There are times when this city reminds me why I live here. Saturday night was one of those times: We reclined on a blanket under the stars at the Levitt Shell, a full moon on the rise, and listened to the eerily wonderful tunes concocted by Amy LaVere and her band of Memphis musicians.
The place was packed with the usual cross-section of hipsters and hippies, of families, old and young. Kids were everywhere — down front dancing with the inevitable Stevie Nicks hippie dancers, streaming through the crowd, sitting on the side of the stage. The Ghost River beer sales were brisk, and personal coolers were omnipresent. There was even a breeze. And that moon — climbing over the massive oaks, lighting the sky as LaVere and her posse made magical sounds — capped the spell.
LaVere's new music sounds a bit like Nora Jones, filtered through classic Memphis musical weirdness. LaVere's lyrics are darker than Jones', full of pain and perseverance. Her characters die, get murdered, cry, drive long lonely roads, but there's a sense that they'll keep on, that pain is the medicine they, and we, all have to take.
The album is called Stranger Me, and it's perfectly strange. Buy it.
With good notices for Stranger Me coming from the national music press, blogs, NPR, Mountain Stage and elsewhere, this may be the Memphis breakout album of the year. And if there's any justice in the world, Amy LaVere's about to get some payback for all those long nights on the road. Couldn't happen to a nicer person.