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Being Neighborly

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Last weekend, The Harmony Brothers — aka Philip Weaver and Nick Logan — played three gigs in a 24-hour period.

It was business as usual for the duo, Midtown neighbors who recorded their first songs just hours after meeting each other Memorial Day weekend.

Before pairing up, Weaver, a Savannah, Tennessee, native, who moved to Memphis in 2005, had played a single gig at the Hi-Tone Café and, as the Feeling, recorded a track for Makeshift Records' fourth compilation CD.

"I came from a punk-rock background," Weaver says.

Logan, who relocated to Memphis from Fort Collins, Colorado, that same year, had played an open-mic night at the Full Moon Club but eventually sold his acoustic guitar for rent money.

"I was writing eight-minute, two-chord songs about the apocalypse," Logan says. "Then I moved onto Philadelphia Street, next door to Pam and Jeremy [Scott]. They brought over their other neighbor, who was Philip, and he asked me to come record with him. We did two songs that night — 'Tennessee Night' and 'Talking About War' — and the next day, we recorded two more.

"There's something about Philip's songs that simplified what I was trying to do musically. I could never focus before, but suddenly, it seemed manageable."

"I came up with the name on that second day," adds Weaver, who plays a Gibson ES-335 electric guitar, while Logan plays an acoustic Harmony model. "The sound of those guitars was really good, and I kept obsessing over the harmonies we did together. I was sitting in my car when I decided we'd call ourselves the Harmony Brothers, and I told Nick about it later that afternoon."

As the Harmony Brothers, they've already turned plenty of heads with their Everly Brothers-meets-the Byrds style of country rock.

"Our music is honest, focused, and simple. It's about struggles and spiritual stuff," Weaver says of songs like "No Man Can Hold You" and "Larimer County," which can be heard on www.MySpace.com/HarmonyBrothersTN.

Earlier this month, the Harmony Brothers made their debut as a full band, with Jeremy Scott on bass and Snowglobe's Jeff Hulett on drums.

"It's always been in our minds to have a full band set-up," Logan says, explaining that for now, he and Weaver will open shows as a duo, then bring the rhythm section up for the remainder of their set.

"We haven't even officially known each other for more than a couple of months," Weaver notes. "The progress we've made this summer is absolutely surreal."

Hear the Harmony Brothers live at Otherlands with Jimmy Davis, Tommy Burroughs, and Eric Lewis this Friday, September 21st.

If you've caught the Harmony Brothers live already, chances are you've also seen The Yazoo Shakes. Over the last month, the two bands have shared the stage at several Midtown venues, including Murphy's and Printer's Alley.

"The more you strip things down to the basics, the closer you get to the soul," Yazoo Shakes frontman Clay Ayers declares of the experimental quintet, which owes a musical debt to Captain Beefheart, the Insect Trust, and modern bands like the Gris Gris, as well as iconoclasts such as Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and Howlin' Wolf.

"Yeah, I listen to Tom Waits," Ayers says, "because I think he's more soulful than a lot of stuff out there. I am a son of all my influences, [but] those people were influenced by old bluesmen and folksingers. It's just a perpetuation."

The improvisation-minded keyboardist relies on guitarist Taylor Wood, bassist Alpha Newberry, drummer Darcie Miller, and his wife, trumpeter Kate Ayers, to flesh out songs like "Country Doctor" and "Red Red Town," which can be heard at www.MySpace.com/YazooShakes.

"We decided to write our songs on instinct," Ayers explains. "I don't show anyone chords or tell them what time a song's in. Instead, we just play what we feel. We're five people working around a vague idea, which is, I think, a more authentic, purer form of music."

"I'm coming from a genre where you get your point across in two minutes," notes Miller, who, before she moved to Memphis, held down the beat for Chicago garage rockers Headache City.

"I like the nebulousness of this group," she adds, "but in a way, I'm always trying to rein them in. Recording has forced us to structure our songs a bit. If Alpha and I can lock in together, we let the other players take it from there. It's a challenge, but we're all kind of learning together, and collectively, we're moving it forward."

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