Welcome to the New Memphis Beat

Welcome to the New Memphis Beat, a blog dedicated to covering the recording business in Memphis, Tennessee.

New Memphis Beat grew out of our desire to tell the continuing story of music being made in Memphis studios.

Few cities can boast of as many historically significant, still-operational, and analog-capable studios as Memphis. And while it’s true that Memphis has one of the richest and deepest musical legacies of any city in the world, it also has one of the brightest futures. The reason? Its world-class studios and recording professionals. Continue Reading

Sounds Around Town

 Lucero records at Sam Phillips Recording Service. Photo by Jamie Harmon.

Welcome to “Sounds Around Town”, a semi-regular column about who is recording what and where in Memphis.

Muscle Shoals, RCA, Sun: The Revival of 3 Legendary Studios

Reverb notes the revival of three historic recording studios, including Sun.

In Memphis, Nashville, and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the reappearance and renewed vitality of these seminal sound sanctuaries goes beyond the museumification of music epitomized by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or Graceland.

Their return could also be seen as a rebuke to the laptop mentality, to Auto-Tune, to infinite tracks of Pro Tools. They remind us that it was always about a bunch of people crammed into a small room making music, a long-buried nerve these studios seem to be touching.

Interestingly enough, each of these studios are in cities that comprise what some call the Americana Music Triangle. It stands to reason that a renewed interest in American roots music would coincide with a renewed interest in the studios and methods once used to record it.

(A note of personal trivia: my first recording session in Nashville in 1994 or 1995 was at RCA Studio A, then known as Havelina or “Big Pig”. My band The Viceroys, later known as The V-Roys, were recording demos there for E Squared Records, Steve Earle’s label. Bucky Baxter produced. I was around 19 or 20 years old, and it was my first time on a professional session).

Sounds Around Town

Welcome to a new type of post I hope to do at least somewhat regularly, where I give the lowdown on sessions happening around the Bluff City. Maybe we’ll do it once a week, maybe once a month, or maybe whenever I get around to it (the most likely scenario).

  • I’ve been working a lot in Electraphonic myself lately. This week we start mixing my forthcoming record, produced by Will Sexton and engineered by Scott Bomar. We cut it on Scott’s Scully 8-track and are mixing to 1/4″.
  • Next week, Scott and I resume tracking and mixing the next James & The Ultrasounds LP for Madjack Records, the followup to their Madjack debut, Bad to be Here.  This project is my first time in the producer’s chair.

FUGITIVE WAVES: Sam Phillips, Sun Studio, and the Acoustics of Life

Here’s a great segment from WBEZ Chicago’s Fugitive Waves, Sam Phillips, Sun Studio, and the Acoustics of Life, featuring interviews with the man himself, his family, Ike Turner, Peter Guralnick, and more.

Speaking of Sam, Memphis’ own Beale Street Caravan has some really wonderful archival interviews of Sam posted up on SoundCloud. The interviews were conducted by the late Sid Selvidge.

Memphis-Made Debut From Margo Price Wins American Music Prize

Congratulations to Memphian Matt Ross-Spang, who produced and engineered Margo Price’s Midwest Famer’s Daughter. The album has won the 2017 American Music Prize for Best Debut Album. It was recorded in Memphis at Sun Studio and mixed at Ardent Studio B. Margo’s label, Jack White’s Third Man Records, surprised her with a party in Nashville. Full story from The Tennessean.

-JPK

Royal Studios to Mark 60th Anniversary, New Album from Robert Cray

Royal Studios will be celebrating their 60th Anniversary on May 1 , 2017 with Poppa Willie’s Night: Rhythm on the River, at Beale Street Landing in Memphis.

In other Royal news, blues artist Robert Cray’s upcoming album, Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm, drops April 28th. As the title indicates, it was recorded with Royal’s legendary house band, Hi Rhythm, and was produced by Steve Jordan.

 

It’s Official: New Memphis Beat Has Launched

Thank you to Bob Mehr of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal for announcing the launch of New Memphis Beat:

Keith’s project is a do-it-yourself endeavor that he’s been putting together in his spare time, but he hopes to expand the site soon with some further backing. He says he’d eventually like to make it a one-stop clearinghouse for Memphis recording/studio information — with virtual studio tours of each recording facility, a complete list of session players and vocalists, and information on gear rental.

As you’ll see if you scroll through the site, I’ve been slowly posting articles on here for nearly a year, before announcing the site exists. Over that time, I have been working with some collaborators on both a short video trailer for the site, as well as a long-form interview podcast with Memphis recording professionals. Eventually I decided there was so much going on in the studios around town that I shouldn’t hold up the launch any longer. Hopefully we’ll have that multimedia content up here eventually. I also hope to have contributions from others as the site grows. Please bookmark us and follow us on social media, and thanks for stopping by.

– JPK