Last August, the increasingly influential Memphis garage-punk imprint Goner Records scored again with the release of lo-fi/indie rockers the Limes' third LP, Rhinestone River. The album was a national coming-out party of sorts for veteran local musician/songwriter and frontman Shawn Cripps.
Now Goner is set to release the material that originally drew the label's interest, reissuing Cripps' first two, little-known Limes albums, 2004's Tarantula! and 2006's Blue Blood.
"Shawn brought in handmade CD-R copies of his first record for us to sell in the shop in 2004 or 2005," Goner co-owner Zac Ives explained to the Flyer last year. "Eventually those songs all burrowed into my head to the point I couldn't get them back out."
And so, after the encouraging response to Rhinestone River, the label has decided to take a chance on the back-catalog which, by nearly everyone involved's estimation — including Ives and longtime Limes member Harlan T. Bobo — is even better.
"Tarantula! might be my favorite record that I've been involved with. I'll probably be listening to it for a long time," says Bobo. "I love playing these songs and I'll probably keep playing with Shawn as long as he'll have me."
"I think Rhinestone River turned out great, but these are my favorite recordings Shawn has done so far," says Ives.
Even Cripps concedes the point.
"I really feel for those two records," he says. "I'm not sure I'll ever be able to top them. My creative energy was a lot more vibrant back then because I wasn't working so much."
Tarantula! was recorded off-and-on between 2001-2003 at Easley-McCain studio with the help of Bobo on multiple instruments, drummer Paul Buchignani (Jack O & the Tennessee Tearjearkers), and keyboardist Shelby Bryant (the Clears). The album was originally released in 2004 only in Australia and New Zealand and is a bit more up-tempo than Rhinestone River, but still bears the unmistakable signature of Cripps' shaky baritone and jangly electric guitar, which almost always sounds like it might be out-of tune. However, Cripps makes it work just about every time.
"It's not that well thought out, actually," he says. "I think the best explanation of my style is that I haven't been playing guitar that long. I was originally a bass player. Once I started driving a truck for a living, I couldn't take a bass on the road with me without an amp, so I got an acoustic guitar. I started messing around with it, and found the guitar much more expressive anyway. From there I started cranking out songs left and right."
The Blue Blood album (now available as the bonus tracks to the CD version of Tarantula!) was released locally on a very small scale in 2006, and was a product of both leftovers from Tarantula! sessions at Easley-McCain and new songs subsequently recorded on Bobo's Macintosh computer, which, according to the album's liner notes, looked "like a space helmet." The album is a bit more sparse and low-key than other Limes offerings, but boasts several excellent Cripps' compositions ("Write You a Letter" and "Cowboy," for example) and makes for an excellent throw-in to an already strong product.
Limes will celebrate the re-release of Tarantula! and Blue Blood this Saturday with a show at the Hi-Tone Cafe, and will be trotting out another of the group's trademarks for the occasion: The ever-evolving live band line-up.
"Right now the band is J.D. Sutton (Nobunny), Harlan, and Jack (Oblivian)," says Cripps. "It's natural for me to keep mixing things up — I'm not really specific on what things have to sound like. When I get guys together for the band, I know their styles already and pick appropriate songs. I like keeping things different."
Fittingly, it is this line-up that will see the most steady work as Limes members — the quartet will embark on a two-month tour of Europe this fall in support of Tarantula! and Blue Blood.
"Since it all revolves around Shawn, it's going to maintain a certain something," says Ives. "But the players always put their own twist on it. I'm interested in seeing what happens after they get back from the European tour."
Limes & Co. are soliciting donations via Kickstarter to help fund the tour. To contribute to a fund that will finance the European tour featuring the Limes, Harlan T. Bobo and Jack Oblivian, visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1883121010/jack-oblivian-harlan-t-bobo-limes-european-tour.
The Limes, with Liminas, Gaz Gaz, and Sharp Balloons