I Should Be Blue
(Archer Records) Gifted with an extraordinary voice and a facility with all forms of traditional folk/pop songcraft, longtime Memphis music-scene fixture Sid Selvidge has also been a rewarding if haphazard recording artist on his own. The new I Should Be Blue is apparently his eighth solo album and third in the past decade for Archer Records, following 2003's A Little Bit of Rain and 2005's solo-acoustic concert album Live at Otherlands. Those are both good records, but I Should Be Blue is a better one.
Part of the reason why is a terrific selection of songs, blending Selvidge originals, standards, and covers from artists such as Donovan and Townes Van Zandt. And a lot of it has to do with the intimate analog recording done at Archer's Music + Arts Studio, with expert Memphis engineer Kevin Houston at the helm. But the biggest reason is that, perhaps more than ever before, Selvidge finds here a sound that is a match for his mighty voice.
Recorded primarily with his son, Steve Selvidge, on electric guitar, Paul Taylor on drums, and noted producer Don Dixon on bass, I Should Be Blue retains Selvidge's usual folk setting but with a musical texture that matches the loveliness and richness of his dexterous and unabashedly pretty vocals.
Selvidge opens with Tom T. Hall's "That's How I Got to Memphis," and if the song choice comes across a bit too much as a bid for a press hook for out-of-town reviewers, that takes nothing away from the beauty of Selvidge's deliberate phrasing. But I Should Be Blue takes off from there: Selvidge's own finger-picked acoustic guitar blends with his son's elegant electric counterpoint on a cover of Tim Hardin's "Don't Make Promises (You Can't Keep)." And Donovan's '60s hit "Catch the Wind" turns out to be an inspired choice, with Selvidge trading verses with first-rate folk singer Amy Speace, who guests on several songs.
From his folk base, Selvidge and crew stretch out into crooner pop, calypso, and jazz. But the best moments, arguably, come on a couple of bluesy folk tunes perhaps closest to Selvidge's musical heart. On the original "Dimestore Angel," Steve Selvidge's chiming guitar and Taylor's ramshackle percussion shine, as Selvidge and Speace harmonize. And Selvidge reaches back into his own past with the glorious, playful "You're Gonna Look Just Like a Monkey (When You Get Old)," a traditional tune done in an arrangement here credited to Selvidge's old mentor Furry Lewis and his late friend and colleague Lee Baker. — Chris Herrington
Over the past couple of years, a reconstituted and now Los Angeles-based Stax label has been busy repackaging and reissuing music from the Memphis soul label's back catalog. In terms of pure listening pleasure, they haven't put out much, if anything, more enjoyable than this "new" live Otis Redding collection.
The two-disc, 28-track collection was recorded live at the Whisky a Go Go club in West Hollywood on April 9 and 10, 1966. It also showcases Redding plowing through most of his biggest hits to that point (this is pre-"Dock of the Bay"), and it shows his tendency to put a Stax spin on other contemporary music he admired, with covers of the Rolling Stones ("Satisfaction"), the Beatles ("A Hard Day's Night," a rarity), and James Brown ("Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," which Redding and band extend for more than 10 minutes).
The recording here is with his regular and generally unheralded touring band, rather than with Booker T. & the MGs or the Bar-Kays. This band doesn't have as strong or identifiable a sound as the MGs, but they still serve Redding well, which you can hear in the easeful transition from pleading ballads ("These Arms of Mine," "Chained & Bound") to rollicking rave-ups ("Satisfaction," "I Can't Turn You Loose").
But if Live on the Sunset Strip is terrific as music, its necessity as product is a more complicated question. The collection is an expansion of the out-of-print 1968 album In Person at the Whiskey a Go Go, and while pretty much any Otis Redding is welcome, the expansion may be a little much for more casual fans. Drawn from multiple sets across two nights, there's a lot of repetition here, including five-count-'em-five different versions of "Satisfaction." — CH