Last year, the North Mississippi Allstars' Luther Dickinson joined the Black Crowes as a hired-gun guitar player. This year, another nationally known band has plucked another Memphis guitarslinger to boost their sound.
Steve Selvidge — who got his start as co-frontman for the beloved '90s-era local band Big Ass Truck and has most recently been playing with Antenna Shoes and Amy LaVere — has joined up with popular Brooklyn-based indie band The Hold Steady, whose fifth studio album, Heaven Is Whenever, is set for a May 4th release.
Selvidge's relationship with the Hold Steady — who'd recruited Lucero singer Ben Nichols to provide back-up vocals on their last album, 2008's Stay Positive — began several years ago when the band shared a record label (Frenchkiss) and played gigs alongside the Bloodthirsty Lovers, a Memphis band led by the Grifters' Dave Shouse that included Selvidge for a while.
Selvidge befriended Hold Steady guitarist Tad Kubler at the time, which led to a few concert dates where another Selvidge band — the Secret Service — was asked to open for the Hold Steady.
The road to inviting Selvidge to join the Hold Steady opened up last year when the band parted ways with keyboard player Franz Nicolay.
"They decided to keep it to the core four members and were looking for a hired-gun keyboard player," Selvidge says. "At that point, I think Tad said, if we're bringing in a new keyboard player, I want a second guitarist too, and I want it to be Steve."
Selvidge met with the band in December and learned 24 songs in preparation for touring. He played a couple of gigs with the band last month and will head out on a two-week East Coast tour starting April 2nd. Provided things go well, Selvidge says he'll make a 14-month commitment to become a regular part of the band.
The band's new album is said to be more guitar-heavy than previous records and provides opportunity for two guitars to play primary roles. Selvidge says he and Kubler have been working on some "crazy double guitar stuff" to use on tour.
While Selvidge heads out with the Hold Steady, his former bandmates LaVere and drummer Paul Taylor are also heading in new directions. Taylor is joining San Francisco-based singer Chuck Prophet, the frontman for '80s alt-rock faves Green on Red, for an upcoming European tour. Meanwhile, LaVere has been holding practices with a new backing band, local instrumental stalwarts The City Champs (guitarist Joe Restivo, drummer George Sluppick, and organ player Al Gamble).
"We've been rehearsing our ever-loving asses off to get it up and running," LaVere says. "I don't know how much I'll get to use Al, because he's touring with other bands, so it might mostly still be a trio. But I'm excited about it. It's been really good so far."
LaVere will play her first live show with the new lineup April 17th for a charity event at the Levitt Shell but plans a public debut this summer, around the time she'll head into the Archer Records studio with the City Champs — and others — to record her third full-length album. In the meantime, you can hear LaVere on Preservation: An Album Benefiting Preservation Hall and Its Music Outreach Program, a recently released all-star benefit album that features an array of vocalists performing with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. In addition to LaVere, featured artists include Tom Waits, Dr. John, Pete Seeger, and Steve Earle.
Chilton tribute concert on tap: Late Big Star and Box Tops singer Alex Chilton was remembered at a local public memorial service at Minglewood Hall March 30th, but that won't be the last chance for local fans to celebrate the life and music of the groundbreaking, Memphis-bred musician, who died last month in New Orleans. A previously scheduled Big Star concert for May 15th at the Levitt Shell will go on, now re-purposed as a tribute concert to Chilton. Original Big Star drummer Jody Stephens and modern-era members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow will perform, with guest musicians yet to be named. Tickets for the concert are $20 and are available via LevittShell.org.