Forged in the late Nineties as an instrumental soul band in the mold of hyphenated acts like the Mar-Keys and Bar-Kays, the Bo-Keys embody the classic Memphis sound that backed Al Green, Ann Peebles, and William Bell.
“We don’t have to try too hard for it to come out the way it comes out,” assures bandleader bassist Scott Bomar. “We’re blessed to have guys like [drummer] Howard Grimes and Archie Turner in the band who played on a lot of the original recordings people associate with Memphis and know and love. Howard played on just about the entire Hi Records catalog and on a lot of Stax cuts.”
Like the bands that cut most Memphis R&B burners, the Bo-Keys are multiracial in addition to multigenerational.
“That’s the Memphis sound: the collision of gospel, blues, jazz, country. When you get integrated bands, I think you get a mix of sounds that you wouldn’t get any other way. In the Sixties, you had this amazing thing happening where everyone was influencing each other, and it didn’t matter if somebody was black or white. If they could play, that’s what mattered.”
The band’s third full-length, Heartaches by the Number, drops during their three-day stint in Austin. Both the LP and live show feature Percy Wiggins and Don Bryant, vocalists who cut deep Memphis soul tunes nearly 50 years ago.
“Everything we’ve done up to this point has been pure Memphis soul heavily influenced by the Hi Records sound and the Stax sound,” explains Bomar. “For this new album, I’ve gotten more into the Muscle Shoals sound and what was going on at Fame Studios in the Sixties. Also, what Chips Moman was doing at American Studios here in Memphis.
“The core of that material is this amazing songwriting and guys who were writing country songs, but recorded them with a soul band. It came out as this really cool soul-country hybrid, and that’s what I wanted to do with this record.”– Thomas Fawcett
Tom Hiddleston tried, but no one conjures Hank Williams like James “Slim” Hand. Backed by seasoned pros including Doug Sahm bassist Speedy Sparks and fiddler Beth Chrisman of the Carper Family, the Waco-born singer plays country music the way God intended, straight from the heart and lonesome as hell. He might not offer anything from his recent gospel disc, Stormclouds in Heaven, but that won’t preclude boot-scooters from having a religious experience.– Jim Caligiuri