Overheard at the South Memphis String Band concert at Otherlands, last night at around 10 p.m.:
Midtown Guy: "So what's happening after this?"
Hippie Chick: "Mojo Possum at Neil's, and somebody named Jack Oblivian at the Hi-Tone."
MG: "Jack O'Blivian? Is that an Irish band or something?"
HC: "Not sure!"
I didn't make it to Mojo Possum, but there was plenty of time to catch both the South Memphis String Band and Jack O and the Tennessee Tearjerkers — if you didn't mind the packed crowds at either venue, that is. I had a friend in town from NY for the weekend, and plenty of acquaintances who had opted to stay in town a few extra days after the Blues Music Awards, and all day long I'd been getting phone calls from folks who were concerned that both shows might be sell-outs.
I was dubious, but my out-of-town friends were nearly right — neither Otherlands nor the Hi-Tone turned away paying customers, but both rooms were packed to the gills.
I missed Jim Dickinson's opening set at Otherlands, but managed to catch about 10 songs from the South Memphis String Band, an inspired combo starring Jimbo Mathus, Luther Dickinson and Alvin Youngblood Hart, who, rumor has it, already have a label deal. They sounded fantastic — authentic enough to appeal to the diehard pre-war blues fans in the audience, but with a rootsy, raw edge that pleased younger listeners.
John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives got the crowd at the Hi-Tone onto the dance floor, but a large part of the audience dissipated before the Tearjerkers took the stage. First an equipment problem and then a missing bassist slowed things down, but by midnight, Jack O, Paul Buchignani, Adam Woodard, JP Keith, and Harlan T. Bobo tore into a set list culled from the Tearjerkers' new album, Disco Outlaw, that drew fans from the parking lot back indoors.
The Tearjerkers roared through at least 90 minutes of music, including new and old originals like "Black Boots" and "Ain't Got No Money" and covers of Travis Wammack's "Scratchy" and the MGs' "Time Is Tight." As always — and despite the fact that it was his CD-release party, and his first post $5 Cover appearance — Jack O kept the focus on his sidemen, preferring to step into the shadows as Keith took the solo on "Scratchy" and other numbers. The band closed with their rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Miss You," left over from the glory days of the disco era. With Woodard thumping out the Ian McLagen parts on the organ and Keith serving up the Ron Wood riffs, Jack O delivered the Mick Jagger/Keith Richards swagger, providing the perfect end to a perfect night.