If you've been curious about all the new local soul and hip-hop acts you've heard or read about but haven't been able to check out, Tonya Dyson-Jerry is determined to make it easy for you. Dyson-Jerry, whose Chiku Urban Marketing & Promotions was responsible for bringing confrontational hip-hop duo Dead Prez to the Complex last year for a great show, has helped assemble many of the scene's best and brightest for Soul Aid: A Tsunami Relief Benefit, which will be held Sunday, February 20th, at Isaac Hayes Reloaded.
Dyson-Jerry's own group, the duo Men-Nefer, will be on the bill, along with comrades Carmen and reigning Mid-South Grammy Showcase winners Will Graves & Soul. All three groups traffic in smooth neo-soul underscored by elements of gospel and/or jazz. For a different spin, there's Tim Terry, whose blend of Prince, Marvin Gaye, and Tony Toni Toné on last year's eponymous debut album proved the most convincing slice of contemporary local soul in years. For something else entirely, there's the hip-hop collective Iron Mic Coalition, a collection of four groups that perform together and whose varied styles are united only by how out-of-step they are with the dominant Memphis rap sound. The IMC and group members Kontrast should both have debut albums on the horizon. Wrapping it all up is a new act, Nu Soul Project, which features Candice Ashir, onetime female vocal foil in Free Sol who has recently split from that group. You couldn't ask for a more concise overview of this burgeoning scene than you'll get Sunday at Isaac Hayes.
I didn't spot Marc Broussard on the Grammy telecast Sunday night, but the New Orleans-based blue-eyed soul singer sure would have fit in. Judging from his album Carencro, Broussard is something of a cross between Joss Stone -- the "old-soul's voice in hot, young bod" who paid tribute to Janis Joplin at the awards -- and such Grammy-approved radio soft-rock acts as John Mayer and Maroon 5. He sounds a little more like the former, whereas I'd prefer the latter. (Okay, I don't like Mayer's music, but he sure seems like a smart, witty guy when he isn't singing.) There's no denying that there's a considerable talent at work here. Don't be surprised if you see Broussard on the big stage someday, belting out classics in tribute to some aging or deceased soul star who's getting a Lifetime Achievement Award. Broussard will be at Newby's Thursday, February 17th, with David Ryan Harris.
-- Chris Herrington
A sad but true confession: I have a panic attack anytime someone says, "You really need to listen to [insert name of contemporary blues artist I've never heard of here]." As anyone who has ever sat through a preliminary round of the International Blues Challenge can attest, it's impossible to imagine that many of today's artists have ever heard the blues, let alone lived it. It is therefore with great surprise and absolute joy that I recommend Precious Bryant, a 60-year-old should-be blues diva who's playing Proud Larry's in Oxford on Friday, February 18th. Bryant, whose record Fool Me Good was produced by the North Mississippi All Stars' road manager Amos Harvey, doesn't have a terribly powerful voice. But her dry delivery is the perfect complement to her one-chord boogies and East Texas-meets-Piedmont rambles. Elements of Basin Street jazz creep in when Bryant covers the Peggy Lee classic "Fever," but, generally speaking, Fool Me Good sounds like a blues record produced in a vacuum, influenced by Lightnin' Hopkins, perhaps, and nobody else.
And now it's time for another curmudgeonly, nearly begrudging recommendation. The appeal of John Eddie -- the man who would be Springsteen -- escapes me almost entirely. Oh sure, he may have been a hit at the Stone Pony, the Boss may have jumped up on stage to play with him, and Jim ("do no wrong") Dickinson may have shown some interest in him, but I remain largely unimpressed. It will be a cold, cold day before I get excited about a songwriter whose best commentary on aging is "turning 40 f*&king sucks." True enough perhaps, but too pedestrian to even be boilerplate. I'll have to admit a soft spot for a song called "Low Life," a hard-driving tune about a fellow who takes strippers to breakfast and spends all his rent money on a KISS tattoo. Also, "Play Some Skynyrd" is a song whose appeal may escape the general masses, but for anybody who's ever picked up a guitar and done their best to entertain ungrateful drunks in a shithole bar in Nowheresville, U.S.A., it's positively endearing. Eddie will be joined by The Blair Combest Band at the Hi-Tone Café Wednesday, February 23rd.