You know Elvis and the Stax snap. But what will you listen to when you get to Memphis, and where will that quest take you?
Fans of rockabilly
Individually, Amy LaVere and John Paul Keith have oft-channelled Memphis’ rockabilly tradition - not limited to LaVere’s portrayal of “First Lady of Rockabilly” Wanda Jackson in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, or to Keith’s new album, Memphis Circa 3AM, produced by late legend Roland Janes, the Sun Studio session guitarist behind Jerry Lee Lewis. When LaVere and Keith cosy up as Motel Mirrors, the rock/country swing bounces on to the slap of LaVere’s upright bass and the duo’s made-for-each-other vocals – hers, angelically husky; his, grounded and true. One measure into these duets (a mix of originals and covers, now available as a self-titled album), and you’ll be smiling and dancing – even if only in your barstool.
Fans of soul
Hope Clayburn named her band “Soul Scrimmage” for the weekly jams, or scrimmages, they played at a bygone Memphis club. But Clayburn and crew don’t jam in the unpolished sense of the word – rather, in its wandering sense – as her voice, a stockpile of instruments and, ultimately, the audience, interplay. While Clayburn’s saxophone (or saxophones – she can play two at once) conjures Stax, a rotating cast of musicians layer in drums, bass, trombone and the like to build what she calls “a new Memphis world funk sound.” And the louder it gets, the funkier it gets.
Where to listen: The Cove.
Fans of Americana
If Dan Montgomery’s ballads temporarily break your heart, his rollicking numbers will heal it. But this veteran singer/songwriter’s folk styling goes beyond storytelling – he frequently stitches in talented pals (catch Robert and Candace Mache complementing Montgomery on guitar/mandolin and harmony vocals, respectively).
Fans of garage punk
Any time’s a good time to shop the music at Goner Records. But time your trip with Gonerfest (celebrating its 11th year 25-28th September 2014) to experience the record store/label’s garage punk leanings as they’re experienced best: live.
Fans of everything
May through October, Memphis' Levitt Shell hosts 50+ concerts by local and touring musicians (2013 welcomed acts from the North Mississippi Allstars to Lisa Marie Presley). Even better? The concerts are free and perfect for throwing down a blanket or picnic under the stars:
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Where do you like to listen to live music in Memphis? Who would you fly to Memphis just to listen to? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Written by Samantha Crespo
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About the author: SamanthaSamantha Crespo
Samantha Crespo is a native of Florida, which she believes set her up to be a career tour guide. (It helps that she’s keen on playing tourist in her own town and beyond – Ensenada, Mexico, and Nafplio, Greece, are favorites – though she feels most at home in the American South.) Since 2005, Samantha has mixed pleasure with business as a travel writer and editor. She admits to squealing when assignments call her to listen to live music in her adopted hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, or to discover new campgrounds with her husband and daughter. Follow her on Twitter @SamCrespo or at her weekly Tennessee travel blog. www.tnvacation.com/triptales/author/samanthacrespo/