Cool Runnings With The Slackers and Chinese Connection Dub Embassy at the Hi-Tone

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Reggae and other Jamaican music styles are not particularly common in Memphis, so when there are occasions to see reggae bands, I usually jump at the opportunity, such as last Thursday’s concert at the Hi-Tone in Crosstown. Of course, I was already familiar with our superb local dub band the Chinese Connection Dub Embassy, but the other band on the bill, The Slackers, was a complete unknown to me. The CCDE usually perform mostly dub, but somewhat surprised me during their set on this particular night by doing two songs from the rock steady/early reggae era, Toots Hibbert’s “54-46 Was My Number”, and Desmond Dekker’s “Shanty Town”. The Slackers are based in New York City, and proved to be an excellent ska band with live horns. They have released numerous albums since 2000, and the songs they performed were almost strictly originals taken from across their discography. The one exception was the Skatalites cover “Christine keeler”, whose title references a 1962 go-go girl who figured prominently in a British political scandal. When the band tried to end their set, the crowd demanded more, and the Slackers obliged with not one, but about four songs, and it was nearly 1 AM when things broke up.

Keep up with Chinese Connection Dub Embassy:

Keep up with The Slackers:

Keep up with The Hi-Tone Memphis:

Hi-Tone Memphis
412-414 N Cleveland
Memphis, TN 38104
(901) 278-8663

Enjoying Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen at Chickie Wah Wah

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When I got to New Orleans on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go hear live music. There weren’t any brass bands performing anywhere as far as I could tell, so I ultimately decided to head to a venue on Canal Street called Chickie Wah Wah where a pianist named Jon Cleary was playing with his band the Absolute Monster Gentlemen. I had never been to this particular spot before, although I had heard of it, and of course I knew of Jon Cleary, who had moved from England to New Orleans in the 1970’s and had stayed. I found the venue to be relatively small, but packed to the rafters, sharing its space with a barbecue stand called Blue Moon that smelled so good it made me sorry I had already eaten. Cleary, of course, is an amazing pianist, showing influences from Professor Longhair and James Booker, but his band is quite funky, even contemporary, and his choice of songs ran the gamut from originals to classics like “Those Lonely, Lonely Nights” and even the ska oldie “The Loving Pauper.” I was further amazed to run into a Memphian who had never met me, but who recognized me from Facebook and who was enjoying the music with his New orleans girlfriend. I told them about the second-line on the following day, and was sorry to see the music end at 1 AM or so.