“Not every root sprouts a straight stem, and these Memphis mofos tangle it all up on Mem Mods. Burrowing toward a sound somewhere between Al Green’s backing vocalists and a John Cassavetes soundtrack, the boys get downright funky, showing how far from the tree the vine can bloom.” –Robert Gordon, author of It Came From Memphis
“Masterful.” –Andria Lisle, author of Waking Up In Memphis
Steve Selvidge (The Hold Steady band member) is set to revive the famed Peabody Records label, home to Alex Chilton’s seminal Like Flies on Sherbet album as well as Memphis folk/blues legend Sid Selvidge. The label’s first release in its second life will be the vinyl/digital album MEM_MODS, Vol. 1 an instrumental trio of Memphis music consisting of:
* Selvidge (Big Ass Truck band member, credits with Bash & Pop, Jimbo Mathus, Cory Branan, Harlan T. Bobo) on guitar, bass, Rhodes, and drum machine; * Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars, credits with The Replacements, The Black Crowes, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, RL Boyce, Bash & Pop), who has been nominated for three GRAMMYs for his solo albums on bass and various keyboards; * and, “Memphis favorite multi-instrumentalist” per the Memphis Flyer and MEM_MODS secret weapon Paul Taylor (leader of New Memphis Colorways, who has graced stages with Eric Gales, Ann Peebles, Kirk Whalum) contributes drums, percussion, omnichord, bass, fretless bass, washtub bass, synth pedals, and soundscapes.
The trio’s debut album MEM_MODS, Vol. 1 comes out February 24 with first single/video “Capricorn Catastrophe,” which takes classic Memphis soul to outer space, out today.
Despite the group having two bona fide guitar heroes, MEM_MODS choose a different path. This is groove music, funky, soulful, futuristic, fusion-adjacent, partly electronic, slightly psychedelic, and 100% Memphis. Vol. 1 is the work of three incredibly creative figures coming together on a collaboration thirty-plus years in the making, with all three growing up playing music together in Memphis, TN, all with legendary fathers: Paul reared by Pat Taylor and his stepfather a member of ‘70s cult band Zuider Zee; Steve with his folk-blues artist father Sid Selvidge; and Luther, of course, kin of the legendary Jim Dickinson. Luther and Steve are also both members of the Sons of Mudboy, which performs the music of Sid Selvidge and Jim Dickinson’s band Mudboy & The Neutrons; Paul and Steve have played with Luther in North Mississippi Allstars; and Steve and Luther have both played with Bash & Pop; Paul has played in Steve’s former band Big Ass Truck. Add in stints with Tommy Stinson, the Black Crowes, and Seasick Steve, and the branches grow heavier.
The three had discussed an album together for years but in 2020, with these booked-solid musicians suddenly facing empty calendars, it became apparent that the time had come. The problem? They were all sheltering in place, just like the rest of the world. No problem: the music was made long-distance, with tracks sent via email and thoughts sent via video messages on the app Marco Polo. That approach allowed each musician more of a clean slate to stretch out and follow off-kilter artistic impulses than they might have jamming together in person.
An utterly freeform survey of instrumental music, and a clarion call for the future of recording, MEM_MODS, Vol. 1 unfurls from the speakers like a reimagined Quincy Jones score screwed and chopped with Isaac Hayes’ landmark Shaft soundtrack. That is, if the core Stax unit was backed up by Sly Stone and the Beastie Boys, and John Shaft had been plucked from the streets of Harlem and dropped into the animation panels for Fantastic Planet.
The album’s opener, “Capricorn Catastrophe,” draws on equal parts Jean Michel Jarre and Booker T. & the MGs. Like Jarre’s breakthrough album Oxygene, surreal sounds bounce and bubble. However, the horn work and propulsive, emotive guitar hooks are innately Memphis. This is music for now – a buoyantly imaginative refutation of the reality of life as we know it, perhaps a film score to a long-lost retro-futuristic psychedelic cult classic that doesn’t exist. ”Harmolodica,” to be released December 6, joyously conjures up a mental image of Money Mark, Charles Stepney, and Augustus Pablo staggering and stuttering through outer space. The final single, midtempo, feel-good, Hi Records-influenced “Knotty Pine Kitchen,” lands January 17.
Memphis horn mainstays Marc Franklin (Don Bryant, The Bo-Keys, Robert Cray, Rev. Sekou, Wu-Tang Clan, Solomon Burke) contributes trumpet while Art Edmaiston (Amanda Shires, The Greyhounds, Cut Worms, Don Bryant, The Bo-Keys) adds saxophone. Selvidge mixed the record himself. Jeff Powell (Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Big Star, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Lucinda Williams, Al Green) cut the vinyl, which is being manufactured at Memphis Record Pressing in Memphis.
Selvidge has performed at Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall, and on late-night shows with The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and Jools Holland. As a session musician, he’s played guitar on more than sixty albums.