Memphis’ young new C3 Blues Band was formed toward the end of last year, and has been gigging mostly in Jackson, Tennessee, with an occasional Memphis appearance here and there, so I was thrilled when I heard that they would be playing on a Tuesday night at the Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale Street. The Rum Boogie is one of the oldest clubs on Beale Street, and one of the most popular, and this was the band’s first opportunity to perform on the legendary street in Memphis. C3 was originally a sort of blues power trio, but in recent weeks has added a second guitarist. For the Rum Boogie gig, they also added a saxophonist, and some new songs as well, particularly an amazing reading of the blues standard “As The Years Go Passing By”, which was the most impressive song from their first set. By the middle of their second set, the dance floor was filled.
With lots of conflicting options with what to do on my Friday night (the first in many weeks that I hadn’t either had a gig or been out of town), I wasn’t sure what I wanted to choose. My drummer homeboy Mike Mosby had one of his Locked and Loaded events going on, Bristerfest was kicking off in Cooper-Young, Eden Brent was at the Center For Southern Folklore, and the Clarksdale Caravan Music Fest was going on down in Mississippi. But when I saw that my homeboys in the C3 Band were going to be playing at West Alley BBQ in Jackson, Tennessee, I decided to drive up there, both to catch their performance, and to check out the barbecue, which my homeboy Courtney Brown (C3’s drummer) had said was really good.
West Alley BBQ proved to be something like a large juke joint, with two older men tending to oil drum cookers outside along the side entrance. The look of the place would not have been unfamiliar to people who know Ground Zero in Clarksdale, but there were some elements that seemed more in keeping with Red’s Lounge instead, although the place was much bigger. The pulled pork was delicious, just as I had been told, and the club kept great roots blues playing over the speakers until it was time for the band to come up on stage. As I have discussed earlier, C3 is a blues power trio, with a repertoire that stretches from blues to funk to soul. Their performance on this particular night was augmented by a guest harmonica player that sat in, a visiting drummer that gave Courtney Brown a breather, and a superb female singer that closed out the night with a rousing rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools.” It was definitely a night to remember in Jackson, and West Alley BBQ will be a place to keep checking up on.
West Alley BBQ & Smokehouse
215 W Main St
Jackson, TN 38301
During the On Location: Memphis International Film and Music Festival, Le Chardonnay was the location of the neo-soul showcases on both Friday and Saturday nights. On Saturday night, the showcase opened with the superb Memphis jazz/soul vocalist Jamille “Jam” Hunter with her band, and was followed by the blues/soul/rock trio known as C3, consisting of drummer Courtney Brown, guitarist Chris Pitts and bassist Colton Parker, a power trio that I have discussed elsewhere. They were to be followed by Ethan Kent and my homeboy Otis Logan’s band 4 Soul, but as I was on the festival staff, I soon got called away to handle a crisis at the hip-hop showcase at 1884 Lounge at Minglewood.
When I heard that a place in Raleigh called Precious Moments at Lorenzo’s was sponsoring a Down Home Blues Night on Sunday March 2, with a band called the C3 Band, I had to go and check it out. Live music outside of Beale Street is not all that common in Memphis, and is extremely rare in Raleigh, and the venue seemed to be a new one as well, so I wanted to support it. But that particular Sunday proved to be a cold rain that started turning into a freezing rain and sleet event. Even so, the band was there, and a small crowd of brave souls who came out to party. The C3 Band is only a few months old, and consists of Courtney Brown on drums, Chris Pitts on guitar and Colton Parker on bass, and is something of a blues power trio. While they can certainly play the blues, they can effortlessly shift into funk, soul or rock, anchored by Courtney’s aggressive drumming style, and seem to be a group with potential far beyond the basic blues category. Their covers can range far and wide, from Frankie Beverly and Maze, to Bobby Rush, to Clarence Carter. At the end of the night, when I thought they had no more surprises, they went off in left-field with a totally unexpected cover of Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey.” I left even more impressed than before. (The C3 gig on Sunday nights has become a regular weekly event at Precious Moments at Lorenzo’s in Raleigh).
Precious Moments at Lorenzo’s
3624 Austin Peay Hwy
Memphis, TN 38128