Is there a more underrated music venue in town than Huey's? The ever-expanding local burger chain has three things going for it that few other local music venues can collectively claim: no cover, good grub, and manageable start times. I was reminded off all this a couple of weeks ago when, with family in town, we followed a visit to the Stax Museum with a late lunch at Huey's Midtown. We weren't seeking out musical accompaniment to our meal, but it worked out well. As I downed a smoky melt, I bobbed my baby girl to the rhythm of the band Dead Irish Blues as they put a Celtic spin on the Memphis Jug Band. So, add a fourth benefit: What other live music venue is so infant-friendly?
Huey's has been a home for good blues and jazz artists, local and touring, every Sunday afternoon for years now, and with seven locations, that means more options, musically and geographically, for roots-music fans who have to work on Monday morning and don't want to hassle with more traditional venues. And this is a particularly good weekend to check back in with a reliable fave, as Huey's Midtown boasts one of its best double-bills in a long time. In the afternoon, 2004 International Blues Challenge solo/acoustic winner Watermelon Slim will play. Accompanying himself on steel guitar and harmonica, Slim plays hard-driving, old-soul blues that even those most skeptical of contemporary styles would appreciate. Later that night, but still at a manageable 8:30 p.m., Huey's Midtown welcomes the hard-touring, long-lasting The Nighthawks, an electric blues band hailing from D.C. but in the Chicago vein.
How many artists over the past decade have the kind of inverse ratio between their commercial success and their perceived hipness as boot-scootin' boogie duo Brooks & Dunn? Celine Dion, sure. After that? It's easy to see why the duo's slick sound would come off as pure cheese for music fans who still want all country music to sound like Lefty Frizzell. Besides, singer Kix Brooks so looks the part. You'd expect this guy to be doing your hair at the mall (or dancing backup in a Shania Twain video), not topping the country charts. But here's a little secret: Guitar-man Ronnie Dunn puts the R-O-C-K back into middle-aged Dad rock, something you can hear happen all across the 2004-released second volume of the duo's Greatest Hits Collection if you listen to it with open ears and the right strategy. (Hint: Skip the ballads.) And cheese goes down so much better when hooked to a killer riff or two. Really, Dunn is to pop-country what Jack White, Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), and Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney) are to alt-rock. And I bet none of those inventive players can boast their own engraved Dale Earnhardt guitar. Anyway, Brooks & Dunn play the Horseshoe Casino Thursday, February 24th.
For Memphis garage rockERS, the tiny Buccaneer Lounge on Monroe just east of Cleveland has been a home away from home for years. But over the past dozen months the club has really caught fire as a music venue. This week should provide a real treat for Memphis blues hounds as three generations of Mid-South songsters play the Buc on three consecutive nights. Kenny Brown is probably best known as "that guy who plays with R.L. Burnside," which isn't entirely fair to Brown. His electric slide skills won't fit easily into anybody's shadow, and he'll be showing them off on Friday, February 25th.
On Sunday, Junior Kimbrough acolyte Robert "Wolfman" Belfour brings his husky voice and his driving one-chord boogies to the Buc. Comparative youngster Jason Freeman, the idiosyncratic singer and slide guitarist for the Bluff City Backsliders and recently appointed sideman for the Porch Ghouls sequel El Dorado & the Ruckus, will play a solo set on Tuesday, March 1st. n