Last week, The Bo-Keys took their Stax- and Hi-infused soul show on the road: They played three shows in New York (Piano's and B.B. King's Blues Club in Manhattan and the infamous Frank's Cocktail Lounge in Brooklyn), a gig in Philadelphia (Zanzibar Blue), and a performance on independent FM station WFMU, then squeezed in an interview for The House of Blues Radio Hour -- all in just four days.
Touring by plane, trains, subways, and cabs wasn't easy, but the six-man band -- leader/bassist Scott Bomar, guitarist Skip Pitts, drummer Willie Hall, saxophonist Jim Spake, trumpeter Marc Franklin, and organist Charlie Wood, the Bo-Keys' newest addition -- made the most of it, managing to check out tourist spots like Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff's True Sound of Philadelphia recording studio (where the Philly Sound -- The O'Jays, The Spinners, etc. -- was born) and Junior's, a famous soul-food restaurant in Brooklyn.
At Zanzibar Blue, the Bo-Keys wowed the crowd -- which included NPR's Amy Salit, producer of the Fresh Air radio program -- with their laid-back rendition of "Ellie's Love Theme," from the Shaft soundtrack. "That's always been a sentimental piece for me," remarked Pitts -- who, along with Hall, played on the original version of the tune, recorded in 1971 by Isaac Hayes.
"It's the kind of song that makes you want to make babies, not take babies," Pitts continued. "A lot of rap music is about killing, but soul music is about creating life."
A veteran of groups such as The Surgeons ("We billed ourselves as 'The Doctors of Sound,'" Pitts said) and The Midnight Movers, Pitts served as Gene Chandler's bandleader when he was just 17 years old. And, although he's played Memphis soul behind Hayes for the last 35 years, Pitts claimed that the Bo-Keys are something special.
"This tour has taken me back to my early years," Pitts enthused. "We're right up the alley of groups like Booker T. & the MGs and The Mar-Keys, and, playing these clubs, it's almost like having the Stax revue back on the road."
It ain't New York, but Shawn Cripps is taking his group, The Limes, to Madison Avenue for a record-release party Saturday, May 29th. Sorry, folks. He's still not celebrating the release of his long-awaited Easley-McCain recordings. Cripps owes the studio payment for the sessions, so he's releasing two circa-1991 tracks ("Goddamn You Honeys," recorded at Monsieur Jeffrey Evans' Tillman Audio Research studio, and "Old Evil River," cut at Crosstown Studio) on a seven-inch single instead.
Federico Zanutto of Solid Sex Lovie Doll Records pressed up the vinyl in a limited edition of 300. Previously, the Italian label released singles by The Lost Sounds, The Reatards, and The Knaughty Knights, all favorites on the local punk/garage scene. "I don't really know how this record came about," Cripps confessed. "We played in Oxford, and one of The Preacher's Kids said a few nice things about us. The label started asking around. They contacted Jack [Yarber, who splits drumming duties with Nick Ray in The Limes], who told me they wanted to do a single."
Meanwhile, you can go to WeAreTheLimes.com to download portions of the Limes' Easley-McCain session, which was cut last fall. "We were on tour with Mr. Airplane Man, and while we didn't have enough money to pay off [the studio], we burned copies of the rough mixes and made Xeroxed covers and peddled CDs," Cripps explained. "[Former Memphian] Chris Grayson bought one and created a Web site for me. I'd explained to him that these aren't the real songs, but all of a sudden, those rough mixes are [on the Internet] for the world to hear."
Catch the Limes with The C.C. Riders and The Dutch Masters at Murphy's Saturday, May 29th.
Producer Jim Dickinson has been busy upgrading his Zebra Ranch recording studio in rural Coldwater, Mississippi. Dickinson has been getting help from Mark Neill, owner of the Soil of the South studio, in Sacramento, California, who also designed ToeRag, the U.K. studio where The White Stripes cut their last album, Elephant.
Dickinson and Neill will be taking part in TapeOp Con 2004, held in New Orleans this weekend. The Portland, Oregon-based magazine's third annual conference, which is aimed at engineers, producers, studio owners, and home-recording enthusiasts, will feature several panels and workshops, along with performances by groups such as Calexico, Steve Wynn, Vic Chesnutt, and The North Mississippi Allstars. For more information on the conference, go to TapeOp.com. --AL
Music News and Notes: In the Mix, an exhibition of art by and about local musicians, is on display at The Dixon Gallery and Gardens through July 18th. Presented by the Memphis chapter of The Recording Academy, the exhibit features visual, graphic, photographic, and guitar art by regional musicians, among them Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars), Susan Marshall, Gerard Harris, Val Joyner, Cory Branan, Lamar Sorrento, Paul Thorn, Wayne Russell, Jimmy Crosthwait, Sid Selvidge, Jim Dickinson, and Greg Roberson (The Reigning Sound). Non-musician artists such as William Eggleston, Brooke Barnett, and Michael Carpenter are also represented Living Legends, the new album from seminal Memphis rappers 8Ball and MJG debuted at number three on The Billboard 200 album chart this week, the highest-ever debut for a locally connected hip-hop record. Released through Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' Bad Boy Records, Living Legends seems to be on its way as the duo's biggest record yet The 2004 International Songwriting Competition is now accepting submissions. According to an organization press release, $100,000 in prizes will be shared among 50 winners in 16 categories. For more information, check out SongwritingCompetition.com The final round of the Guitar Center's "Spin Off" DJ battle is Tuesday, June 1st, at 7 p.m. at the store at 8000 Highway 64. Among local turntablists still in the competition are