“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today it’s a proper shakin’ hell garage rock legend, someone who blew me away at the Garage venue many moons ago with his erstwhile rabble rousers The Oblivians and who for sometime now has been eminence gris, Memphis denizen and psychobilly king of Reigning Sound.
Now a long-term resident of Asheville, NC Greg Cartwright returned to Memphis to record the band’s seventh full-length and reunited with the original “Memphis line-up” too from their earliest recordings, and “A Little More Time With Reigning Sound” combines sepia toned country nostalgia and hard worn, deceptively simple songwriting with the neon-lit and lion-hearted energies of not just a band leader but a torch holder for a whole scene. It’s an absolute blast to have him on these pages, not least for memorable quotes such as “like a 22-year old Eeyore” and his brilliantly anecdotal and edutaining choice of tune – welcome to Velvet Sheep, the inestimably brilliant Greg Cartwright!
First off, buckle up, shake down for “A Little More Time”…
“A Little More Time With Reigning Sound” on the never less than ace Merge Records reunites Greg with Jeremy Scott on bass, Greg Roberson on drums and Alex Greene on the keys for the first time since 2005’s “Home for Orphans” LP (as reissued by Merge last year) and it didn’t take much scratching below the surface to find the fire.
In fact it was the reissue that sowed the scenes for the seemingly unlikely match-up. A mini tour to promote it had coincided with the start of the pandemic and not long after Cartwright had amassed some new tunes. With the most recent Reigning Sound line up based in NYC which soon became a Covid-19 hot spot, recording it there would have been impractical, so Greg decided to record in Memphis and literally get the old gang back together.
Greg had also got previous with Scott Bomar, veteran of Al Green and William Bell recordings at the helm at Electraphonic Recording, having played with him on the Compulsive Gamblers “Bluff City” album, so a familiar scene was set to make a record that transcends their collective soul, both pulling at pedal steel heart strings with whistful songs like “A Good Life” and making you go down to the hoedown with “Make It Up”. Its all been ably abetted by Elen Wroten (cello), Krista Wroten (violin), Graham Winchester (additional drums and percussion), and John Whittemore (pedal steel) and Coco Hames (The Ettes, Parting Gifts) who sings co-lead on one of my stand up favs “Just Say When”. And to reinstate the fact that the spirit of old rock & roll permeates every pore of “A Little More Time With…” there’s a wilfully rambunctious cover of Adam Faith’s 1965 single “I Don’t Need That Kind of Lovin’” to boot. Meanwhile “I’ll Be Your Man” combines the to-the-bone delivery of latter day Cash with the cadence of The Smiths “Back To The Old House”.
And despite the timelessness of the tunes, there’s even a nod to the current pandocalypse and eyeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the album opener (as i hope you’ve already watched above) “Let’s Do It Again” with the refrain “I wanna be with you / You and me in the same room” – cheers to that!
The album is out on Friday 21st May, and here’s the Picasso’s “Guernica” meets Elvis vibe of the cover art…
It goes without saying that Greg is steeped in musicology and rock & roll mythology, with an unquenchable thirst for sonic discovery, so his pick and the story behind it is a treat. So without further ado, here’s Greg Cartwright’s righteous “song for ewe”…
“When I’m record shopping, helpful sales folks usually ask me if I’m “looking for something in particular?” My unconscious strategy for exiting this conversation is to blurt out the first band name that pops into my head. Because, the truth is mostly no, I don’t know what I’m looking for.
“I’m looking for something I’ve never heard of” or “I’m looking for a mystery” sounds pretentious or mean, depending on their previous track record with old record nerds. But either way, it’s true. And nothing triggers my curiosity more than a mysterious artist with a sad song.
Two LP’s that I’ve obsessed over are Glen Stillwell’s “Parody of the Mountain Climber” and Mick Lloyd’s “Married Gal in Memphis”. Since Mick’s album also produced a few singles, I’m going to tell you about one called “Rhyming Words”. It was released on JMT, a label from the early 70’s that seems to have existed exclusively for the purpose of issuing Mick Lloyd records.
(see below the cover for “Married Girl In Memphis”)
Mick says the label did not belong to him but the only record on JMT not credited to Mick, was for an artist named EASY.
One listen was enough for me to determine this was also Mick Lloyd. Hailing from Maryland, his voice is high, boyish, and often double tracked. This is offset by his delivery which is slow and laconic. Like a 22 year old Eeyore.
The lyrics are dreamy and blue, and undercut with a moodiness that feels real, not a put on. That atmosphere is enhanced by a sparse, effective backing. The crying harmonica, tape-delayed piano and steel guitar are balanced and prominent.
That said, I don’t think this is country music and Mick never attempts to hide his east coast accent, even though the record was cut in Nashville at a time when that would have been “the move”. Overall, the LP is hard to categorize except to say that there’s definitely a breezy 70’s quality. If you like the song, check the album out too. And definitely have a look at the original LP artwork. Very charming and awkward, in the best sort of way. Thanks for listening.”
THANKS SO MUCH GREG CARTWRIGHT AND AS ALWAYS TO RACHEL SILVER AT SILVER PR
“A LITTLE MORE TIME WITH REIGNING SOUND” IS OUT ON MERGE ON 21ST MAY
You can get exclusive translucent pink/opaque purple swirl vinyl of the album at Rough Trade (300 copies available) on this link:
And loads of other ways to pre-order it here too…
Here’s another taster to whet your whistle…