Memphis Rent Party
The Soundtrack To Robert Gordon’s Book
Fat Possum Records
Author Robert Gordon has been nominated for six Grammy’s winning for the liner notes to the Big Star Box set “Keep an Eye on the Sky”. Gordon also won an Emmy for the 2015 documentary film “Best of Enemies” about Gore Vidal & William Buckley. Memphis native Gordon has just released his new book “Memphis Rent Party”. The book is about those Memphis musicians who expressed their unique individualism whether through blues, rock or soul. Gordon states “the Memphis aesthetic is to …sound different. This is the recording that accompanies the book and it features those musicians highlighted within the book.
To me the most eye catching thing about this recording is the song selection. Jerry McGill was a Sun Records country rock recording artist also wrote songs with Waylon Jennings. He was arrested 97 times on charges ranging from drunkenness to armed robbery. While still on the run from the FBI McGill recorded Guy Clark’s “Desperados Waiting for a Train”.
The soundtrack also includes previously unreleased material including “Chevrolet” a song written by Lonnie Young and a 1960 field recording by Alan Lomax. It is performed here by Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi All Stars and Sharde Thomas, the granddaughter of fife master Otha Turner.
“All Night Long” was the title track to Hill Country blues pioneer Junior Kimbrough’s second studio album. Furry Lewis, one of the first country blues artists brought out of retirement during the 1960 folk revival, sings “Why Don’t You Come Home Blues”. Calvin Newborn, a jazz guitarist who worked with B. B. King, performs “Frame for the Blues” written by Alex Chilton. Chilton performs the reggae classic “Johnny Too Bad”. Joe Hicks was a member of the Memphis based Fieldstones and they perform “Little Bluebird”.
Jerry Lee Lewis performs a rocking version of “Harbor Lights” first recorded by Francis Langford in 1937 and a hit for The Platters in 1960. Tav Falco was the leader of the Memphis rock band “Panther Burns” and included is their song “Drop Your Mark”. Mose Vinson was a blues and boogie-woogie piano player, who worked with James Cotton, and he performs his “Same Thing On My Mind”. Charlie Feathers was a Sun Records country and rockabilly musician who first recorded “Defrost Your Heart” in 1956.
The album closes with another unpublished song from Jim Dickinson, the bohemian bluesman, producer and father of Luther and Cody. Recorded after a night on the town is “I’d Love to Be a Hippie (But My Hair Won’t Grow That Long).” “A rent party is when friends come together to hear music, dance, and help a pal through hard times; it’s a celebration in the face of looming tragedy, an optimism when the wolf is at the door. Gordon finds mystery in the mundane, inspiration in the bleakness, and reveals in the individualism that connects these diverse encounters”.
Doesn’t that make you want to read the book?
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