Stax Revue: Reviving the Gifts of Memphis Soul
From the late ’50s, a Memphis soul label called Stax Records brought the music of people like Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Booker T and the MGs to the world. While country folk is Unpaved’s primary interest, there’s no ignoring shows that combine powerful and interesting music played by talented local artists like Suzannah Espie, Kylie Auldist, Liz Stringer, Mick Pealing, Ian Collard, Lorettas Miller, Matt Walker, Sime Nugent, Alice Keath, Peter Punk The Stax On Soul Revue Band (Matt Green, Grant Cummerford, Danny McKenna, Brendan McMahon and The Dynamo Horns) and more. Matt Green (pictured with instrument below) is well known in Melbourne as a guitar player of soul and country styles. Here he gives Unpaved the good word on the Stax Revue shows.
You’ve got an extraordinary lineup of musicians and artists from funk and soul backgrounds as well as country, folk and blues and some that straddle all of the above. What is it about the Southern soul sounds of Stax Records, a label that came out of Memphis in 195, that’s brought so many outstanding Melbourne musicians together?
I think it’s really the vast amount of such good songs which haven’t really been played to death, it’s like a gold mine when you start to source out some of these Stax artists. Also the whole Booker T and the MGs backing of all these classics is played in such a laid back way and is so cool. They were such a cool band. I myself have always looked up to Steve Cropper as a guitarist for the way he can play such simple but melodic and memorable parts to these tunes. And to learn them yourself is so much fun.
Country and soul share a lot in common and the African-American contribution to what became country is immense. How do you explain the relationship between the styles?
Yeah, I mean I think definitely there was African-American influence on country as I know for a fact that Hank Williams learnt a lot form blues guitarists but I would say the main similarity is that is was both a way of expressing their true thoughts and feelings of the time. Country is definitely like the white man’s soul music and many artist’s such as Ray Charles really crossed over into both styles, because I guess they could hear that pain and suffering in the music and they could relate to it.
How would you say the Stax sound differs from the Motown sound most commonly associated with the early era of soul music?
Motown was very much more formulated pop tunes and was very much more directed at middle-class white Americans. Stax on the other hand was more for the people and told stories in there songs that were part of the people’s lives who wrote them, I feel. Also the mix of races in the Stax house band definitely contributed to their sound and I’m sure Steve Cropper and Donald Duck Dunn brought a bit of a country element to the whole sound. Also the vocal takes with Stax tunes seem so special, not saying Motwown wasn’t as well, but you just get this feeling that there was a lot of passion and heartfelt feelings flowing through the times of those recordings, like Steve Cropper said “It was like going to church every day”.
Tell us a bit about some of the players involved.
Well the backing band is made up of players from whole stack of Melbourne bands such as Jeff Lang, Jordie Lane, Dynamo, Barbabarion to name just a few. Yeah, it’s a really diverse mix that seems to work really well.
It sounds like the kind of show with a lot of special one-of-a-kind collaborations. What have been some of the highlights so far and what can people look forward to?
Well you can look forward to a few very special duets, which is something a bit different from last year’s show and some singers stepping out of their comfort zone. There has been so many amazing moments in the past, probably too many too mention, Dan Sultan singing Change Gonna Come and Lind J (Dacios) singing The Weight spring to mind, and I’m positive there is a lot more to come from these upcoming Christmas shows.
Catch the show at The Caravan Music Club on Dec 16th or Yah Yah’s on Dec 18th.