It's the first week in March, which means that most indie bands around the country have their sights set on Austin, Texas, home of the South By Southwest Music Conference, now in its 16th year. In Memphis, of course, it's no different: Garage-rock veterans Monsieur Jeffrey Evans and Jack Yarber are packing their bags and heading west, as are Arkansas bluesman Cedell Davis, former Mid-Southerner Jas. Mathus, The Tommy Hoehn-Van Duren Band, and Cory Branan, Lucero, The Pawtuckets, and the rest of the MADJACK Records roster.
"Memphis meets Austin," Evans says, referring to both SXSW and South Filthy, the band he and Yarber formed with Austinites Walter Daniels, Mike Buck, and Lary Warner. "[SXSW] is just a good time -- a real party. I don't know if they're breaking any new acts," Evans jokes. "But Lary, our bassist, teaches Latin, and he's gonna sing 'Your Cheatin' Heart' in Latin." South Filthy will be performing on Saturday, March 15th, at Beerland. After their SXSW appearance, the band will head down to San Antonio for a gig then hit the studio. "Wrecked 'Em Records is putting out a single that we recorded last summer in Memphis," Evans says. "Then we're gonna record a few more things in Austin."
"I don't know what it has to do with music, but it's fun," Branan says, bringing up the social aspect of the weeklong conference. After SXSW is over, he's driving to Los Angeles and then up to San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, before heading east to New York. On March 31st, he'll be on Last Call with Carson Daly; two days later he'll be performing on Late Night with David Letterman. "It's pretty ridiculous, huh?" Branan says in anticipation of his Letterman appearance. "Me, [guitarist] Steve Selvidge, [bassist] Mark Stuart, and [drummer] John Argroves playing with Paul Schaeffer. That's gonna be wild."
For MADJACK co-founder Mark McKinney, "getting recognized and heard outside of the Parkways" is one of the most important aspects of SXSW. "Take Cory, for example," McKinney says. "His album was released locally two years ago, but now that The Pig [WMPS-FM 107.5] has added 'Miss Ferguson' to their playlist, Cory's music has suddenly become legitimized. This is our home market, but this is Lucero's eighth market now. Our acts do better in Colorado and Kentucky than they do in their own hometown."
Branan, Lucero, Rob Jungklas, Eric Lewis and Andy Ratliff, and McKinney's own band, the Pawtuckets, will all be performing at SXSW. "It's the first time for anybody on the label to go to SXSW," McKinney says. "I guess the gods were smiling." MADJACK will host a showcase at the Pecan Street Alehouse at 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 13th, then throw a barbecue at Yarddog Folk Art Gallery on Saturday night with Harp magazine and the North Carolina-based Yep Roc label.
According to McKinney, just getting accepted to play at SXSW jump-started a slew of national attention for bands on the label. A full-page feature on Lucero ran in this month's No Depression magazine, while Tennessee, the band's second album, received a rave review on CNN. The band will also have a track on a sampler that Miller Beer put together, to be given away at SXSW. "The No Depression press kicked it to the next level," McKinney says. "People have been following the music, but this puts us in the national arena."
McKinney sees the focus on MADJACK as a way to make a statement about the contemporary Memphis music scene. "Something's going on here besides Elvis Presley," he says. "I've been pretty strong-headed about keeping the label Memphis-based." MADJACK plans to release Rob Jungklas' Arkadelphia album nationally in April, followed by a new project from Eric Lewis and Andy Ratliff. "We've had a million and one conversations with Snowglobe," McKinney adds when asked which groups he'd like to add to the label's roster.
"The whole irony of starting the label," McKinney laments, "is that I have two records nearly completed, but I can't find the time to get them done. And, of course, there's the dilemma of putting your own record out. It opens you up for scrutiny."
Hopefully, McKinney will push his fears aside to release an album by his latest group, The Tennessee Boltsmokers. "It might come out this summer," McKinney teases. "We're growing pretty fast right now, but we feel like we're headed in a good direction."
The Turner family would like to thank Memphis Flyer readers for their cards last month. Othar Turner died on the morning of February 27th, at age 94, while his daughter Bernice Turner Pratcher died later that evening. She was 48. Othar's granddaughter, Sharde Thomas, already plans to play fife at the family's annual Labor Day picnic, a tradition for more than 50 years.
The local chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced the nominees for its 18th Annual Premier Player Awards last week. The ceremony will be held Thursday, April 3rd, and will also honor the legacy of Memphis-based soul label Hi Records. The nominees are:
Female Vocalist: Cynthia Hunt, Jackie Johnson, Susan Marshall, Kim Richardson, Reba Russell. Producer: Tom Browning, Paul Ebersold, Willie Mitchell, Jeff Powell, Ross Rice. Drums/Percussion: Jim Britt, Cody Dickinson, Chad Gamble, Harry Peel, Bill Simmers, David Skypeck. Keyboards: Paul Brown, Jimmy Enright, Al Gamble, Ross Rice, Rick Steff, Charlie Wood. Strings: Richard Ford, Eric Lewis, Gaylon Patterson, David Pierce, Kevin Tallant, Clint Wagner, Jon Westover. Rapper(s): Gangsta Blac, Mr. Del, Koopsta Knicca, Skinny Pimp, Tela. Male Vocalist: James Govan, Kevin Paige, Josey Scott, Preston Shannon, Doug Simmers. Engineer: Tom Browning, Posey Hedges, Dawn Hopkins, Kevin Houston, Jeff Powell, Mark Yoshida. Bass: Chris Chew, Jackie Clark, Richard Cushing, Vince Leffler, John Stubblefield, John Williams. Brass: Tom Clary, Marc Franklin, Rick Dolan, Steve Dolan, Reid McCoy. Harmonica: James Cotton, Richard Cushing, Billy Gibson, Blind Mississippi Morris, Robert Nighthawk. Live DJ/Turntable Artist: DJ Aramis, Colin Butler, DJ Calvin Cox, DJ Grym, Slice Tee, Devin Steel. Band: FreeWorld, Gamble Brothers Band, Lucero, North Mississippi Allstars, Saliva. Songwriter: Nancy Apple, Cory Branan, Rob Jungklas, Ross Rice, Doug Simmers, Keith Sykes. Guitar: Luther Dickinson, Jack Holder, Brian Overstreet, Steve Selvidge, Harold Smith. Woodwinds: Josh Degges, Art Edmaiston, Herman Green, Lannie McMillan, Kirk Smothers. Choir: The Gary Beard Chorale, Kevin Davidson and the Voices, Mississippi Mass Choir, Orange Mound Community Choir, Billy Rivers and the Angelic Voices of Faith, Keenan Shotwell and the Voices for Christ Ministries, Tennessee Mass Choir. Award for Community Service: Alex Coleman, Echoes of Truth, Knox Phillips, Stax Music Academy, Steve Walker. Premier Newcomer Award: Bloodthirsty Lovers, Equoia Coleman, Ingram Hill, Porch Ghouls, Valencia Robinson. Premier Music Teacher: Lily Afshar, Jack Cooper, Herman Green, Jeff Huddleston, Daniel Pfeifer. Award for Outstanding Achievement: James Cotton, Alvin Youngblood Hart, MADJACK Records, North Mississippi Allstars, Saliva, Kirk Whalum.
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