Memphis boasts quite a few bands who truck in old-time country, blues, bluegrass, and jug-band music. But only a few do a little bit of everything, and nobody does it with the flair of Christian Stanfield, Vera Stanfield, Nathan Breckenridge, and Emily Breckenridge, who are collectively known as the Side Street Steppers. This hard-working acoustic ensemble, which will appeal to fans of Austin's Asylum Street Spankers, are playing a free show this week to celebrate the release of the group's second long-player, The Sweetest Peaches Don't Grow on Trees.
The Steppers don't just play the fool out of their banjos, banjo-ukuleles, and tricked-out washboards. They build their instruments from scratch and know them intimately. Shows almost always include percussive folk dancing, some burlesque, and the kind of entendre-laden, tent-show humor that made your great-grandaddy spit his dentures.
The Sweetest Peaches includes a number of vaudeville-era tunes originally recorded by artists such as Butterbeans & Susie, Mae West, and the real-life Betty Boop, Helen Kane, but the new disc also moves the band in a different, if not entirely unexpected, direction. Guest artist Christo Ruppenthal adds a bit of Django Reinhardt-influenced resophonic guitar to most tracks, and the Steppers flex their Western-swing muscle with covers of Hank Williams' "Hey Good Lookin'" and Bob Wills' "Miss Molly."
The Side Street Steppers' record release party gets under way at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 12th, at Otherlands Coffee Bar. The free show will include performances by Tennessee George and Bean.