Since its inception in 1993, Memphis-based independent label Goner Records has established a well-earned international reputation for releasing modern-classic garage/punk records by the likes of the Oblivians, Guitar Wolf, and the Reatards.
But in the last few years, the label has stretched out a bit, testing the waters in other rock genres. The most obvious examples of this are Harlan T. Bobo, the revered indie/folk songwriter who signed to the label in 2004 and has subsequently released three critically acclaimed albums for the label, and the sunny-pop Magic Kids, whose 2009 Goner-released single "Hey Boy" was so successful it lead to the group's signing to the Matador subsidiary label True Panther.
"We always said we'd put out music we like, and we listen to all sorts of stuff," says Goner Records co-owner Zac Ives. "You gotta keep the kids on their toes."
This week, Goner unveils another unexpected offering, in the form of the third LP from the noisy and twangy indie-rock outfit the Limes. Fronted by longtime Memphis musician Shawn Cripps, the Limes further expand Goner's territory with an impressive, if a bit challenging, new album titled Rhinestone River.
Cripp's music career began in the early '90s. He fronted the popular local hard-rock band Shindig from '90 to '97, and he was also an original member of Viva L'American Deathray from '96 to '98 until a mental breakdown forced him to withdraw from the music scene and take a job as a truck driver.
"I needed to clear my mind," Cripps says. "I thought that the hard work, long hours, and isolation might help me recover."
Ultimately, the experience would also serve as inspiration for his next project, the Limes.
"Part of why I decided to do it was for the artistic inspiration. I came up with lots of song ideas during that time. I also learned to play guitar better, which opened lots of doors for me as a songwriter," Cripps says.
After a few soul-searching years on the road, Cripps re-launched his music career under the Limes moniker, beginning with 2004's self-released LP Tarantula.
"Shawn brought in handmade CD-R copies of his first record for us to sell in the shop in 2004 or 2005," Ives says. "Eventually those songs all burrowed into my head to the point I couldn't get them back out."
With the help of a rotating cast of backing musicians including Bobo and Jack Oblivian, Cripps also self-released the 2006 follow-up Bad Blood and eventually garnered the interest of the Goner label.
"I had no ambition to get signed when I gave CDs to the Goner guys," Cripps says. "They're my friends. I just hoped that they'd like it."
Of course, they did like it. So Goner decided to release the next record.
Recorded by Kyle Johnson at Rocket Science Audio, Rhinestone River is the most produced Limes effort to date, but it still retains the loose, early Pavement-esque charm of the band's previous offerings.
"Kyle is a very quiet and patient engineer, which really helped me," Cripps says. "And he has really great sounding rooms. It was a perfect environment for me."
The album also benefits from the varied contributions of several prominent local musician friends, once again including Bobo as well as scene luminaries such as Alicja Trout (River City Tanlines, Mouserocket), Paul Buchignani (Afghan Whigs, Jack O & the Tennessee Tearjerkers), and Nahshon Benford (Lucero, Snowglobe).
"I've been lucky to have so many talented people participate in the project over the years," says Cripps.
But for Ives and his longtime business partner, Eric Friedl, it was the quality of the material rather than the star-studded album credits that drew the label in.
"Its one of those albums that sneaks up on you," says Friedl. "It doesn't grab you at first, but later you find yourself turning back to it and realizing there are some great songs."
"His [Cripps'] songs aren't like anyone else's — and it kinda feels like our little secret," Ives says. "Hopefully we can change that a bit."
The Limes, Rhinestone River record-release show, with Mouserocket and Ron Franklin's Gasoline Silver The Hi-Tone Cafe Saturday, August 28th 10 p.m.; $6