Every once in awhile, a corporation does something worthwhile, and certainly Red Bull’s Sound Select tour with Run The Jewels fits the bill. Run the Jewels is a collaboration between Killer Mike and El-P, and when my homeboy Matt Sonzala told me to come out to Minglewood Hall in Memphis to check them out, I invited my homeboy Tune C and we headed down there. To my amazement, the place was absolutely packed, and many of the people there were like a who’s who of the Memphis recording industry, including rappers Ify, Tori WhoDat and Jason Da Hater, singer Tonya Dyson, and legendary engineer and producer Boo Mitchell. The opening act was a thoroughly gangsta crew from Dallas known as the Outfit, and for a gangsta-style group, they were decent. But it was the Run The Jewels performance that everyone came for, and it was very impressive indeed. Tune and I had hung out with Mike in Atlanta last year, and we got a brief chance to catch back up with him after the show. It was truly a momentous night for Memphis hip-hop.
On Tuesday December 16, the Memphis Music Foundation and the Memphis Chapter of The Recording Academy sponsored a Memphis Music Holiday Party at the 1884 Lounge of Minglewood Hall in Midtown. The event featured some great barbecue and desserts, as well as live music from the Steven Lee Trio featuring trumpeter Johnny Yancey and his son, drummer Nigel Yancey, and the Hill Country blues inflected rock band Turchi. Over a hundred people came to get in the festive spirit, including legendary producer Boo Mitchell and Elizabeth Montgomery of Ardent Records.
It seems like yesterday that Minglewood Hall opened as an exciting new live music venue in Memphis, the venerable old music city where live music has often been hard to find, surprisingly. One of the coolest thing’s about Minglewood’s more intimate space, the 1884 Lounge, is their decision to record the venue’s history by framing and displaying posters from many of the most memorable gigs in the building. Nobody has time or gigabytes to photograph every poster (and some are too high to get good photos of unless you’re on a ladder), but I spied posters from DJ Lil Larry, Yo Gotti, North Mississippi All-Stars, Trombone Shorty, Cedric Burnside, Lightning Malcolm and Jimbo Mathus. The diversity of genres is itself a tribute to the vision of Minglewood’s owners and management, against the backdrop of a city where there is often too much division. Support live music in Memphis, and the people like Minglewood that support it and keep it going.
“The Dark End of the Street” is a classic Memphis soul song written by Dan Penn and Chips Moman that is forever associated with the legendary Memphis soul singer James Carr. Although there have been a number of covers over the years, few have surpassed the Carr version for sheer intensity and pathos. Son of Mudboy’s version Wednesday night was impressive, however, as they demonstrated clearly how Memphis’ style of indie rock is really infused with blues and soul.
Son of Mudboy performing Furry Lewis’ “Casey Jones” live at their Mingelwood Hall gig on Wednesday, April 3, 2013. This version of “Casey Jones” is also sometimes called “On The Road Again” or “Natural Born Eastman”, and paints a rather different image of the railroad hero than the traditional ballad. The origin of the term is obscure (perhaps deriving from “easy man”) but in old Black slang, an “eastman” was a pimp, and Furry Lewis emphasized Jones as a ladies man and rambler rather than a traditional hero.
I never got to hear Mudboy and the Neutrons in person, the rather bizarre Memphis supergroup consisting of Jim Dickinson, Lee Baker, Jimmy Crosthwait and Sid Selvidge, but I have been fortunate enough to hear their records. The spirit of Mudboy lives on in the form of Son of Mudboy, formerly Three-Legged Puppy, consisting of Luther and Cody Dickinson, Steve Selvidge and Paul Taylor. At their Minglewood Hall performance last night, Son of Mudboy performed traditional songs like “Casey Jones on the Road Again AKA Natural Born Eastman”, “Didn’t We Shake Sugaree”, “The Dark End of the Street” and “Going to Brownsville”, all songs that would be familiar to anyone who has heard the recorded works of Mudboy and the Neutrons. The rousing second set closed with Jim Dickinson’s feel-good call to civic revolution “Power to the People”, with its famous line “Lucille was there, but Beale Street was gone.” The crowd of a hundred or so demanded an encore, and the band obliged with the slow and mournful drug ballad “Codine” and a final joyful reading of “Hey, Bo Diddley.” Son of Mudboy will appear each Wednesday at Minglewood Hall during the month of April, starting at 8 PM.