Minglewood Hall Presents
Lucero Family Block Party 2017
Son Volt, Sons of Mudboy, William Matheny, The Mighty Souls Brass Band
Sat, April 22, 2017
Doors: 9:00 pm / Show: 10:00 pm
This event is all ages
RAIN OR SHINE
LUCERO FAMILY BLOCK PARTY returns to the band’s hometown in Memphis, TN on April 22nd at the Minglewood Hall Outdoors! The historic Memphis music venue will be blocking off S Willett Street and surrounding areas to bring you this year’s festival. Lucero and friends are joining forces with a variety of local food, beverage, craft, and merchandise vendors to help celebrate! A portion of all ticket sales will be donated. Kids under 10 get to party for free if accompanied by an adult.
Chairs, umbrellas, Blankets are cool, Backpacks will be searched, no coolers, no re-entry. Outside bars are CASH ONLY, 1884 Lounge will be open for Liquor and to start a tab
2017 BLOCK PARTY SCHEDULE
2:00- Doors - 3:30-4:10 - William Matheny - 4:30-5:30 - Sons Of Mudboy - 5:45-5:55 - MSBB - 6:00-7:15 - SON VOLT - 7:25- 7:35 - MSBB - 7:45-10:00 - LUCEROhttp://www.minglewoodhall.com/event/1421201/
Following the release of 2012’s Women and Work, Lucero’s new album All A Man Should Do contains some of the most resonant lyrics Ben Nichols has ever written. They read like chapters from his life: the duality of relationships, getting older, finding where you want to be in this world and more.
Working with producer Ted Hutt for a third time at Memphis’s Ardent Studios, the band felt comfortable enough to take some chances with a palette of new tones that sound understated yet powerful, bringing life to the stories behind the lyrics without overshadowing them. Listen to the soulful track “Went Looking For Warren Zevon’s Los Angeles” HERE.
And for the first time they put a cover song on a record, with a full band version of Big Star’s “I Fell in Love with a Girl”. The track features Jody from Big Star singing back-up vocals, making it that much more special.
This is a Memphis record in the greatest sense and a perfect finish to the three-part love letter to a city that brought them up and made Lucero what they are today.
"Break up the silence
Make it clear
Make it last…" – "Down the Highway"
From his earliest recordings in the 1990s as a founding member of Uncle Tupelo, Jay Farrar has been a keen observer of the American landscape: its beauties and its tragedies, salvations and poisons.
It's a perspective that's been hard-won by steady touring and travel through this nation, and Farrar's almost two-decades as the leader of Son Volt (as well as impressive turns as an acclaimed solo artist and collaborator) have only deepened and sharpened his gift for capturing the sights and sounds of his American journey – a gift which is in evidence once again on Son Volt's sixth studio album: Honky Tonk.
After all, few places are as quintessentially American as the honky tonks where neon beckons to lonely and discontented souls with the promise that sorrows can be drowned in whiskey, cigarettes and a timeless music in which the clear hard truths of its lyrics mine the emotional complexities of life and love as fiddle and pedal steel sweetly commiserate.
"Honky tonk music is about heartache, heartbreak, the road," Farrar observes.
That music provides a touchstone for eleven new Son Volt songs that excavate the classic honky tonk sound of Bakersfield (and Texas and Tennessee too) yet distill and reimagine it. Honky Tonk stays true to what's so appealing about honky tonk music, while stretching out its familiar contours into new shapes and spaces.
Farrar reflects that as he wrote and recorded the music so deeply steeped in tradition for Honky Tonk, "I realized I also wanted these songs to sound more contemporary and modern. There was no strict adherence to methodology of the past. You never want to be a nostalgia act."
"Always a common thread between us…" – "Heart and Minds"
Farrar sees Honky Tonk as a record moving forward on the path toward a more acoustic-based music that Son Volt took on its last record, 2009's American Central Dust (also on Rounder).
"The record is a continuation of what was happening with American Central Dust," observes Farrar. "Once again, I didn't play much if any electric guitar."
Like American Central Dust, Son Volt recorded Honky Tonk in Farrar's studio in St. Louis, with Mark Spencer (who also plays bass guitar, pedal steel and keyboards) at the recording helm. Dave Bryson provided drums and other percussion. Most of the songs on Honky Tonk were written in a two-week burst, and many of its compositions mine a more thematic lyrical vein inspired by a traditional country music aesthetic, which Farrar first explored on the band's previous record.
"I was always averse to using certain words in songs," recalls Farrar, "including 'love' and 'heart.' But I started using them on [American Central Dust] and now I guess the floodgates have opened."
Indeed, many of Honky Tonk's songs dwell on affairs of the heart, including the album's opening tracks, "Hearts and Minds," a speedy Cajun waltz which assays the delicate balance between love's steadfastness and its caprice, and "Brick Walls," a lover's plaint steeped in pedal steel that embraces the notion that "love's a Spanish word to be sung."
It's also there in a song like "Barricades," which affirms the necessity of pushing forward in the face of overwhelming despair and defeat in a way that makes it seem that playwright Samuel Beckett might have had a backing band called the Buckaroos. "No wage can buy what the world never wanted," Farrar sings. "Hearts press on anyway, undaunted."
This continuing lyrical turn toward the heart is woven into an even more countrified sound on Honky Tonk. Much of the immediate inspiration for the intense exploration of honky tonk music came directly from Farrar's recent decision to learn to play a new instrument.
"In the time in between Son Volt records, I started learning pedal steel guitar," Farrar says. "I play with a local band in St. Louis now and then called Colonel Ford. So I was immersed in honky tonk music, the Bakersfield sound, in particular. And it was almost second nature when I started writing the songs for this record."
Indeed, a song titled "Bakersfield" serves as a swaggering Baedeker to the enduring musical and lyrical charms of the genre, from its evocation of Merle Haggard in the "sound of heartbreak from a jail cell" to the bars where "hell breaks loose on Saturday night" and its nod to the agriculture heartland in which many of these classic songs are rooted, a place where workers "sweat and toil one with the land."
"No cup of gold, no Candy Mountain," sings Farrar. "No better place to make a stand."
That pedal steel sound that Farrar has grown so fond of playing winds through most of the songs on Honky Tonk, with much of the playing provided by St. Louis musician Brad Sarno. But Son Volt's leader also found places on the record to work in another signature of that classic music: a jolt of twin fiddle provided by 2010 Grand Master fiddle champion Justin Branum and Gary Hunt (who also plays mandolin and electric guitar on Honky Tonk).
"Twin fiddles were such a feature of the 1950's Grand Old Opry," says Farrar. "I was watching some old episodes where there were two and sometimes three fiddle players in the house band. It's an interesting sound, a natural chorus effect".
Album opener "Hearts and Minds" is one song where that trademark twin fiddle dominates, and Farrar recalls with pleasure the interplay between Branum and Hunt in the recording of that tune.
"When we were listening to the playback of the song," Farrar says, "I heard Justin make the comment, 'Here's where I add the third fiddle.' Justin is one fiddle player approximating the sound of two while he plays side by side with Gary, which at certain points in the song actually sounds like three fiddles playing."
Farrar also points to the enigmatic "Seawall" as another place on the record where twin fiddle provides key element of the sound. "There's a lot of power when the whole band drops out, and you get a burst of twin fiddle," he observes.
Yet for all its hearkening back to a classic sound, Honky Tonk possesses a restless urge to make its source music new. On the somber "Livin' On," St. Louis roots music stalwart Thayne Bradford's accordion is stretched out into a cold, haunted and disorienting sound that matches perfectly with Farrar's meditation on a defiant stubbornness – the "reckless side of tradition" – in which "not even happiness falling down/ can ever change your mind."
For a music that seeks to evoke the dark and smoky corners of the soul, classic honky tonk music (especially the Bakersfield variety) boasts an enviable clarity and crispness in its production. So in the moments when Son Volt washes the genre's trademark instruments in echo, or distorts them to a shimmer or shards, it's hard not to hear Farrar's acknowledgment of what time's passage has wrought on the music – and of the powerful ghosts tend to appear when old songs are summoned up. Or, as Farrar himself asks on "Seawall," a song on which the inevitable decay of what we do and build is evoked so powerfully: "Do honky tonk angels still walk this ground?"
"Always a wild wind blowin'/ Just want a guitar and a radio" – "Bakersfield"
With almost 20 years on the road, listeners will likely wonder where Honky Tonk fits into the trajectory of the Son Volt's storied career.
There are obvious points of connection between Honky Tonk and some of the most notable moments in the band's history. The ebullience of "Hearts and Minds" and the buoyant optimism of "Barricades" bring to mind "Windfall," the classic opener to the band's first record, Trace. And it's hard not to recall some of the more countrified moments of the band's second record, Straightaways, (songs like "Creosote," "Left a Slide," "Last Minute Shakedown") in a number of songs on Honky Tonk.
"I see Son Volt as a continuum from the first record," Farrar says, adding that the band has consistently tried, on all of its records, to explore a continuing dialectic between the sheen and shimmer of the studio and the immediacy and urgency of live recording.
"There's really a combination of raw and polished sounds on this Son Volt record," he says. "That approach has been there since the first song ["Windfall"] on the first Son Volt record."
Yet there are even deeper thematic continuities between this new music from Son Volt and its past endeavors. Honky Tonk – as well as Farrar's forthcoming book, Falling Cars and Junkyard Dogs (Counterpoint) – both continue his ongoing exploration of America's landscape through the redemptive power of its music.
In that regard, a song like "Down the Highway" is a key addition to the band's legacy. Mandolin and fiddle partner here to push forward a steady shuffle that sums up a number of Son Volt's journeys thus far. "Throw this love down the highway, and see where it takes you," sings Farrar.
"The song's about the need to take music on the road," he explains.
Farrar's commitment to that quest, and his desire to find (as he puts it elsewhere on "Down the Highway") "a world of wisdom inside a fiddle tune" is the thread that connects Son Volt's work – and makes Honky Tonk a landmark on that continuing journey.
The 11 songs featured on his pending debut, Strange Constellations, contain echoes of the hard won wit and wisdom of Loudon Wainwright, the guitar prowess of James Burton, and the tensile anger of a young Paul Westerberg. But crucially, Matheny's is a new voice, marinated in tradition, but utterly idiosyncratic and entirely his own. For those fortunate several who have seen Matheny perform his indelible tunes live, there is no further need of proof. For those not yet in the know, see him at your next opportunity, and prepare to be floored.
Neil Young once mused that rock and roll's first novel advancement was its co-option of country music's Saturday night revelry and simultaneous shirking of its Sunday morning reckoning. But Neil knew as well as anybody that one day the bill comes due. William Matheny knows this too, and his various forays into flesh-driven pleasures are always abetted by hard consequence. The snarling, neighborhood bully country soul of 'Out For Revenge' co-exists uneasily, but brilliantly alongside the panoramic, decades-spanning consideration 'My Grandfather Knew Stoney Cooper'. Matheny's writing tends towards the inescapably catchy and the unpleasantly honest. In keeping with the work of his stated role model Tom T. Hall, everything is in play here - sex, love, politics, alcohol, sex, alcohol and all of its attendant cousins. The comically terrifying 'Living Half to Death' apologizes for the fact he 'abused all my friendships / and drank all their beer'. The murderously infectious punk of '29 Candles' causes you to question whether he really feels that sorry at all.
Superficial considerations of Matheny's work threaten to ghettoize him as a 'roots' artist, or worse 'alt-country'. For forward thinking listeners, this is the height of inanity- the literate toughness and eye-rolling anger of his material owe far more to Warren Zevon than any of Americana's 90's darlings. Matheny is not a roots artist in the sense of regurgitating familiar musical tropes or donning a uniform. The roots here run far closer to the musically polygamous genius of Elvis Costello, the acid misanthropy of Graham Parker, the country punk of Dwight Yoakam, or the moonshine-addled historicity of the Drive-By Truckers. A crackerjack backing band featuring Adam L. Meisterhans, Bud Carroll, Ian Thornton and Rod Elkins ensures that matters stay on track even when Matheny might become derailed. Like Costello's Attractions or Parker's Rumour, these are seasoned pros equally at home with whatever whims - sublime, salacious, or savage - that their leader might be inclined to indulge on any given late night.
Great artists come along seldom, thank god. If they came along all the time, we'd all be fucked. William Matheny is on the rare few - a great artist who demands our attention and rewards it in perpituty. Let him keep living half to death until he can do no more.
-Elizabeth Nelson & Timothy Bracy, Durham, NC
April 29th, 2016
Mighty Souls Brass Band, a rotating collective of composer-players versed in a multitude of musical traditions, isn’t a soul band, nor is it a funk band, a marching band, or a swing band. And yet, depending on where you catch them live, you’ll hear all of those influences, as well as more from around the globe, in the group’s music. “We’re not interested in just being a bunch of Memphis musicians playing New Orleans-style brass band music,” says Murphy. “We love that music, and we honor it. But we love Memphis music too, and world music, and we want to pay tribute to that history. And it’s a deep one.”
True enough. Check MSBB’s roster, for one thing—an evolving list of knockout players whose chops around Memphis are long-established. The group began to coalesce in 2012, when Murphy and Jim Spake came together to play a New Orleans-style funeral, accompanied by horn player/vocalist Jeremy Shrader and percussionist Earl Lowe. Murphy, who has spent 13 years honing his chops in an improv dance and music group, found a kindred spirit in the wildly versatile Spake, whose sax playing appears on three decades’ worth of albums by Alex Chilton, Al Green, the North Mississippi All-Stars, Natalie Merchant, and dozens more. When Murphy outlined his project—a brass ensemble whose repertoire drew from American soul and funk as well as global traditions—Spake jumped at the chance, as did a host of other players from Memphis’ powerhouse session-musician community. On any given night the talent represented onstage at a MSBB show can run from five to 14 members deep, showcasing some of the best and most esteemed players in the city’s rich performance pool.
That elasticity—of personnel, and of the music—allows MSBB to enjoy a lot of flexibility in its arrangements and live performances. “That’s the great thing, one of the great things, about this group,” says Jim Spake. “Sean’s got to be there, he’s our fount of craziness. But it can be a different band on any particular night. In other settings, you might think, ‘Oh no, man, we don’t have our bass player?’ In this group, the feeling is more like, ‘Hey, who’s playing today…? Cool…’”
That portability brings us to MSBB’s many diverse gigs, which can take them—as the band’s lively booking schedule recently did, over the course of a single day in October 2014—from a morning show playing globally-derived “world brass band” music for children age 8 and younger, to an afternoon’s polka-inflected set at an Oktoberfest party, to an evening opening for (and backing) New Orleans legend Dr. John. To hear Murphy talk about the heady blend of styles the MSBB works in is to hear how the band’s music drinks deep from a multitude of sources. The tight, polished work of MoTown’s session horns; the gritty, dirty inflections of New Orleans’ funky Meters; the slippery R&B of Memphis’ own Booker T. and the MGs—it all finds a place in the thumping heartbeat of Mighty Souls Brass Band.
For proof, check the band’s debut album—Lift Up!, on Blue Barrel Records—largely recorded live, to catch the infectious synergy of the group. You’ll hear all of these influences, but you’ll also hear the writing and arrangement talents of the MSBB’s members, who themselves composed ten of the album’s dozen tracks. This vigorously creative impulse, this desire to weave something new from the threads of various traditions, is what makes Mighty Souls Brass Band a unique act even among brass ensembles. Rooted by bandleader Murphy’s sousaphone (“I like to say I play the ‘brass bass,’” he notes cheekily), MSBB has talent to burn, and that talent burns bright and fierce on Lift Up! From the swaggering opener “STS” to the stomping blues-holler “Lift Up Your Mighty Soul” to the stately southern swing of the traditional “I’ll Fly Away,” this is a band that knows where its roots lie, but also where its branches are reaching, far out into the world, a world that, as Murphy notes, seems invariably to express its deepest spiritual desires and celebrations through music.
Mighty Souls Brass Band is a group attuned to that desire, that celebratory spirit. It’s a music that swings, that soars, that swoons—all of which is suggested by that profound, that humble, that most human of words: “Soul.”
How mighty, indeed.
1555 Madison Ave.
Memphis, TN, 38104