Music » Music Features

Era-spanning blues



Who says that jug-band blues can't sound contemporary? On Needy Time, his newest release for the Memphis-based Inside Sounds label, David Evans, resident bluesologist at the University of Memphis, taps into the genre's pre-World War II style even as he namechecks contemporary topics such as September 11th, Osama bin Laden, President Bush, Hurricane Katrina, and war hero Jessica Lynch.

"A radio station in El Paso is playing the song 'Bring the Boys Back Home' quite a bit," says Inside Sounds owner Eddie Dattel, who also co-produced and played on the album. "It turns out that Jessica Lynch and Lori Piestewa, who was [the first U.S. servicewoman to be] killed in Iraq, were both stationed there at Fort Bliss."

The powerful original, which Evans penned in 2004, opens the album. It's followed by a traditional gospel number, "Now Is a Needy Time," which features The Spirit of Memphis Quartet (who reappear for "God Rode in the Windstorm"), a cover of Tommy McClennan's "Highway 51," and a riveting jug-band version of the blues obscurity "Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden."

Several songs on the album were culled from earlier sessions. Two 1960s-era cuts, "Baby, Please Don't Go" and "Loving Blues," feature Evans' former running buddy, the late Alan Wilson, guitarist with the group Canned Heat. A rousing rendition of "Bottle Up and Go" was recorded with the late Hammie Nixon and Madame Van Zula Hunt in '79, while other tracks were cut in Paris, France, and at Inside Sounds Studio here in Memphis.

This Friday, August 24th, Evans will be performing songs from Needy Time at a CD release party at the Center for Southern Folklore. Elmo Lee Thomas — who plays harmonica and jug on several tracks on the album — will be joining him. Showtime is 7 p.m. For more information, call 525-3655.

Also new for Inside Sounds: Jimmy the Pervert's More Dirty Little Secrets, the second comedy album from former Lizard Kings/Xavion songwriter Wally Ford's alter ego. "It's been getting a lot of national attention," Dattel says. "The comedy station on XM Radio likes him, and we noticed all these downloads, so we decided to get some new stuff together." Tracks include the utterly hilarious "Kool-Aid Acid Stance" and "I Was a Teenage Mental Case."

"We're also promoting the blues constantly," Dattel notes, explaining that Memphis blues guitarist Daddy Mack Orr, a fixture at the Blue Worm juke joint, will hit the West Coast for the first time in mid-September, when he goes out on an eight-city tour with James and Harold Bonner and drummer William Faulkner. This winter, Inside Sounds' resident harmonica guru, Billy Gibson, will join Charlie Musselwhite, Hubert Sumlin, and Irma Thomas on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, slated for the Caribbean in January.

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As impossible as it is to believe, Sharde Thomas is a senior in high school. But the fife wunderkind will put down her books this weekend, when she and her extended family stage the Turner Family Picnic in Gravel Springs, Mississippi.

Over the last 50 or so years, the picnic, a North Mississippi hill-country tradition, has been documented by Library of Congress folklorist Alan Lomax and hundreds of photographers and writers.

What to expect: chewy goat barbecue, fried catfish sandwiches, ice cold beer, and an incredible array of music from Thomas and The Rising Star Fife & Drum Band, a group she inherited from her late grandfather, Otha Turner, who died in 2003, and friends like the family of late hill-country blues star R.L. Burnside, T-Model Ford, and more.

"We've been doing this at least 49 years, for as long as my mama can remember," says Bobbie Turner Mallory, another of Turner's granddaughters.

"We're keeping it the old way," she adds. "It's pretty easy to pull off. As long as the band continues on, I think we're fine."

The picnic, which begins on Friday, August 24th, just before dusk, and continues early afternoon on Saturday, August 25th, is free and open to the public.

To get to the Turners' farm, drive south on I-55 to Senatobia, Mississippi. Go east on Highway 4, toward Holly Springs. Turn south on Gravel Springs Road, then east on O.B. McClinton Highway. The picnic will be about a mile down on the south side of the road.

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