Each week, the team at We Are Memphis Music brings you the best upcoming live shows for the next seven days. Here’s our picks for the final week of July.
Steve Earle & The Dukes
7 PM Tuesday July 26 at Lafayette’s Music Room
Over his celebrated forty year career, Steve Earle has established himself as one of America’s most gifted living songwriters, earning him comparisons to luminaries such as Townes Van Zandt and John Prine. While often categorized as a country artist, Earle’s music largely defies easy categorization, taking elements of folk, blues, rock, and bluegrass and blending them into a uniquely American stew. In 1988, Earle scored his biggest hit with the song “Copperhead Road,” which became a sensation on both the country and rock charts, but radio play has never been his primary goal. Instead, Earle has become an icon for his politically populist lyrics and emotive voice, both of which recall a bygone era of country music. Considering his status, it may seem a bit strange that Earle will be performing in a midsize venue on a Tuesday night for an affordable $25, but we certainly aren’t complaining.
7:30 PM Friday July 29 at the Green Room at Crosstown Arts
While no musical genre is truly immune from debates about “authenticity,” I would argue that the blues is particularly susceptible to conversations about which artists are true bluesmen versus those who are simply cosplaying. As the American art form responsible for shaping modern popular music, perhaps this is unavoidable, especially in a city like Memphis where throngs of tourists arrive every day in search of the “real” blues. And while the city has plenty of talent that would earn that billing, nobody embodies the blues in the 21st century quite like Memphissippi Sounds. By blending North Mississippi hill country blues with more contemporary genres, the duo of Cameron Kimbrough (grandson of blues legend Junior Kimbrough) and Damion “Yella P” Pearson are keeping one of our greatest cultural traditions alive while adding their own twist. So while you may be able to catch the fellas busking on a street corner Downtown as they’re wont to do, I’d suggest enjoying them in the comfy and air-conditioned confines of the Green Room, relishing in the fact that “authentic blues” is still very much a thing.
9 PM Friday July 29 at B-SIDE BAR
Spend more than fifteen minutes around the Memphis music scene milieux and the familiar joke will emerge: Graham Winchester plays with every band in town. That may be the case, but The Turnstyles loom large as perhaps his most hyperkinetic and thrilling project, a duo where he effectively meets his match in Seth Moody, no stranger to Memphian garage-rock himself. The perceived limitations of a guitar and drums duo fall away instantly as the duo erupts from the starting gate, freewheeling wildly between reverb-soaked surf, dusty rockabilly, and noisy punk-
tinged country. The term ‘breakneck pace’ was made to be applied to bands like these, and with the unyielding heat exhausting just about all of us in the Bluff City, who doesn’t need a refreshing, high-energy cool-off?
Robert Earl Keen
8 PM Saturday July 30 at Germantown Performing Arts Center
The words “Texas alternative country” and “Robert Earl Keen” are synonymous. I’m Coming Home Is Keen’s farewell tour after four decades in the business. The tour is bittersweet for fans of Keen, who sing along to every word of his laid back Texas style party anthems, and feel good lyrics. The songwriter is revered as one of the best amongst his peers, and yet he hasn’t had a smash hit that anyone can point to– and never had a desire to please anyone with his unique writing style other than the rowdy crowd in front of him each night. This may be your chance to see the Texas troubadour in action, but he leaves a legacy which fans will be sure goes on forever.