1. Willie Morris – North Toward Home
A fellow Southern transplant in Seattle recommended this to me, and I initially added it to the massive pile of great Southern lit that I haven’t gotten around to…but something about his description compelled me to snag a used copy from Powell’s and take it on a recent trip to the Yucatán peninsula with my wife.
Morris hooked me instantly with his vivid descriptions of his boyhood in post-war Yazoo City, Mississippi, his social/political awakening at the University of Texas in the late 1950s, and his experiences as a somewhat-ashamed provincial in the “big cave” of New York City, where he worked as an editor for Harper’s from 1963 to 1971. This beautiful coming of age story affected me nearly as deeply as Robert Gordon’s It Came From Memphis (the book I credit for opening my eyes to the value of my Southern roots). Highly recommended.
2. The Fender Stratocaster (especially as recorded at Ardent Studios)
A Jazzmaster has been my main guitar for years, but I’ve recently fallen under the spell of its less-idiosyncratic older sibling, the Stratocaster. They’re ubiquitous in rock & roll (Hendrix, anyone?), but the Strat sounds captured at Ardent are my personal Holy Grail.
Between the crystalline arpeggios of #1 Record and Radio City (the middle section of “Way Out West” is a particularly sublime example) and the juicy “squank” of the rhythm guitar sounds on ZZ Top’s Tres Hombres (see “Hot, Blue, and Righteous”), Terry Manning and John Fry should be on the Fender payroll, as far as I’m concerned.
3. The Toronto music scene
While Memphis will always be my musical Mecca, I’ve been blown away by the quality of music coming out of Toronto over the last few years. The band Zeus, in particular, has been a revelation – their album Say Us was my hands-down pick for 2010, and I can’t wait for their sophomore record Busting Visions, which comes out March 27. Also worth checking out: Jason Collett’s Rat a Tat Tat, Bahamas’ Barchords, The Golden Dogs’ Coat of Arms, and Peter Elkas’ Party of One. These folks are all friends and collaborate extensively…check the liner notes. Something’s happening up there, and I dig it.
Lincoln Barr is the singer/songwriter behind Seattle soul/pop combo Red Jacket Mine. Born in southeast Missouri, he spent his formative years outside Memphis in Horn Lake, Mississippi. Red Jacket Mine recently released a limited-edition 7” on Fin Records of “Listen Up (If the World is Going to Hell),” and a second single, “Bellar & Bawl,” is slated for release in May 2012. They will perform live on KEXP on Saturday, March 3 at 8pm PST.