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Musical talent runs in the Selvidge family

April 10, 2014

A father-son dynamic of sorts creeps its way into this week’s Ear Bliss as we look at albums from The Hold Steady and the late Memphis artist Sid Selvidge. The common thread between the two releases is Steve Selvidge who has held down guitar duties for The Hold Steady since 2011 and is the son of Sid Selvidge and played a pivotal in the resissue of his dad’s classic 1976 album, “The Cold of the Morning.” Let’s take a look.

The Hold Steady
“Teeth Dreams”
Positive Jams/
Washington Square Records

On its sixth album and first since 2010’s “Heaven Is Whenever,” New York-based rock band The Hold Steady unleash a muscular guitar attack unlike that heard on any previous album. Those axes continuously circle, reverberate and move in and out of lead singer and principal songwriter Craig Finn’s literate, modern day-Joe barroom anthems. The album is the first without keyboardist Franz Nikolay who left the band in 2010 and was replaced by guitarist, Steve Selvidge. Selvidge’s trial run on the band’s subsequent tour turned into a full-time job the following year. Together with lead guitarist Tad Kubler, “Teeth Dreams” presents a formidable two-pronged attack featuring catchy hooks and riffs aplenty. As is par for The Hold Steady course, the centerpiece remains the storytelling and passionate delivery of front man Finn whose songwriting construction has always had a Springsteen-esque quality to it. That songwriting remains the draw. Combined with a tight and talented band, “Teeth Dreams” is 49-or-so minutes of mostly urgent and high anxiety rock. Only near album’s end, the final two songs “Almost Everything” and “Oaks,” does The Hold Steady wind down the tempo. They prove two of the most rewarding tunes on a fine record.

The Hold Steady appears at The Met Café in Pawtucket (1005 Main St.) on Saturday night. Cheap Girls are in the opening slot.

Sid Selvidge
“The Cold of the Morning” (resissue)
Omnivore Recordings

When he passed away all too early at the age of 69 last May, Memphis lost one of its great voices in Sid Selvidge. From his early work as a disc jockey just across the Mississippi River at KWAM in West Memphis, Ark., to his vital part in the legendary Memphis band Mud Boy & the Neutrons to his spearheading role behind the syndicated public radio program Beale Street Caravan to his own solo career, Selvidge was a fixture in various capacities on the Memphis music scene beginning in the 1960s and lasting right up until the time of his death. A voice to behold, Selvidge’s nuanced baritone was a versatile instrument that could deliver a heartfelt folk ballad as easily as it could a bluesy spiritual. As far as recordings were concerned, Selvidge did not have a prolific career. His debut called “Portrait” was released in 1969 on the Enterprise label, a small subsidiary of Stax Records. Selvidge would then sign with Elektra Records, but would never release an album and was subsequently let go in a management change. Selvidge would not release his next album until 1976 with “The Cold of the Morning,” on which his voice was laid bare for all to hear. A varied affair, it was slated for release for a small Memphis label called Peabody Records until the money person behind the release dropped out and consequently handed the reigns to Selvidge. Without proper backing, the album still managed to gain attention including a rave New York Times review the following year when Selvidge was holding down a weekly residency at Tramps in New York City. Featuring such soon-to-be Selvidge classics as “Boll Weevil” with its soul-endearing falsetto highs, “I’ve Got A Secret (Didn’t We Shake Sugaree)” and the spiritual “Lazrus,” the album would gain Selvidge critical kudos in folk music circles and even see some major labels extend offers. Sadly, the album would never reach enough potential listeners to take his career to that next level in gaining a national audience. Even still, “The Cold of the Morning” is etched in the annals of Memphis music which when you get down to it is about as diverse in the historical spectrum as anywhere. Produced by the late Jim Dickinson and featuring Mudboy & the Neutrons (on two of six bonus tracks, as well as two of the original album tracks) along with photos by the legendary Memphis-based picture-taker William Eggleston, the reissue of the long out of print masterpiece is most welcomed and once again allows music fans to discover one of the great voices of Memphis. Visit www.omnivorerecordings.com.

LIVE SHOTS:

Music at Lilypads in Peace Dale (27 North Road) presents a solid twin bill on Saturday night featuring the return of The Honey Dewdrops and singer/songwriter Jonah Tolchin. Doors are at 7 p.m. and music begins at 7:30.

Mary Ann Rossoni returns with a collection of songs. “Edentown” is the newest and eighth album from Rhode Island-based singer/songwriter Mary Ann Rossoni (these going by just “Rossoni”). The new album presents an artist who has come full circle, from acoustic music and back again. Rossoni brings Edentown to life at Manchester 65 in West Warwick (65 Manchester St.) on late Sunday afternoon with a show that begins at 4 p.m.

Head to the Wood River Inn (Main Street) in downtown Wyoming, R.I. on Sunday evening for the dynamic duo of The Rank Strangers with Chris Monti starting at 6 p.m.

Dan Ferguson is a freelance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on WRIU-FM 90.3.

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