Aces High 

Record company repackages old R&B

Record company repackages old R&B

In recent years, music fans here and elsewhere have rediscovered Nashville’s rich heritage as a rhythm and blues center during the ’50s and ’60s. Much of the credit goes to the British reissue label Ace Records, which has repackaged large portions of the famed Excello label’s vast back catalog, along with a couple of CDs featuring productions by local R&B impresario Ted Jarrett.

Ace’s latest—and sadly one of its last—forays into the vaults of Excello is a tribute to the label’s main advertising outlet: WLAC, and the incredible voice of deejay John Richbourg. Ernie’s Record Mart recreates the feel of John R’s nightly broadcasts, when he’d feature Excello releases on his 45-minute “Ernie’s Record Parade” segment. The show was named for Excello owner Ernie Young, who operated the label out of his store on Third Avenue North.

The CD features great Excello R&B hits like local singer Earl Gaines’ “It’s Love Baby (24 Hours a Day)” sandwiched next to obscurities and some previously unreleased gems. In fact, the track selection sort of mimicks Young’s practice of advertising six records for a dollar—usually five hits along with one obscurity to help clear out stock. Not intended to be a “best of,” Ernie’s Record Mart recalls an era when hip middle-aged white men were turning on Southern kids to the glories of black music.

Featuring thoughtful and well-researched liner notes from former Nashville music journalist Daniel Cooper, Ernie’s Record Mart is a great example of how reissues should be done. Too bad that MCA, the current owner of the Excello masters, seems incapable of following Ace Records’ example. Because MCA acquired Excello Records last year, Ace won’t be releasing any more collections from the label’s back catalog. MCA, meanwhile, seems intent on doling out only stingy handfuls of the most well-known Excello material. For more information on Ace releases, check out the label’s Web site at www.acerecords.co.uk.

—Randy Fox

For anyone interested in laying the groundwork for a community radio station in Nashville—an idea that’s been kicked around for the past decade with little or no headway—the Radio Free Nashville group is hosting an organizational meeting 7 p.m. Monday at the Peace and Justice Center, 1016 18th Ave. S., across from Scarritt-Bennett. In the past few months, the group has made some progress: It’s now officially a not-for-profit organization, and Radio Free Nashville founder Beau Hunter says he’s had some very tentative early discussions with Fisk University’s station, WFSK-FM, about possible arrangements. If anything comes of these talks, a community station located on the Fisk campus could be mighty cool indeed. A Radio Free Nashville member also attended a recent conference in Austin on community radio and microbroadcasting; he’ll report on low-wattage broadcasting alternatives. For more information, call Hunter at 356-3900.

—Jim Ridley

Before he was a suit-wearing executive at First Union Bank, Joe Moscheo was a keyboardist and vocalist with The Imperials, a group that toured with Elvis Presley. Now he’s taking a break from his day job to go back on tour. Along with the TCB Band and the Sweet Inspirations, The Imperials are participating in “Elvis in Concert,” a stage show that features Presley’s voice and likeness on a large video screen, accompanied by musicians who once performed onstage with the singer. The concert hits Starwood Amphitheatre on Aug. 28.

“It’s almost like a multimedia show,” says Moscheo, calling from a week-long stint at the Las Vegas Hilton, where his group first opened for Presley in 1969. “When he says, ‘Play it James,’ you’ll see James [Burton] on the original footage and on the side screen playing it live now. It’s almost like he’s there.”

The Imperials reunited a year ago in Memphis for a show commemorating the 20th anniversary of Presley’s death. Although the tour is scheduled to travel to Europe, Japan, and Australia, Moscheo says he has no illusions about giving up his day job.

“I’m the only one in the group who has another life,” says Moscheo, whose baritone voice has now dropped to a bass. “Everybody else is still doing music. I’m the only guy who’s the dropout. I’ve enjoyed the rehearsals and seeing everybody again. I’m not getting any itchy feet that I want to do this all the time. I’m perfectly happy with what I’m doing.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, he says it’s just not the same without Presley. “It’s not as much fun, to be very honest, because Elvis isn’t here,” he says. “It’s fun to just be doing music again, but the response is different now—people aren’t screaming and running to the stage and falling down.”

—Beverly Keel

Former Nashville resident John Mohead has quietly amassed an impressive array of credits playing with and/or opening for legendary blues, jazz, and country musicians. Mohead’s style—impassioned, wailing, soulful vocals backed by alternately exuberant and understated guitar licks and accompaniment—made his 1995 Okra-Tone/Rounder release Lula City Limits one of that year’s most arresting and entertaining independent recordings.

Mohead’s newest, Mary’s Porch, is the first release on the new Nashville label PJM. The initial single, “Southern Belle,” attracted some East Coast interest, but the follow-up, “Long Way Back to Tennessee,” has seen some action on the country charts. Another Mohead composition, “Southern Women,” which he cowrote with Kent Blazy, was recorded by the Wright Brothers, reaching the Top 20 on Billboard’s country singles chart.

Besides having opened for everyone from Jeff Healey and Todd Snider to George Jones and Sam Bush, Mohead has also played with jazz keyboardist/vocalist Mose Allison, blues pianist Pinetop Perkins, harpist/vocalist Mojo Buford, and rocker Marshall Crenshaw. That list of musicians is a pretty good indication of Mohead’s own individualistic, wide-ranging sound on Mary’s Porch. And in this age, any musician willing to shatter radio’s rigid categorization deserves to be heard.

Like many instrumentalists and vocalists whose music gets shifted over into the “Quiet Storm/Cool Jazz” format, keyboardist/vocalist Alex Bugnon’s live dates are far more entertaining and dynamic than many of his albums. The onetime music director for Latin-jazz and urban vocalist Angela Bofill, Bugnon has been a consistent success as a solo performer throughout the ’90s.

Bugnon appears Friday night at Somethin’ Live, 209 Printer’s Alley, for shows at 7 and 10 p.m. Those who only know him from either his albums or his backing for artists like Bofill might be surprised by his improvisational abilities and versatility; he covers not only urban and smooth-jazz material but also bop, blues, and Latin—and he’s an above-average soloist. For more information about the show, call 254-5483.

—Ron Wynn

The Geraldine Fibbers, one of the most uncompromising—and best—rock bands of the ’90s, have called it quits. The first distress signal went out in February, when Virgin Records dropped the band after its two albums for the label—id-driven tour de forces that recall the Mekons and X at their best—barely sold a total of 30,000 copies. Frontwoman Carla Bozulich then took a job with her publishing company writing songs for other artists.

Meanwhile, she and Fibbers lead guitarist Nels Cline, a veteran of NYC’s avant-garde jazz and rock scenes, formed Scarnella, a duo that plays art-damaged cabaret music that bears no resemblance to their former band’s countryish punk. Bozulich and Cline—Scarnella is an anagram consisting of the letters in the two musicians’ first names—have worked some West-coast dates and will release an album on Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley’s Smells Like Records sometime this fall.

While the emergence of Scarnella is certainly good news, the Fibbers’ demise is nevertheless a loss. Bozulich not only limned the seedy underbelly of L.A. as well as Raymond Chandler or Nathaniel West did in their day, but the Fibbers’ live shows—anarchic affairs fired by Bozulich’s feral yowl, Cline’s skronky guitar, and the stygian sawing of violinist Jessy Greene—were rarely less than revelatory. Not only that, the three times they played Nashville, the Fibbers’ woozy covers of standards penned by Kitty Wells, Willie Nelson, and Hank Williams displayed a real affinity for traditional honky-tonk. Mixing compassion with rage, they put a human face on whatever, by the mid-’90s, was left of punk.

Dusty Springfield, the husky-voiced pop chanteuse who gave the world such AM-radio hits as “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” and “Son of a Preacher Man”—the latter from her classic Dusty in Memphis album—is losing her fight with cancer. The disease has reportedly metastasized, or spread to her bones. One of the more soulful pop vocalists of the ’60s, Springfield has influenced singers ranging from Sandy Denny to Alex Chilton to Lucinda Williams (who cites Dusty’s version of Donnie Fritts’ “Breakfast in Bed” as a favorite). Springfield made several underrated albums during the ’70s, and in 1987 she took the Pet Shop Boys’ “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” to No. 2 on both sides of the Atlantic. At this point, it appears that the most anyone can do is say a little prayer.

—Bill Friskics-Warren

Elliptical dispatches: After our article a few weeks ago on DIY pop hero and former Nashvillian R. Stevie Moore, reader Virginia Arouh called in with the name of another of Moore’s early-’70s local bands: The Goods, which featured Moore and his cohorts Roger Ferguson, Billy Anderson, and the late Victor Lovaro. Arouh and Lovaro performed together in one of Nashville’s earliest new wave bands, The Smashers, which lasted from 1976 to 1980.

Meanwhile, she and Fibbers lead guitarist Nels Cline, a veteran of NYC’s avant-garde jazz and rock scenes, formed Scarnella, a duo that plays art-damaged cabaret music that bears no resemblance to their former band’s countryish punk. Bozulich and Cline—Scarnella is an anagram consisting of the letters in the two musicians’ first names—have worked some West-coast dates and will release an album on Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley’s Smells Like Records sometime this fall.

While the emergence of Scarnella is certainly good news, the Fibbers’ demise is nevertheless a loss. Bozulich not only limned the seedy underbelly of L.A. as well as Raymond Chandler or Nathaniel West did in their day, but the Fibbers’ live shows—anarchic affairs fired by Bozulich’s feral yowl, Cline’s skronky guitar, and the stygian sawing of violinist Jessy Greene—were rarely less than revelatory. Not only that, the three times they played Nashville, the Fibbers’ woozy covers of standards penned by Kitty Wells, Willie Nelson, and Hank Williams displayed a real affinity for traditional honky-tonk. Mixing compassion with rage, they put a human face on whatever, by the mid-’90s, was left of punk.

Dusty Springfield, the husky-voiced pop chanteuse who gave the world such AM-radio hits as “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” and “Son of a Preacher Man”—the latter from her classic Dusty in Memphis album—is losing her fight with cancer. The disease has reportedly metastasized, or spread to her bones. One of the more soulful pop vocalists of the ’60s, Springfield has influenced singers ranging from Sandy Denny to Alex Chilton to Lucinda Williams (who cites Dusty’s version of Donnie Fritts’ “Breakfast in Bed” as a favorite). Springfield made several underrated albums during the ’70s, and in 1987 she took the Pet Shop Boys’ “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” to No. 2 on both sides of the Atlantic. At this point, it appears that the most anyone can do is say a little prayer.

—Bill Friskics-Warren

Elliptical dispatches: After our article a few weeks ago on DIY pop hero and former Nashvillian R. Stevie Moore, reader Virginia Arouh called in with the name of another of Moore’s early-’70s local bands: The Goods, which featured Moore and his cohorts Roger Ferguson, Billy Anderson, and the late Victor Lovaro. Arouh and Lovaro performed together in one of Nashville’s earliest new wave bands, The Smashers, which lasted from 1976 to 1980.

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