Monday, May 11, 2009

Nights of Americana

Public Service AnnouncementI missed the Stax Museum when I was in Memphis a few years ago because we went to Graceland instead. Graceland was fun and kitschy, but I suspect I would've enjoyed the Stax Museum more. Respect Me: The Stax Records Story, a documentary about Stax Records, was filled with archival concert footage and interviews with Isaac Hayes, Booker T. Jones and all the surviving MG's, Carla Thomas, both founders of Stax, Jesse Jackson, and the Staples Singers. There's even a shout out to the evil record company that stole Stax' early catalog through some fancy fine print. Go watch this.

As it happened, the same week I heard some of Booker T. Jones' new solo album with the Drive-By Truckers and Neil Young backing. Hearing his new and classic material in the same week was a study in contrasts. The new material was a bit blah and turned the assets of his trademark organ into liabilities. Maybe I'm reacting to his cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya" where he played the vocals on his organ? Ugh.

More of a lost opportunity was the American History Museum's Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn exhibit, which might have been more compelling if I were a sheet-music-geek. Do such people exist? For the rest of us merely interested music fans, it's too bad the museum didn't marry the music and the scores better. I can see the right kid (and me, too!) having a "hey cool!" moment if they were able to see a few bars of music while hearing the whole group play them and then listen again while soloing each track. Interactivity! Technology! Alas it was one of those tiny exhibits tucked away in a quiet corner on an afternoon that the rest of the place was mobbed.

Most definitely not disappointing was Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings at the 930 Club. Not that show, but NPR has some other live performances here. My highly-enthused tweets. A little stranger because of the overwhelming country & western vibe but just as delightful was John Doe with the Sadies at Iota.

On the whole, it was one good musical week.

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