Apparently, while I was wrapping up interviews with her Memphis Rhythm Band for a feature in last week's Flyer, Chan Marshall -- aka Cat Power -- was busy suffering a nervous breakdown.
Her New York-based label, Matador Records, isn't talking, although last Monday, they canceled all her tour dates, citing "health reasons."
The cancellation couldn't have come at a more inopportune time: Along with rave reviews of her recorded-in-Memphis album The Greatest, Marshall's mug is currently plastered in the pages of magazines such as Rolling Stone, Mojo, Paste, and Vanity Fair.
Her Memphis group -- which includes Teenie Hodges, Dave Smith, Doug Easley, Steve Potts, horn and string sections, and a pair of back-up singers -- was standing at the ready, poised to begin a week of rehearsals at the Gibson Lounge downtown, before concerts at New York's Town Hall, Austin's South-By-Southwest festival, and London's Barbican Arts Centre.
But it wasn't all bad news: Journalist Robert Gordon, who helped cherry-pick the musicians for The Greatest, reports that the powers that be at Matador are making things right for the Memphis Rhythm Band.
According to Gordon, Marshall's meltdown was "totally out of the blue. It went from 'everything's great' to 'we've got a big problem,'" he says. "I was sorry to hear about her, but at the same time, I was really concerned about these 10 Memphis players, who had given away all their regular gigs -- playing at church, giving lessons, and performing in clubs -- and were now left high and dry because a month's tour was canceled a few days before it was supposed to start."
The good news, Gordon reveals, "is that Matador has treated these musicians with respect and dignity, and they're [financially] compensating these people. Of course, I can't speak for Chan, but my sense is that she would like to do the tour with these musicians some time down the road."
This writer, however, isn't holding her breath.
The city's neo-soul and hip-hop scenes come together this week to participate in Soul Aid! 2006, a goodwill effort benefiting the Memphis Food Bank's Kids Café. At last year's concert, held at Isaac Hayes' restaurant at Peabody Place, participants raised over $1,000 for the World Food Program's tsunami relief effort in Eastern Africa.
The second annual benefit, scheduled for The Complex Sunday, February 19th, costs $10 in advance and features seven acts, including vocal duo Men-Nefer, hip-hop/rock band Free Sol, hip-hop collective The Iron Mic Coalition, instrumental group NuJynisis, jazz/soul bandleader Will Graves, former Afrodesia vocalist Twin Spirit, and poets tamE, El Hakim, and Hannah the Duchess.
Event co-organizer tamE says that her day job as a case manager at MIFA primed her participation in Soul Aid! 2006.
Kids Café provides needy children with hot, nutritious meals. The project has been active in Memphis since August 2002, but today, Kids Café, once offered in five inner-city neighborhoods, is offered in just three locations, including the Goodwill Boys and Girls Club on Walker Avenue, the Buckman Boys and Girls Club on Vollentine Avenue, and the Southside Boys and Girls Club on Richmond.
"I love helping people," tamE says. "I hope we look up and see the fire marshals at the door, because we can't let another person in."
When asked about the color line that typically divides local audiences, tamE notes, "Some people market their events to the people they already know will come." But the poet -- a veteran of spoken-word scenes at disparate venues like Precious Cargo, the Map Room, Java Cabana, and Wing City -- hopes that Soul Aid! 2006 will pull in both black and white listeners.
"There are a lot of stereotypes -- [that] Will Graves' audience is mostly black and the Iron Mic Coalition's is mostly white," she says, "while Free Sol seems to pull in everybody. We're from different cliques, but we're all part of the same movement."