Headlining the roots-music-heavy bill this year is British folk-rock legend Richard Thompson, who will be closing the festival with a solo acoustic set. An accomplished songwriter and extraordinary guitarist, Thompson has been a force since the late '60s, when he was a founding member of Fairport Convention, sort of the British Byrds. Thompson went solo in the early '70s and has been making well-regarded solo records ever since, with 1999's Mock Tudor being the most recent. Arguably, though, Thompson's greatest contribution to rock history was the music he made with his ex-wife, Linda Thompson, including two legitimate classics, 1974's I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight and 1982's devastating, end-of-a-marriage song cycle, Shoot Out the Lights.
But Thompson isn't the only reason to head to Oxford this weekend. The rest of the Double Decker lineup is fairly predictable but still impressive, with North Mississippi stalwarts Blue Mountain, The North Mississippi Allstars, and ex-Neckbones front man Tyler Keith leading the way. Louisiana will also make its presence felt in the form of The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Cajun institution The Hackberry Ramblers, and various members of the roots-rock supergroup the Continental Drifters -- Peter Holsapple playing along with singer-songwriter Syd Straw and Drifters Susan Cowsill and Vicki Peterson performing as The Psycho Sisters.
-- Chris Herrington
You must give in to my hypnotic suggestion and go see The Reigning Sound at the Hi-Tone Café on Saturday, April 28th. This band is, without a doubt, the best new band to emerge in Memphis in more years than I can count. Greg Oblivian, the frenzied singer and guitarist for both the Oblivians and the Compulsive Gamblers, fronts this garage-influenced country-soul outfit which also boasts Alex Green, a founding member of Big Ass Truck, on keys and rhythm guitar; Greg Robertson, who produced the compilation Memphis in the Meantime, on drums; and relative newcomer to the Memphis scene Jeremy Scott, from the New Jersey band Maximum Jack, on bass. Their sound is almost impossible to describe, but not because it is unusual in any way. It's difficult to describe because it is such a potent combination of so many relatively ordinary styles. Imagine a post-punk version of the Byrds and you'll maybe get some idea of what it is that the Reigning Sound does so very well. While Greg Oblivian's previous projects have been volatile homages to '50s and '60s pop filtered through two decades of punk, the Reigning Sound gives voice to his, until now, less obvious inspiration -- folk rock. He's perhaps the only performer in Memphis who is every bit as convincing singing sweetly sincere ballads as he is screaming, "I'm not a sicko/there's a plate in my head." If you have even the slightest interest in contemporary Memphis music, you simply must see these guys.
-- Chris Davis