We were so happy the Chandler was able to work it out to come to Memphis and document our time on Beale Street and well as in the studio in mid-June! Here is the article that he wrote for Magazine 33!
The Bush League in Memphis
By Photojournalist and Field Events Coordinator: Chandler Moulton Tue, Aug 28, 2012
This was an amazing road trip for Richmond’s own The Bush League. Not only did they play in Memphis at the International Blues Challenge, but they took the opportunity to work with the student of a master to record their upcoming CD! Magazine33 Photojournalist Chandler Moulton accompanies the group on their journey.
All over the world, around this time of year, groups and solo performers are competing to represent blues societies at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) sponsored by the Blues Foundation and held yearly on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. While competing in Memphis does not guarantee a group will be discovered and become superstars the competition can provided a leg up. Watermelon Slim, Susan Tedeschi, Tommy Castro, and Super Chikan, to name just a few have all performed at the IBC.
This year’s IBC competition saw 119 bands and 86 solo/duo acts filling the clubs up and down Beale Street for the quarter-finals and semi-finals from Wednesday to Friday night with the finals at the Orpheum Theater on Saturday. This year, The Bush League, representing the Natchel Blues Network from the Hampton Roads area advanced to the semi-finals and caught the eye of Vinny Marini. This led to the group being interviewed on Marini’s “Music On The Couch: Musicians You Should Know” internet radio live podcast; The Bush League also garnered an appearance at the Hard Rock Cafe in Memphis and the 40th Bentonia Blues Festival in Bentonia, Mississippi. The festival is hosted by Mr. Jimmy “Duck” Holmes – one of the oldest players in the country blues tradition, and proprietor of the Blue Front Cafe (part of the Mississippi Blues Trail) which his parents opened in 1948. The Bush League shared the stage with the likes of Lightnin’ Malcolm, Roosevelt Roberts Jr., and Super Chikan and the Fighting Cocks, and front man John Jason Cecil serving as the festival’s Master of Ceremonies.
But that’s not all! The Bush League’s appearance at the 2012 IBC resulted in other exciting occurences for the group: Young Avenue Sound Engineer Ari Morris ran sound in the club as the Bush League played during the first round of the IBC. Morris approached Bush League bassist Royce Folks after the set and told him that he wanted to record the group. Kenya Watkins, The Bush League’s manager told me: “[I]t just kinda fell in our laps as we were looking to record here [Richmond] but once we found out who Ari had worked with, including [the late] Jim Dickinson, we knew he was the right guy for this project.”
For those not familiar with Jim Dickinson, he is credited with recording what has been called the last great record on the Sun Label, “Cadillac Man”, “My Babe” by the Jesters, playing piano and singing lead on both sides, even though he was not an actual member of the group. Dickinson also played on Aretha Franklin’s Spirit in the Dark album, The Rolling Stones track “Wild Horses”, and Bob Dylan’s album Time out of Mind. Dickinson produced Big Star’s (perhaps the most influential band you’ve never heard of) Third, as well as co-produced Alex Chilton’s Like Flies on Sherbert. Other artists that Dickinson produced include Mojo Nixon, Jason and The Nashville Scorchers, The Replacements. His sons Luther and Cody make up two-thirds of the North Mississippi Allstars. So, Morris’ education at the University of Memphis has been augmented with lessons from one the masters.
Joining The Bush League both at the Hard Rock Cafe and in studio for a few songs was Jeremy Powell, keyboardist with Beale Street stalwarts Vince Johnson and The Plantation Allstars. Memphis musician (Ghost Town Blues Band) and producer (Daddy Mack Orr Band) Matt Isbell told me that Jeremy had only been playing for a few years and was growing as a keyboardist and performer.
The Bush League’s upcoming CD was recorded in one day, in an open studio (except for Cecil, who was stuck in a small dark isolation booth for his vocals), and except for one song (four takes), the tracks were laid down in two or three takes (one cut was laid down in one take) with a bare minimum of punching. Fans of the blues and especially fans of Richmond blues should be on the look out for this disc. Having lived in Memphis for three years prior to my return to Richmond at the end of 2011, I jumped at the chance to accompany The Bush League to Memphis. While I didn’t accompany the group to Bentonia, (friends and Todd Snider kept me in Memphis) hopefully, the photographs from Hard Rock and Young Avenue Sound do justice to what was a great experience for the group in the city that is considered the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll: Memphis, Tennessee.