Though we’ve barely finished looking back on the year that was in Memphis music, it’s time to gaze ahead at what 2014 holds in store for some of the city’s biggest names, hottest acts, clubs, concerts and more.
Reigning Sound: The Memphis-rooted and now Asheville, N.C.-based based garage-rock outfit, led by Greg Cartwright (of Oblivians and Compulsive Gamblers fame), is set to release a new album, its first since signing a deal with venerable North Carolina indie label Merge Records. The project was originally slated for late 2013, but Cartwright says an illness in the family contributed to the project’s delay as well as to its songs’ themes, which explore “mortality and aging.” Recorded partly at the Daptone studios in New York, the as-yet-untitled disc — which comes five years after the band’s 2009 gem Love & Curses — should hit stores in the first half of this year.
Cities Aviv: Local rapper Gavin Mays has been generating a bit of buzz since the release of his 2011 debut, Digital Lows, and a series of follow-up mixtapes. This former hardcore kid turned MC should finally find the full spotlight with Come to Life, his first record for Young One Records. Mays premiered a single, “URL IRL,” online last month along with an accompanying TerrorEyes-directed video. The full album drops on Jan. 28.
Ex-Cult: Memphis noisemakers Ex-Cult follow up their Ty Segall-produced debut with a sophomore effort cut closer to home. Following in the footsteps of other Bluff City greats (including the Oblivians and Grifters), Ex-Cult will work with producer Doug Easley at his studio, starting later this month, with the album set for an April release on Goner Records. In the meantime, the label will put out a special “Record Store Day” single of unreleased material from Ex-Cult’s earlier Segall sessions.
Amy LaVere: Roots songstress LaVere hit the road and the local club circuit hard in 2013, but set aside enough time to cut a new record, The Runaway’s Diary. Produced by Luther Dickinson — whose father, Jim, helmed LaVere’s 2007 breakthrough, Anchors & Anvils — the project also features guest appearances by Austin guitar great Will Sexton and her Motel Mirrors project partner John Paul Keith. The album will be released by the local Archer Records label in April.
John Kilzer: Archer also will put out a new LP from veteran singer-songwriter John Kilzer. A former Geffen label signee, Kilzer has devoted most of his recent years to his work as a minister. But for this “comeback” recording project, he gathered a talented group of players — including Alvin Youngblood Hart, Sam Shoup and formerly Memphis- and now Nashville-based drummer Greg Morrow — for what executive producer Ward Archer describes as “the most magical session I’ve witnessed in years.”
Lucero: Having put out a stopgap EP, Texas & Tennessee, last year, roots-punk outfit Lucero is taking its time to follow up the 2012 long-player Women & Work. While songwriter Ben Nichols collects tunes for some planned spring studio sessions, the band will release a live album, recorded over three nights in Atlanta last year. The concert set should come out this summer. Also, fans of the group can check out the left-field side project, Rick & Roy. An instrumental electronic album from Lucero pianist Rick Steff and percussionist/multi-instrumentalist Roy Berry, the record should pop up sometime in late spring.
Also expected in 2014: New records by trash- rocker Jack Oblivian, who’s been working on a follow-up to 2011’s Rat City; The Memphis Dawls and Blair Combest will have projects, both of which are being produced by Jeff Powell; a long-player from fast-rising rock combo The Sheiks; plus hip-hop platters from Yo Gotti protégés Zed Zilla and Snootie.
On the reissue front: Four years after his death, the legacy of Jay Reatard remains a powerful one. The Goner Records label will highlight work from his first group, The Reatards, with a reissue of the band’s sophomore album from 1999. The late Sid Selvidge will see his 1976 folk-blues masterpiece, Cold of the Morning, given a deluxe treatment from Los Angeles-based label Omnivore, which will also dig into the Ardent archives with packages on ’70s bands Hot Dogs and Cargoe.
Meanwhile, Mississippi label Fat Possum continues its massive campaign to reissue the Hi Records catalog. In addition to ’70s-era soul hits from Al Green and Ann Peebles, the rockabilly and instrumental records from the label’s early years will be available on disc and digitally via iTunes.
Big Shows: While no earth-shaking concerts have been booked as yet for 2014, there are plenty of notable shows happening early this year. Brooklyn band The Hold Steady — featuring Memphis guitarist Steve Selvidge — will be rehearsing in Memphis in advance of a tour, road-testing songs off its forthcoming album (due in March). They’ll play the Hi-Tone on Jan. 29. Young U.K. throwback roots-rocker Jake Bugg will visit Minglewood on Jan. 31, while R&B icons The Bar-Kays will kick off their 50th anniversary year with a Valentine’s Day show at the venue. On March 1, also at Minglewood, Memphis-bred roots artist Valerie June will play her first local concert since the national and international breakout that came with her debut album, Pushin’ Against a Stone. June will be playing with vintage R&B favorites Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings.
Festival Fun: Although only a handful of performers have been confirmed for the Beale Street Music Festival so far — with jazz fusion great Chick Corea and U.K. rockers Primal Scream making rare Memphis visits — the website Festival Outlook is predicting a number of other acts for the multiday extravaganza. Among those tipped to appear are Buddy Guy, Juicy J, Third Eye Blind, Allman Brothers Band veteran Dicky Betts and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Expect the rumors regarding big-name festival headliners to heat up over the next few weeks.
Reunions Galore: The spate of ’90s Memphis band reunions continues. Following on the heels of the Oblivians and the Grifters, Clinton-era funk-punk rockers Big Ass Truck will re-form for a gig Feb. 13 at Minglewood Hall’s 1884 Lounge.
New Venues: While the return of the Hi-Tone and the rise of Bar DKDC (which proved a homey little spot for locals to play weekly residencies) were welcome developments last year, the real wild card in 2014 will be the launch of the new/old Overton Square venue Lafayette’s Music Room. Details on the club — which was a hot spot during the Square’s glory years in the ’70s — are still scant, but plans call for a summer opening, with music booking for both local and national acts expected to ramp up by the fall.
Books and Movies
Chilton and Phillips: Last year, the Big Star story made it to the big screen with the much-anticipated feature film documentary “Nothing Can Hurt Me.” In 2014, the life of the band’s leader, Alex Chilton, comes to the page in the definitive new biography, “A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man.” Penned by Holly George Warren — whose previous volumes include a bio of Gene Autry and a history of the Woodstock festival — the book provides a fascinating in-depth look at the many phases and stages of Chilton’s career. It’s out in March from Viking Adult.
Also expected this year is Peter Gurlanick’s book about Sun Records founder Sam Phillips. Guralnick, who knew Phillips well and describes it as a “personal biography,” is putting finishing touches on the project.
Memphis music flicks: The next few months will see the Boo Mitchell/Cody Dickinson-produced doc about multigenerational musical collaborations, “Take Me to the River,” make film-festival rounds, likely starting with a public screening at Austin’s South by Southwest in March. Other local docs, including long-gestating projects such as “Meanwhile in Memphis” and the Antenna Club documentary, are expected to finally see DVD release as well.