “Used to Get High” were great out of the gate, and then Butler followed them up with some great new songs like “Bullet Girl” and “Only One.”
When bassist Byron Luiters and drummer Grant Gerathy left the stage, everyone in the room knew “Ocean” was coming. Butler still plays it after all these years, and while it’s a setlist staple, it still never gets old.
After closing the set with a spirited “Zebra,” the band came back out for a great encore. Butler was in high spirits, probably because the crowd responded well to his set. He joked how he had played the entire set with his fly down, and that if the Memphis audience was really his friend, they’d have let him know. Frankly, though, the band had done such a great job of delivering quality music that he could have been naked on stage and no one would have noticed.
The encore was a solid as the set – it started with “Losing You,” followed by a blistering “Livin’ In The City,” and finally came to a close with a phenomenal “Funky Tonight.”
For a band that isn’t a regular in Memphis, the John Butler Trio certainly satiated their existing fans, and undoubtedly made some new ones along the way. It was a great set, and hopefully the next time through won’t be far behind.
Iron & Wine with All Dogs
Iron & Wine came through Memphis in mid-May, and those in attendance were treated to a great show by an extremely chatty Sam Beam & company. The show featured nuggets from I&W’s entire catalogue, from new(er) tunes like “Resurrection Fern” and “Rabbit Run” to older stuff like “Woman King,” “Sunset Soon Forgotten,” and “Naked As We Came.”
Beam was especially jovial, bantering back and forth with the crowd over the course of the entire show.. At one point, when the band left and he stayed to play some solo tunes he even attempted to take requests, eventually giving up because the Memphis was “obviously a democratic town,” as everyone within earshot apparently shouted out different tunes.
All in all, it was a really strong show, and it provided a snapshot of Beam’s growth, from singer/songwriter to bandleader.
Sons of Mudboy
April 3, 2013
Tucked away in the corner of Minglewood Plaza lies the 1884 Lounge, the little brother of the bigger Minglewood Hall. It generally plays host to smaller acts â€“ local bands trying to break through, or maybe the odd major act who just can’t, for whatever reason, fill a bigger room when they come to town.Â But, on April 3, an act took the stage that is the odd hybrid of both categories.
The Sons of Mudboy are actually just that â€“ offspring of Steve Selvidge and the late Jim Dickinson, members of the veritable Memphis band Mud Boy & the Neutrons. All of the musicians on stage have other gigs going; Luther and Cody Dickinson with the North Mississippi Allstars, and Steve Selvidge with the Hold Steady. Paul Taylor joins the band on stage, and he was bass player for Luther and Cody’s pre-Allstars band D.D.T., and currently fronts a tremendous band called the Merry Mobile.Â And then there’s Jimmy Crosthwait, who played the whole show on washboard and was actually IN Mud Boy & the Neutrons. The band has shows scheduled all the way through the end of May at 1884 Lounge, and if any of the subsequent gigs hold a candle to the first one, Memphis is in for a wild ride.
The band promised the setlists would be comprised of Mud Boy tunes, covers, and songs from the band members’Â catalogsÂ and the residency opened up with “Codine,” a song in rotation for Mud Boy & the Neutrons and that made its way into setlists of other Dickinson projects. Immediately it was clear that, while the band would hold true to the essence of the songs, they’d be putting their own spin on the numbers. “Codine” had a much spacier feel than it traditionally does, in the best possible way. Selvidge’s guitar work was tremendous, but it was Cody’s work on keyboards that really colored the song.
It’s important to note that throughout the evening, the members constantly traded off instruments. Cody traditionally plays drums for the Allstars, but he opened this show on keyboard. Luther Dickinson handled bass duties for about half the show, and Taylor opened on drums, moved over to bass, and played guitar for a few tunes as well (more on him later).
The band did justice to the familiar “KC Jones,” Taylor took over vocals on “Dark End of the Street,” and they absolutely killed the Sleepy John Estes tune, “Going to Brownsville.” They also paid a short but sweet homage to legendary Memphis band Big Star with “Jesus Christ Lived.”
In possibly the strongest segment of the night, though, the band broke out a huge sandwich that started with “Land of 1000 Dances,” shifted into “Power to the People,” had a few bars of Sly & the Family Stone’s “I Want to Take You Higher,” and then went back to “Land.”
Taylor handled bass during the run, and absolutely blew the roof off. His musical dexterity is pretty impressive. On guitar, he can lay down a blistering solo, and his funky bass laid the ground work for one of the better jams of the night. During the song(s), Luther’s familiar fluid guitar was front and center, and at one point he moved over to the keyboard to take on those duties.
After a short encore break, the band came back out and Selvidge remarked that they were going to play something psychedelic, something that the audience had heard before. Then, they reprised “Codine,” this time with Taylor shredding a sizzling solo opposite Selvidge. The band closed the show with “Hey Bo Diddley,” and then called it a night.
The band seemed clearly thrilled to be on stage with each other, and in front of their home crowd. With a $5 cover, there’s no excuse for the local music scene to not come out to support the best local product out there at the moment. While the Sons of Mudboy may not be the primary gig for any on stage, they’re easily as talented an act as any of the musicians’ main jobs.
It will be a treat to watch the band’s weekly development, and who knows? It may turn into something greater.
We should be so lucky.
Click on the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show byÂ Josh Mintz
Cornmeal, The Ragbirds & Kinetix The Canopy Club Urbana, IL October 31, 2011
Tradition dictates the annual All Hallows’ Eve ritual; we disguise ourselves and go into the night to celebrate our loss of identity and our adoption of temporary personae. The masquerade ballâ€™s origins stretches back to our prehistoric days, as our apish ancestors would wear the skins of animals and act out the great hunts to the spellbound that were gathered around the communal fire.
As the centuries passed, our love of slipping out of our day to day roles and assuming the aspect of others has become more elaborate, with masks and disguises found in every worldwide indigenous culture. It was in this venerable tradition that the masters of their own â€œProgressive Psychedelic Bluegrassâ€ genre, Cornmeal, held their fifth annual Halloween spectacular at the Canopy Club in Urbana, Illinois.
Though more than capable of filling an evening chock-full of tunes themselves, Cornmeal enlisted the help of the Denver, Colorado’s Kinetix and the pride of Ann Arbor, Michigan, The Ragbirds to help make the night as truly haunting and memorable as possible.
As an incentive to participate into the costume festivities and the spirit of the holiday, Cornmeal offered a costume contest with such fun prizes as a meet and greet with the band, an advance copy of their soon to be completed new studio album and a pair of free tickets to a show of the winnerâ€™s choosing.
On this evening, the club packed early with all manner of ghouls, goblins and, scariest of all, a Lady Gaga or two.
The Canopy Club features two rooms with stages, the outer hall with a small stage, bar and a pinball machine with one leg that is three inches shorter than the other; the main hall features a large stage and a balcony for excellent viewing.
The eveningâ€™s entertainment started with a solid set from Coloradoâ€™s Kinetix, a decidedly rocking bunch of fellows who won themselves many new fans with their brand of aggressive rock.Â Their 45 minute set of rocking originals on the outer stage led directly into The Ragbirdsâ€™ manic turn on the main stage.
Going all out, The Ragbirds went with a collaboration of a group themed costume, coming as the cast of the cultish kids show from the 1980s, Pee-Weeâ€™s Playhouse.Â With a very convincing Pee Wee on drums, a King of Cartoons on bass, Captain Carl and even an eye patch wearing Ms. Yvonne, the band put nearly as much effort into their costumes as they do their unique brand of world music inspired, jam-folk.
Following Pee-Weeâ€™s model, the band established a secret word for the crowd to go berserk at the merest mention, this night choosing â€œTequilaâ€ as the scream inducing trigger. A well timed cover of The Champs classic â€œTequilaâ€ used notably in the film, Pee Weeâ€™s Big Adventure, came complete with the Pee Wee attired drummer coming out from behind the kit to do a spot on version of the dance made famous in the films comical biker bar scene.
Following their applause and cheer-filled set closer, Kinetix retook the lobby stage for a second set leading off with an appropriately timed cover of Michael Jacksonâ€™s â€œThriller.â€
Following a second helping from Kinetix — that came complete with a decidedly heavy take on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” — it was time for the stars of the evening, Cornmeal.
Never a band to miss an opportunity to have a little fun, the band was in full costumed regalia. With Bassist Chris Gangi sporting a mirror ball-esque jacket and silver Mexican Luchador mask, he appeared to be some sort of disco bondage enthusiast.Â Brothers John-Paul and Kris Nowak rocked out as an udderly ridiculous cow and stereotypical nerd respectively. Banjoist Wavy Dave Burlingame played on his natural resemblance to â€œWeird Al Yankovichâ€ while friend and guest percussionist Marshall Greenhouse came as Â a Rock Lobster. Fiddler supreme Allie Kral took the name of the bandâ€™s rabid fan club, â€œThe Cornstalkers,â€ quite literally by dressing as a giant ear of corn with sunglasses to protect her identity.
Playing a set that contained nearly all of what are considered the biggest songs in the bands cannon, from the seminal â€œHasten Jason,â€ â€œRain Your Lightâ€ and what is certain to be a centerpiece for their forthcoming album, the percussively heavy â€œBlack Smoke Rising,â€ Cornmeal preached to the gathered faithful with as crowd pleasing of a lineup of tunes as they have ever put together.
Keeping with the spirit of masks and disguise, rare covers of AC/DCâ€s â€œTNTâ€™ and Ted Nugentâ€™s â€œStrangleholdâ€ were inserted into the festivities and garnered epic responses from the delighted crowd.
Facing the cityâ€™s curfew, the band was sadly forced to draw an end to the nightâ€™s entertainment, but with a mischievous twinkle they made sure to inform their devoted mass that they will see them next year.
While weâ€™re sure to see them, we have no idea how theyâ€™ll appear, or even what they will choose to play.Â In the end, it is that uncertainty, the air of mystery and surprise, that is what the day is all about, after all.
Click the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show by Rex Thomson…
Chris CornellMinglewood HallMemphis, TNNovember 1, 2011
Being sick sucks, but it’s gotta be harder when you’re a musician best known for your voice, and it’s a certainty that Chris Cornell’s a man known for his golden pipes. Cornell arrived in Memphis on November 1 to kick off his Songbook tour, and along with an arsenal of guitars, Jeff Buckley’s red phone and a turntable, he was toting an obvious case of laryngitis. However, he soldiered on, joking about the ailment he picked up while playing with Soundgarden at the previous weekend’s Voodoo Music Experience. Fate would have it that the following night’s Nashville date would be cancelled, so those at the sold-out Memphis show at Minglewood Hall really lucked out. Continue reading Chris Cornell brings his Songbook to Memphis→