Two weeks ago, Memphis' own Free Sol stole the show at Atlanta's Unsigned New Music Urban Showcase, sponsored by BMI. Impressing hip-hop judges Cee-lo and Jazze Pha (son of Stax alumnus James Alexander), the group edged out hundreds of other performers to finish in the top five of the competition.
"We're here to take over," says frontman Christopher Anderson, who also goes by the Free Sol moniker. But the Free Sol that sacked Atlanta was considerably stripped down from an earlier incarnation of the group, which dominated the Mid-South Grammy Showcase two years ago. Once a septet, the rock-meets-soul-meets-hip-hop amalgamation is now a four-piece, with drummer James Thomas, guitarist Elliott Ives, and keyboard player Daniel Dangerfield backing Anderson on stage.
"Free Sol is bigger than Free Sol," Anderson says. "It's really not about one person. It's a state of mind."
As a quartet, touring is also less complicated: With at least 15 dates a month on the road, playing gigs in Oxford, Mississippi, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Lafayette, Louisiana, Free Sol are quickly establishing themselves on the college circuit.
"We've been out here hustling," Anderson says. "These three guys have proven that they're really into it, and I want to keep them happy and make sure we keep moving forward."
The band plans to have a second album (their 2004 debut, 11:11, was released on Memphis Records) recorded within a few months.
"I'm writing a few new songs and trying to get a little airplay. I'd like to get stuff on [alternative rock station] 93X and [rap station] Hot 107.1," Anderson says, pointing to urban artists like Jay-Z and Ludacris who've charted hit singles collaborating with rock bands like Linkin Park and Sum 41. "I definitely think people are ready for it.''
Catch Free Sol at the Young Avenue Deli on Saturday, June 4th. Go to FreeSol.net for more details.
Midtown hero Harlan T. Bobo just inked a one-record deal with local label/retail establishment Goner Records, which is re-releasing his debut album, Too Much Love, to a national audience this week.
"The whole story behind him -- the fact that he originally did the entire project on his own -- is pretty amazing. All we're trying to do is give the record its due," says Goner co-owner Zac Ives.
"Call it bad capitalism, but I didn't think I'd still be selling records," says Bobo, who moved an estimated 800 copies of Too Much Love on his own over the last year. "I made 'em in batches of 100, and I couldn't keep them in stores," he adds with a sigh. "I should've made a profit, but it actually cost me money."
The deal with Goner may give Bobo the incentive to further develop his stage show, which, in recent months, has included stilt walking, pancake flipping, and mechanical angel's wings.
He's already planning a follow-up release, which he hopes to record with Tim Prudhomme and Doug Easley later this spring. No word yet on who will be releasing the as-yet-untitled album, although Bobo says with assurance, "I can probably guarantee that I won't be putting it out myself!"
A CD-release party for Too Much Love will be at Goner Records (2152 Young Avenue) on Saturday, May 14th, at 7 p.m. For more information, go to Goner-Records.com.
After Elvis Costello's Beale Street Music Festival performance, he was spotted at both Ardent and Royal recording studios doing his homework before (hopefully) deciding to cut his next album in Memphis. And, if the Irishman has his way, American Dream Safari guru Tad Pierson will become a bona-fide celebrity. Footage of Costello cruising around Memphis and the Mississippi Delta in Pierson's pink Cadillac is prominently featured on the DVD Club Date: Elvis Costello & the Imposters Live in Memphis.
"I haven't seen it, but we filmed last fall, the day before his Hi-Tone concert," Pierson explains of the DVD, which was released last month. "I had a cameraman in the front seat, [drummer] Pete Thomas and Elvis in the backseat, and a support vehicle following us around. He seemed to enjoy his time here, so it wouldn't surprise me if he came back to record another record."
Guitarist Buddy Guy wrapped up sessions at Royal Studio last week. According to Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell, who manages the facility, Guy and producer Steve Jordan came to get the studio's authentic soul sound. Poppa Willie Mitchell arranged the horns, bringing in big guns like Stax veterans Andrew Love and Ben Cauley. "Don Smith came in to engineer the session, and Pops arranged three songs, including a killer version of Otis Redding's 'I've Got Dreams To Remember,'" Boo explains. On deck at Royal: the Minivan Blues Band, working on their second album. •