Porretta Soul Festival organizer Graziano Uliani recently wrapped up a Memphis visit, where he hobnobbed with Center for Southern Folklore director Judy Peiser, Stax Museum head Deanie Parker, Memphis Horns Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love, session musicians Scott Thompson and Jim Spake, jazz songstress Di Anne Price, and The Bar-Kays, sussing out talent for the Italian soul-music festival, now in its 17th year.
"We have a good relation with the Stax Museum and the Center for Southern Folklore," explains Uliani, who has already booked the Bar-Kays, Jay Blackfoot, James Govan & the Rum Boogie Band, The South Soul Rhythm Section, and the Millennium Madness dance troupe for the 2006 festival, scheduled for July, along with school-age performers from the Stax Music Academy, who will play a few concerts in Italy during the months preceding the event.
Uliani, who spearheaded a campaign in Porretta to name a park after Rufus Thomas and a street after Otis Redding, says, "For me, the real soul music is from Memphis. The roots of modern music are made in Memphis."
Uliani estimates that 10,000 soul-music fans will invade the Tuscan town for the three-day festival, paying $20 euros a night for the privilege. "Journalists come from across Europe," he says, "because here in Porretta, you can see the real rhythm sections and the best horn sections, just like it was in the '60s." For more information, go to PorrettaSoul.com.
In the Mix
Meanwhile, former Memphian -- and Reigning Sound frontman -- Greg Cartwright just wrapped up a recording session in Nashville, where he produced an album for songwriter/Muscle Shoals drummer George Soule with legendary sideman Spooner Oldham on keyboards and Silver Jews' Brian Kotzer on drums.
Cartwight's former Oblivians and Compulsive Gamblers bandmate Jack Yarber also recently finished a recording session with The Loose Diamonds, his latest side project, which is a veritable garage-rock supergroup that includes King Louie Bankston on guitar and Harlan T. Bobo on bass. Recorded at Jimbo Mathus' Delta Recording Studio in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the Loose Diamonds sessions should see the light of day sometime this year. In the meantime, Yarber travels to Europe next month for a six-week tour with The Knaughty Knights, a band he formed with Rich Crook of the Lost Sounds and ex-Persuaders drummer Shaggy Duffey. Before then, look for Yarber onstage with his main group, The Tearjerkers, at Murphy's on Friday, January 27th.
Somehow, Bobo has found time to finish sessions for his second album, the highly anticipated follow-up to Too Much Love. Bobo and engineer Doug Easley were recently spotted at Cooper-Young's First Congregational Church, where they recorded extra tracks on a mobile unit. No word yet on a label or release date, although Goner Records is pressing up a vinyl edition of Too Much Love, which will be available on Valentine's Day. Look for a record-release party that night at the Hi-Tone Café; in March, Bobo will join other Goner-centric groups The Dutch Masters, Final Solutions, Head, and The King Louie One Man Band at Austin's South By Southwest music festival.
Former Porch Ghouls singer Mic Walker -- aka Eldorado Del Ray -- has been woodshedding at the Hi-Tone this month. His group, The Ruckus, which includes Matt Ross-Spang on guitar and DJ Natalie Smith, is anchoring Monday nights at the Midtown club through January (although they're taking this week off to perform at Petra Restaurant on Sunday, January 22nd). Next week, Walker says, Eldorado & the Ruckus will be back at the Hi-Tone, where they'll perform with Alicja Trout's Black Sunday and DJ Buck Wilder.
Ringo Records honcho Nancy Apple has plenty to celebrate this month: This Tuesday, she released Delta Techno, a new album by pianist Sandy Carroll, while her own project, River, Road or Rail, a collaboration with Rob McNurlin, topped the Freeform American Roots radio chart for December.
And former Commercial Appeal music critic Bill Ellis, now pursuing a doctorate at the University of Memphis, has resumed his own music career with vigor. last week, Ellis finished a session at Jim Dickinson's Zebra Ranch Studio in Coldwater, Mississippi, for an upcoming Yellow Dog Records release called God's Tattoos. A bevy of local musicians, including Amy LaVere, Paul Taylor, Andy Cohen, and The Masqueraders perform on the album, tentatively slated for a summer '06 release.