98.1 The Max Presents
Lucero Family Block Party-Outside Minglewood Hall
St. Paul and The Broken Bones, Cory Branan, Mark Edgar Stuart, Young Valley
Sat, April 23, 2016
Doors: 2:00 pm / Show: 3:00 pm (event ends at 10:00 pm)
This event is all ages
LUCERO FAMILY BLOCK PARTY returns to the band’s hometown in Memphis, TN on April 23rd 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 MEMPHIS! The Picnic will open doors at 2pm with music performances starting at 3pm. A portion of all ticket sales will be donated to WEVL. Kids under 10 get to party for free if accompanied by an adult.
3-3:40 - Young Valley
4-4:40 - Mark Edgar Stuart
5-5:40 - Cory Branan
6-7:30 - St Paul & The Broken Bones
8-10 - Lucero
No Chairs, 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 tabhttps://www.minglewoodhall.com/event/1037961/
Among the Ghosts
Lucero has long been admired in their hometown of Memphis, where they have hosted “The Lucero Family Block Party” every spring for a number of years. At the 2018 Block Party they celebrated their 20th anniversary as a band, with the city’s Mayor Jim Strickland officially declaring it “Lucero Day.”
The group found their name in a Spanish/English dictionary. “Lucero” is variously translated as “bright star” or “morning star.” None of them can speak Spanish.
It’s been two decades since original members Ben Nichols, Brian Venable, Roy Berry, and John C. Stubblefield (keyboardist Rick Steff joined in 2006) started playing shows in Memphis. The band’s first show was April 13, 1998 at a warehouse space across the street from what is now the National Civil Rights Museum, the infamous Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. Their first set was six songs played to about six people. On August 3, 2018, record release day for Among the Ghosts, the band will be co-headlining Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado.
The band’s ninth studio album, Among the Ghosts, is their first for noted Nashville indie label Thirty Tigers. It was recorded and co-produced with Grammy-winning engineer/producer and Memphis native Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price, Drive by Truckers) at the historic Sam Phillips Recording Service, the studio built by the legendary producer after outgrowing his Memphis Recording Service/Sun Studio.
Recorded primarily live as a five-piece, Among the Ghosts eschews the Stax-inspired horns and Jerry Lee Lewis-style boogie piano featured on some of the band’s past recordings for a streamlined rock & roll sound that pays homage to their seminal influences as it seeks to push that legacy into the future. For a band who carried the torch of the alt-country movement back in the 90’s and helped pave the way for what is now called Americana, Lucero have re-discovered what inspired them in the first place. The sound is more their own and at the same time not exactly like anything they’ve done before. This is a band settling into their craft. The 10-song disc’s title is both a tribute to the spirits which roam the streets of their fabled city, as well as the hard road the determinedly independent band set out on 20 years ago. The band played around 200 shows per year for many of those 20 years.
With a nod to his younger brother Jeff Nichols, an acclaimed filmmaker whose movies include Loving, Mud, Take Shelter, Midnight Special, and Shotgun Stories; Nichols has written songs that are cinematic short stories, steeped in Southern gothic lore. There are nods to regional authors like Flannery O’Connor and Faulkner, as well as newer writers like Larry Brown (Big Bad Love, Fay), Ron Rash (The Cove, The World Made Straight), and William Gay (The Long Home).
As the first album he’s written since his marriage and the birth of his now two-year-old daughter Izzy, Nichols approached the task as a narrator rather than in first person. It’s a dark palette that includes tales of a haunting (“Among the Ghosts”), a drowning (“Bottom of the Sea), a reckoning with the devil
(“Everything has Changed”), a divorce (“Always Been You”), and a shoot-out (“Cover Me”). And that’s just Side A. Side B is a letter from a battlefield (“To My Dearest Wife”), a crime (“Long Way Back Home”), a straight-out rocker (“For the Lonely Ones”) and even a spooky spoken-word cameo from actor Michael Shannon, who has appeared in every one of Nichols’ brother’s films. The song’s title “Back to the Night” references a line from Nick Tosches’ Jerry Lee Lewis biography, Hellfire. In addition, there’s a song Nichols wrote for his brother’s movie Loving, which appeared in the film and on the soundtrack, re-recorded for Among the Ghosts with the whole band.
“You could also say there’s a rescue, a getaway, a survival story and a middle finger to Satan himself,” laughs Nichols. “It’s all in your perspective.”
Several songs juxtapose going off to battle with a rock & roll band’s endless touring, shifting time periods like the spirits which haunt the album, the happiness of domestic bliss undercut with fears of loss and the specter of mortality. Among the Ghosts simultaneously reprises the past and looks to the future, while being firmly anchored in the present.
Musically, the band highlights range from co-founding member Brian Venable’s Dire Straits-meets- War on Drugs guitar pyrotechnics in “Bottom of the Sea” and “Cover Me” to the Springsteen vibe of “For the Lonely Ones”, Rick Steff’s skeletal piano lines on “Always Been You”, John C’s bass lines in “Everything Has Changed” and “Long Way Back Home”, and drummer Roy Berry’s dynamic shifts from the powerful and brutal title track “Among the Ghosts” to the marching drive of “To My Dearest Wife” and the subtlety of “Loving”. Throughout, Nichols’ bourbon-soaked growl has become even more distinctive and commanding.
Among the Ghosts offers a timeless perspective on Lucero’s distinctive sound. The lyrics could’ve been written 200 years ago or yesterday. Representing a new South compared to the one that’s been mythologized, Lucero have formulated their own ideas and culture which, in some cases, contradicts what came before them (no Confederate flags), but also updates and reconsiders those traditions in a new light.
“I think we’ve tried to remake this place that we love and cherish in our own fashion. We are very proud of where we are from and we’ve spent the last 20 years trying to bring a bit of our version of home to the rest of the world... It may have taken 20 years, but everything has fallen in place right where it needs to be,” acknowledges Nichols. “There were some dark days in those middle years, but we’ve learned how to do this and survive. We still write heartbreak songs, but now, with a family at home, it’s a whole new kind of heartbreak.”
Among the Ghosts lays out that new territory with alacrity, as Lucero shines their Morning Star, burning just as brightly, if not more so, 20 years later. As one of the album’s song titles so aptly puts it, “Everything Has Changed”, but one thing hasn’t... Lucero’s music remains more vital than ever.
these are the promises of a great soul band. And St. Paul & The Broken Bones deliver
on those promises.
Half The City is the compelling full-length Single Lock/Thirty Tigers debut of the
Birmingham, Alabama-based sextet, who have already created a maelstrom of interest
with their roof-raising live shows and self-released four-song 2012 EP. Produced by Ben
Tanner of Alabama Shakes, and recorded and mixed in the storied R&B mecca of
Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the album harkens back to the region's classic soul roots while
extending the form with electrifying potency.
Front man Paul Janeway's handle "St. Paul" is a wry allusion to the vocalist's grounding
in the church. Like many a legendary soul singer, Janeway, a native of the small town of
Chelsea, Alabama, was raised on the gospel side, in a non-denominational, Pentecostalleaning
local church. Virtually no non-religious music could be heard in his devout
household. Janeway says, "The only secular music that I heard at all was a '70s group
called the Stylistics, and Sam Cooke. That was about it. The rest of it was all gospel
music. When I was about 10 years old, I was groomed to be a minister. My goal in life
until I was about 18 years old was to be a preacher."
He adds, "My pastor was the reason that I learned to play guitar. They would let me play
guitar and sing in church. What was weird was that he would never let me sing lead – I'd
sing background vocals. I always thought, 'Well, maybe I'm just a good background
vocalist.' So I never thought I could really, really sing, at all. I never thought it would be a
Though his time in the church exposed Janeway to key influences in gospel music – the
Mighty Clouds of Joy, Alex Bradford, Clay Evans – he began moving away from his
youthful path in his late teens. He began attending open mic nights in Birmingham's
clubs and diversified his listening, excited by some decidedly left-of-center talents. "Tom
Waits and Nick Cave were the really big attractions," he says. "They have that passion.
They've built this aura. They're showmen to the teeth. And that's what got me – it's like
going to church, in a weird way. At about the same time, I began listening to the great
soul singers like Otis Redding, James Carr, and O.V. Wright. I was trying to find
something that made my earbuds tingle."
Seeking his musical comfort zone, Janeway had an incongruous stint in a band that
played Led Zeppelin covers, but, he confesses today, "That's not what I do." However,
his early work in the rock vein brought him together with bassist Jesse Phillips. The pair
became close friends and were soon writing together; "Sugar Dyed," "Broken Bones and
Pocket Change," and "That Glow," all heard on Half The City, were among the first fruits
of their collaboration.
The other members of the Broken Bones are all drawn from Alabama's deep talent pool.
Guitarist Browan Lollar, from the Muscle Shoals area about 100 miles north of
Birmingham, previously played with Jason Isbell's 400 Unit. "We never thought Browan
would ever be interested in this band – he was too big-time for us," says Janeway.
"Jesse had met him while he was on tour with another band out of Birmingham. He
asked Browan to come to the studio, and he showed up. I think we caught him at the
right time. He wasn't busy, and he said, 'Man, I really want to be a part of this.'"
Jasper, Alabama, native Andrew Lee signed on via his acquaintance with Phillips. "We
just picked him up on the way to the studio," Janeway recalls. "Jesse said, 'I know this
guy, why don't I just call him.' And 30 minutes later, he's sitting there playing drums on
'Sugar Dyed.' Andrew's just a hell of a drummer." Brass players Allen Branstetter and
Ben Griner are both graduates of the music program at Birmingham's Samford
University. Janeway says his vision of the band always called for a two-man horn
section, a la the celebrated Memphis Horns, and he approached Griner, although the
latter's main instrument was tuba. "I told Ben, 'Man, I've got to have horns. Do you think
you can play trombone?' He said, 'I'll give it a shot.' And he brought Allen with him."
All six members share writing credit on 10 of the songs on Half The City, with Janeway
contributing lyrics. "We firmly believe in a shared, communal writing process," the singer
says. "These guys are extremely talented. The drummer wrote horn parts. Browan threw
something in. It's very collective. We just get in a room. Sometimes we'll have the scales
for a song, or sometimes we'll have this little riff. That's how we do it."
In Tanner — who logged time at Muscle Shoals' aptly named FAME Studios, where
scores of memorable soul records were cut — St. Paul and the Broken Bones found a
like-minded producer and label boss. Half The City is among the first releases on Single
Lock Records, the imprint co-founded by Tanner, John Paul White of the Civil Wars, and
"When we started getting cranked up and nobody really knew who the hell we were, we
got Ben to mix our original four-song EP," says Janeway. "We just hit it off. He said,
'Hey, guys, I'm in the process of starting this label. Obviously you can say no, but we'd
love for you to be a part of it.' And we said, 'Hell, yeah.'"
Reaching back nearly 50 years to methods employed the great epoch of deep Southern
soul, Tanner and the group eschewed studio trickery for an in-the-moment approach
during sessions at the Nutthouse in Muscle Shoals, AL. Fittingly, the album was mixed at
FAME. Janeway explains, "We said, 'We're doing this as old-school as we can.' We did
it to tape. We did it live. What you hear is taken from about three takes, and we took the
best take. I love it. It's raw. You hear all the scrapes." Special guests include Al Gamble
on piano, organ and wurlitzer, Daniel Stoddard on pedal steel, Jamie Harper on baritone
sax and Tanner on piano, organ and background vocals.
Half The City – vital, direct, emotionally affecting – presents the same engaged, highvoltage,
in-the-pocket sound that St. Paul & The Broken Bones produce at their live
dates, where Janeway's extroverted performing style enraptures his audiences.
"I'm going to be dancing, getting in the aisles, climbing on tables," he says. "That's just
the way we do it. It really takes me back to church. There's not a lot of difference. When
I get on stage, it's, 'All right, it's time to pour it on.'"
Cory Branan is a natural-born storyteller, his seemingly conversational, painstakingly crafted anecdotes benefitting from a hard-eyed stare at hydra-headed life experiences. Not unlike his musical and literary pedestal sitters, from John Prine and Leonard Cohen to Raymond Carver and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cory's gift for detail and phrase-turning is a thing of wonder.
Cory has a well-documented history with groups like former label mates Lucero, musicians of his ilk who trend toward the rawer end of roots music (The Loved Ones' Dave Hause, Chuck Ragan, The Hold Steady, The Gaslight Anthem, Two Cow Garage, Drag the River's Jon Snodgrass), and rock stars like Chris Carrabba (Dashboard Confessional), who has covered Cory's gorgeous "Tall Green Grass" and been a reoccurring tour mate.
Never one to shy away from an itinerary of non-stop cross-country shows, Cory possesses a unique performance style that enables him to gravelly sing a coy double entendre in one ear of the audience, while yelling the most beautiful love song into the other.
In 2011, Mark Edgar Stuart had a bad year. A few months after being diagnosed with cancer, a lifelong friend and hero--his father Lou--passed. From that heartache came a new, unexpected outlet: the decorated sideman (band-mate of Alvin Youngblood Hart, John Paul Keith, Jack Oblivian, and more) began writing his own songs. The bassist became a singer-songwriter, and Mark Edgar Stuart began to tell his own story.
Fortunately for us, he’s a natural-born storyteller.
Blues For Lou--Stuart’s debut album--is a collection of songs written in the wake of his father’s passing. Fittingly, Stuart’s songwriting pays tribute to the people, places, and music he and his father shared. Produced by Jeff Powell (Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Allman Brothers), the album tells a sad story happily. Sunny acoustic guitars, breezily melodies, and restrained performances backdrop songs about loss. Powell’s production and Stuart’s pitch-perfect vocals put a brave face on a hard tale.
From the opening track, the album disarms and astonishes with its vividly-realized stories and characters, small towns and living rooms, past loves and troubles ahead. “Remote Control” extends a single metaphor to tell a heart-breaking story of loss. “Almost Mine” casts a warm, generous light on unrequited love. “Arkansas Is Nice” uses a castoff line of dialog to describe everything a hometown is and isn’t. From the plain-spoken poetry of “Things Ain’t Fine” to the gorgeous epitaph “Blues For Lou,” Stuart’s stories are sweet but never saccharine, even-keeled but deeply affecting. His songs are at once sad, nostalgic, knowing, funny, even cheerful--equal parts Roger Miller and Eudora Welty. And Stuart sings them with the confidence of someone who knows that the story is enough.
Blues For Lou is both a tribute to Mark Edgar Stuart’s late father and an homage to the style of music they shared. It’s lovable and literary, smart yet plain-spoken, heartening, funny, and always memorable. It sounds new and familiar, fresh yet timeless. It sounds like your favorite stories, retold by your closest friend.
Lean in, listen close, and smile
--Written by Chris Milam
1555 Madison Ave.
Memphis, TN, 38104