Reigning Sound blend vintage soul and folk-rock textures into infectious garage rockon February 21, 2020 at 11:30 pm

Memphis musicians enjoy a well-deserved reputation for having more going on beneath the surface than they initially let on. Alex Chilton, Tav Falco, and Jim Dickinson are known for putting a trashy stamp on roots music in their songwriting, but they also incorporate outside influences at unpredictable times. Such is also the case with the Reigning Sound, led by singer-guitarist Greg Cartwright–a founding member of the Oblivians, a trio that deconstructs blues and punk until they sound nearly avant-garde. Though the Reigning Sound, which Cartwright launched in 2001, are far more earthbound, they also have many dimensions. Where the Oblivians use the blues as a touchstone, the Reigning Sound draw on Memphis’s soul legacy, and much like the garage bands that came from the city in the 1960s (the Gentrys, the Box Tops), they can incorporate that influence without camping things up. On their most recent studio album, 2014’s Shattered, Cartwright’s vocals sound like Van Morrison circa 1967, after he left Them but before the jazzy textures of Astral Weeks. While soul is front and center, a folk-rock strain runs through a significant portion of the record–and remarkably, it never sinks into lazy introspection. Cartwright’s message to the world sounds powerful even confined to a record, and he burns like a candle onstage. v

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