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Aw, Sookie Sookie — Now and Forever

Aw, Sookie Sookie — Now and Forever
Malaco Records is a soul survivor. The 50-year-old gospel, R&B and blues label in Mississippi has faced the same changes and challenges in the music industry that every other record company has, plus one: a tornado that nearly decimated its headquarters. In April 2011, during a rash of storms that ripped through the South and Midwest, Malaco’s Jackson studio and offices were destroyed, but all the employees and master tapes survived unscathed.The Malaco studio was best known for three records, two of which are spectacularly sunny and were cut in a single 1970 session: Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff” and King Floyd’s “Groove Me,” which gave the world the phrase “Aw, sookie sookie now.” And ballads don’t get more bittersweet than Dorothy Moore’s laid-back “Misty Blue” from 1973.

Tommy Couch Jr., son of one of the label’s founders, says the threads that run through all the Malaco hits — up to last year’s Grammy-nominated “Not My Daddy” by Kelly Price — are strong lyrics and vocals, plus production that’s only a little slick. The package is irresistible, especially to the heart of its audience, grown-up African-American women. Couch says, “We’ve gotten more phone calls like, ‘Honey, I just heard that song and I just had to pull over.'”

And Couch himself is driving through the Mississippi Delta as he talks, working on getting Malaco music into racks in convenience stores, one more way of moving music to customers as small stores go the way of 8-track tapes. “We were one of the last companies to cater to the independent mom-and-pop record shops,” Couch says. “Down in Houston, the liquor store where you would also buy CDs? Gone.”

Couch’s father founded the label after years of booking bands at the University of Mississippi. The younger Couch would eventually do the same thing at the same school, in some cases repping the sons of musicians his father worked with — such as future Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood, whose father is legendary Muscle Shoals, Alabama, bass player David Hood.

“All of my friends were driving around listening to Led Zeppelin and Skynyrd and the Who — which I did too — I followed up with Z.Z. Hill and Little Milton,” Couch says. He says his father, who still keeps office hours, discouraged him from entering the business, and he jokes that there are times he wishes he’d paid attention.

But Couch says Malaco is strong, thanks, in large part, to an extensive catalogue that stretches back to early Mahalia Jackson. There are also promising new signings like “America’s Got Talent” standout Queen Emily, whose old-school debut release was stalled by the tornado.

“We’ve had to dig in and work harder to accomplish a lot of the same things,” Couch says. “Because we’ve had to buckle down and try a little harder to do things that came extra easy to us, it should pay back exponentially.”

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Phil Madeira presents Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us

On Mercyland: Hymns For The Rest of Us out April 24 (Mercyland Records/ Fuel Music), producer and writer Phil Madeira set out with the initiative to find that loving and nourishing part of faith that has become obscured anytime religion reaches mainstream media. In an expansive and spacious conversation of personal belief through song, artists The Civil Wars, Shawn Mullins, Buddy Miller, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Mat Kearney, Cindy Morgan, The North Mississippi Allstars, Dan Tyminski, Emmylou Harris, John Scofield, Amy Stroup, and Madeira answer the call. (Complete track listing below).

The Civil Wars speak the fear of the outcast, Miller wonders about doubt as much as faith, The Carolina Chocolate Drops have an absolute joyful throwdown with the old hymn “Lights in The Valley,” and Emmylou sees a higher power in humanity — while Mat Kearney asks if God dwells in our sorrows, Stroup seeks her own personal higher power, and Morgan explores intention with an old-time gospel influence.
Mullins’ track could be the thematic centerpiece of the album with “God don’t hate the Muslims /God don’t hate the Jews /God don’t hate the Christians/ but we all give God the blues…God ain’t no Republican, he ain’t no Democrat/ God’s above all that.”
“When I was a young, my mother played me Mahalia Jackson, which introduced me to the reality of a bone chilling, soul-stirring music that made everything else pale in comparison,” says Madeira. “ These were joyous odes to a Gospel that sang of the love and the dignity of all humanity. Watching the news during the last presidential election, I wondered why that message had been thrown out of what we hear in the national dialogue on religion, and replaced with exclusivity and mean-spiritedness.”
So he gathered together a diverse group of musical friends who, like him, weren’t necessarily religious people but wanted to put a positive message out that all people, no matter what creed, faith, sexual preference, race, political bias- everyone is a child of God. Simply put, Buddy Miller says, “This is a beautiful record.”
Mercyland: Hymns For The Rest of Us Track Listing
  1. From This Valley – The Civil Wars
  2. Give God The Blues – Shawn Mullins
  3. I Believe In You – Buddy Miller
  4. Lights In The Valley – The Carolina Chocolate Drops
  5. Mercyland – Phil Madeira
  6. Walking Over Water – Mat Kearney
  7. Leaning On You – Cindy Morgan
  8. Fell Like A Feather – Amy Stroup
  9. If I Was Jesus – The North Mississippi Allstars
  10. Light Of Your Love – Dan Tyminski
  11. I Didn’t Know It Was You – Emmylou Harris
  12. Peace In The Valley – John Scofield
 Phil Madeira is a songwriter, producer, musician and singer. His songs have been recorded in all genres by such artists as The Civil Wars, Buddy Miller, Alison Krauss, Toby Keith, Ricky Skaggs, Bruce Hornsby, Keb’ Mo’, Garth Brooks, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Shawn Mullins, The North Mississippi Allstars, and many others.  As a multi-instrumentalist he plays guitar, accordion, piano, Hammond B3, lap steel, and more. Known for his work with the acclaimed Buddy Miller, Madeira has appeared with Solomon Burke, Elvis Costello, Dave Matthews, Vince Gill, Boz Skaggs, Patty Griffin, and he is currently a member in Emmylou Harris’ band The Red Dirt Boys. He received a Humanitarian award from ASCAP in 1986 for raising consciousness and money for the Ethiopian hunger crisis.  He is also the recipient of a Dove Award for Country Song of the Year and a Juno Award for production.

Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios to be Honored | MemphisConnect


Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios to be Honored | MemphisConnect.

Tucked in the heart of Soulsville, at 1320 Willie Mitchell Boulevard, Royal Studios has been cranking out hits since 1957. When the popularity of southern soul began to decline in the 1970s, Royal dropped its Hi Records label and became a recording studio for hire. Over the last four decades the studio has hosted sessions for, among scores of other acts from around the world, Rod Stewart, Keith Richards, De La Soul, My Morning Jacket and Solomon Burke.  Read more about Mitchell, his hard work in the trenches of Memphis music and his decades-long legacy here.

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