From Frayser-born rapper Kia Shine to world-renowned opera star Kallen Esperian, there are plenty of new Memphis-centric albums in the bins this summer.
Shine's major-label debut, Due Season, cut with the assistance of Shine's Rap Hustlaz partner, Jack Frost, was released last week on Universal Records. You'll hear a reprise of "Stunna Frames" and "Respect My Fresh," but newer songs such as "Krispy" and "Bluff City Classic" should keep Due Season spinning on your CD player for months to come.
Lover Come Back, Esperian's most recent pop foray, features a dozen torch songs, ranging from a cover of Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose" to a riveting take on "Stormy Weather," backed by cellist Jonathan Kirkscey, pianist Tony Thomas, and bassist Jonathan Wires. The masterful Lover Come Back, cut with a 24-piece orchestra conducted by local arranger Sam Shoup, was actually released on the Goose Hollow label in 2005; last month, Esperian relaunched the critically acclaimed album via online retailers CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon.
Organist Charlie Wood, one of the many underrated performers around town, released Charlie Wood and the New Memphis Underground, an album that taps into this city's dual legacy of blues and soul, on local label Daddy-O Records in mid-June. Accompanied by guitarist Joe Restivo, saxman Kirk Smothers, trumpeter Marc Franklin, harp player Billy Gibson, and vocalist Tamara Jones, Wood serves up 10 scorching originals and four well-chosen covers, including a propulsive take on Booker T. & the MGs' "Boot-Leg." Covering a tune made famous by the Memphis-born king of the Hammond B-3, Booker T. Jones, is a ballsy move, but Wood pulls it off with panache.
He's not technically a local boy, but country-music mainstay Billy Burnette — son of Memphis guitarist Dorsey Burnette, one-third of the legendary Rock 'n' Roll Trio — returns to his roots with his latest project, The Bluegrass Elvises Vol. 1, which is slated for release on the American Roots label on August 16th, the 30th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. On the CD, a laid-back, yet brilliantly played collaboration with Shawn Camp, Burnette romps through a baker's dozen of Elvis hits, reinterpreting them in traditional bluegrass style. As a concept album, it works, and since Dorsey Burnette and his brother Johnny schooled Presley in his licks when they were all living in the Lauderdale Courts housing project, Billy Burnette's family history comes full circle.
With assistance from the Makeshift Music collective, Shabbadoo (the brainchild of Joey Pegram of Two Way Radio and Joint Chiefs fame) released a sixth album, Pajama, earlier this summer. A mix of psychedelic jams, electronica tidal waves, and soul-searching riffs, Pajama — released on Pegram's Minivan label — is available at Midtown indie stores Shangri-la and Goner, or via Shabbadoo's MySpace page, MySpace.com/ShabbadooBand.
Former Memphian Greg Cartwright regrouped with The Detroit Cobras for Tied & True, released on Bloodshot Records this spring. While garage fans have developed a love 'em or hate 'em attitude (bred, most likely, by the apathy of lead vocalist Rachel Nagy), the Detroit Cobras rock on Tied & True, their fourth collection of obscure R&B covers. Versions of Irma Thomas' "The Hurt's All Gone" and Garnet Mimm's "As Long As I Have You" will tide you over until the next Reigning Sound album drops, hopefully before the end of the year.
With Party Dudes, released on the Arizona-based New Art School label last month, Jackson, Mississippi, garage rockers Tuff Luvs serve up a helluva fun album. Now the quartet — co-vocalists and guitarists Mike Rushing and Carey Miller, bassist Brad Walker, and drummer Murph Caicedo — is in the midst of its first West Coast tour, which will bring the group back to Memphis in mid-September. And Oxford's irrepressible Tyler Keith & the Preacher's Kids finally have a new one out: The Devil's Hitlist, recorded at Easley-McCain Recording Studio and at Tweed Recording Studio in Oxford. The best unsigned band in this neck of the woods, the Preacher's Kids opted to release The Devil's Hitlist, which features crowd pleasers such as the Who-inspired "Ghost Rider," the punk anthem "I Wanna Be a Lost Cause," and the fiery "Blow You a Kiss," on their own. Be sure to pick up a copy when the Preacher's Kids play Gonerfest next month.