Mixing Old and New with the Memphis Music Revue
The van departed Nashville at 6:00AM with Amy Black and her traveling ensemble making their way to Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom and Tavern for the first of a twenty-seven concert itinerary. Black brought her Memphis Music Review show to the intimate Tavern space in support of her new album Memphis that hit record store shelves June 2nd.
Produced by Scott Bomar, Black desired to delve into the music history where Stax and Hi records were created. She surrounded herself with some of those musicians who helped create that iconic sound including Charles Hodges (Hammond organ), Leroy Hodges (bass), Howard Grimes (drums), and Bobby Manuel (guitar). Added to the studio were Joe Restivo (guitar), Al Gamble (keyboards), George Sluppick (drums), and Marc Franklin (trumpet) who handled the horn and string arraignments. Black wrote seven of the ten tracks on her own Reuben Records release that was recorded live at Electraphonic Recording studio in Memphis. Mixed to tape by Adam Hill at Ardent Studios, Black soaked up the stories from the past during those sessions and felt blessed to share the studio with some cool cats in their mid-seventies still performing like it was yesterday.
The music that came out of this city is relatively new to Black who grew up listening to her parent’s recordings of Chet Atkins Picks on The Beatles and songs like “Tiny Bubbles”. Her genuine excitement to learn the backstories became a foundation of inspiration to write some beautiful rhythm and blues songs instead of the Americana country music found on One Time and This Is Home. Black’s musical journey could be considered bold or crazy, but to those familiar with the songwriter this might be Chapter Two of her latest songbook. In 2015, she returned to her native Alabama after having moved to Boston at age fifteen, and spent time recording with Spooner Oldham. Those tapes became The Muscle Shoals Sessions released in 2015 and the first “Revue” tour.
An eclectic mix of old and new players were formed to take the show on the road. Spearheading the band is Rusty Russell on guitar with Steve Schultz (keyboards), Christine Moad (bass), Emily Verschooner-Kirss (saxophone), and husband Ryan Black (drums) rounding out the line-up. The twenty-two song set was part new record and part deep cut classic covers as a very theatrical and constantly moving Black interacted with the audience setting up each song with some rock and roll history. To give you a taste of what you’ll be in store for without giving away the entire performance, Black touched on several past performers whom inspired her by including covers from O. V. Wright, Albert King, Otis Redding, Al Green, William Bell, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Interspersed from Memphis was “It’s Hard To Love An Angry Man” as a tribute to her new found love of Bobby Blue Bland and “What Makes A Man?” in honor of Ann Peebles. Sipping a glass of bourbon “because bourbon makes everything sound better”, Black brought the house down midway through the show with a song written about the draft and Vietnam War titled “Nineteen” and then took everyone to church with “Let The Light In”, a song her own spirit needed and dedicated to Mavis Staples. The record’s iTunes single “The Blackest Cloud” was a depressing song you could dance to while “We Got A Good Thing” was Bomar’s favorite track to capture the Stax sound. The show closed with the gospel number “Jesus Gave Me Water” from another source of inspiration, Lucie Campbell.
The first leg of the tour will be bouncing across the US from Texas to Maine, so take an enjoyable educational trip with Amy Black if she happens to pass through your town.