With so many Memphis-related releases coming out each month, it's tough to keep track of every new mixtape, EP, album, or boxed set that comes out, but we do our best. This week our reviews cover everything from gospel rap to alternative country, with some rare soul and a covers album thrown in for good measure.
Ironing Board Sam Super Spirit (Big Legal Mess)
It's safe to say that Sammie Moore, aka Ironing Board Sam, is back. After being named the Comeback Artist of the Year by Living Blues Magazine in 2012, the 73-year-old spent the last two years touring Australia and France before hunkering down at Dial Back Sound in Water Valley, Mississippi to record Super Spirit with Bruce Watson, Jimbo Mathus, and others. Super Spirit features 10 cover tracks from the catalog of everyone from Ann Peebles to local hero Jack Oblivian, all re-worked to feature Sam's soulful signature sound. Ironing Board Sam was a regular on the 1960s TV show Night Train, and his 45s from that era are still highly sought-after today. As for his nickname, it was earned after continually mounting his keyboard on an ironing board with a strap that allowed him to walk on-stage while playing, a practice he continues to this day. Super Spirit is in stores on October 2nd.
Favorite Track: "Loose Diamonds"
Lucero – All a Man Should Do (ATO)
"I was 15 years old in 1989. This record sounds like the record I wanted to make when I was 15. It just took 25 years of mistakes to get it done." That's how Ben Nichols describes the latest Lucero album, a record the band is calling a "love letter to Memphis." Recorded at Ardent Studios with longtime Lucero producer Ted Hutt, All a Man Should Do (named after a Big Star lyric) finds Lucero at perhaps their most vulnerable, trying on new sounds and even throwing in a cover of the Big Star song "I'm in Love with a Girl" on their first studio album since 2012's Women & Work. Big Star's Jody Stephens sings backup vocals on the cover track, making for a memorable moment between past and present Memphis music stars.
Even if Lucero is trying out new things in the studio, Nichols' voice is still as familiar as ever. The 10 songs on All a Man Should Do might see Memphis' most recognizable band moving in a slightly different direction, but, more importantly, they show a band at the pinnacle of their potential. All a Man Should Do is out September 18th.
Favorite Track: "I'm in Love with a Girl"
Groove & Grind: Rare Soul '63-'73 (RockBeat)
Boxed sets can be a little bit intimidating. As someone who blows most of my money on records, I've often asked myself if I really need four-plus albums' worth of material in one package. In the case of Groove & Grind: Rare Soul '63-'73, the answer to that question is: absolutely. Released by RockBeat Records, Groove & Grind features over 100 rare soul songs, with each of the four discs covering a different area of the genre.
Disc One: Urban Soul covers some of the rarest soul releases from R&B capitals such as New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Detroit. Disc Two: Group Soul features vocal groups who hoped to follow in the footsteps of the Temptations while Disc Three: Southern Soul covers over 28 Southern singers, including Carla Thomas and Sam Hutchins. Disc Four: Funky Soul is pretty self-explanatory, but remember, these aren't songs you know the words to — that would defeat the whole purpose of this extensive compilation.
In addition to being jam-packed with unreleased material, Groove & Grind is housed in a 127-page hardcover book, featuring rare photographs, 45-r.p.m. record art, and encyclopedic liner notes by Bill Dahl on every track. Groove & Grind allows the modern listener to go back in time and dig through some truly great overlooked 45s, without depleting his or her life's savings to do so. The boxed set is available now.
Favorite Track: "You Stood Me Up" By the Specials
Terrence TB Boyce – Sinner 2A Saint (Fire Proof)
Terrence "TB" Boyce got his start in the streets, selling his mixtapes to whomever would buy them in parking lots across the country. After hocking CDs for a couple of years, Terrence found his niche in the gospel rap community, performing at local churches with Three 6 Mafia affiliate-turned-gospel-rapper Mr. Del. Released on Fire Proof Records, Sinner 2A Saint is a religious testimony presented as a modern mixtape. With track titles like "Been Saved" and "Keep God First," Boyce is certainly wearing his religious beliefs on his sleeve, but that doesn't necessarily mean the mixtape is watered down. Boyce compared himself to 50 Cent or Master P in a recent interview with Memphis Magazine, and there are hints of classic Memphis rap production throughout Sinner 2A Saint, even if Boyce's message is more "walk with Christ" than "tear da club up." As for how Boyce's positive message is affecting the city, he says: "It's growing pretty big. When I first started rapping, churches didn't want to incorporate rap; they were more about the singing. But every church wants a gospel rapper now." Sinner 2A Saint is out now.
Favorite Track: "JC Walkin"