R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

VOICES Notes and news on R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax releases

Concord Music Group

Stax Records to Get Broadway Treatment


Concord Music Group and Academy Award-nominated and GRAMMY Award-winning producer Stuart Benjamin have begun development of a musical production based on the dramatic story of iconic soul music label Stax Records.  The book will be written by Matthew Benjamin with a Spring 2016 Broadway premiere target.

The Stax Records saga—from its beginning in an old movie theater on East McLemore Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, to its extraordinary rise as an international hit-making machine—is an indispensable chapter in American musical history.  Amid the civil rights-era racial strife and deep-seated tensions of the late '50s and '60s, Stax’s integrated artist roster and staff fundamentally shaped American soul music, spawning the careers of legendary recording artists, songwriters and producers, including Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, The Staple Singers, Albert King, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, William Bell, David Porter, Rufus and Carla Thomas, and Steve Cropper.

Concord Music Group

Concord Music Group is proud to announce that it has acquired the catalog of renowned American R&B/soul label Vee-Jay Records. The catalog includes over 5,000 master recordings from renowned artists such as Little Richard, John Lee Hooker, Betty Everett, Jimmy Reed, Jerry Butler, The Staple Singers, Gene Chandler and The Dells, among many others.   Classic Vee-Jay tracks include Chandler’s early '60s #1 hit “Duke of Earl,” John Lee Hooker’s iconic “Boom Boom,” The Staples Singers’ “Uncloudy Day,” (with a 12-year old Mavis on lead vocal!) Jimmy Reed’s inimitable “High and Lonesome” and Betty Everett’s “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss),” to name just a few.

Founded in Gary, Indiana in 1953 by husband-and-wife team Vivian Carter and James C. Bracken (“V” and “J”), Vee-Jay quickly became a top indie label that regularly turned out superb R&B, urban blues, (and later) jazz, folk and gospel recordings.  Vee-Jay was one of the first black- and female-owned labels in America and also the first U.S. record company to release any recordings by The Beatles.

Concord Music Group President and CEO, Glen Barros stated: “The range and richness of Vee-Jay’s catalog is truly remarkable.   We’re grateful to be its guardian and look forward to broadening this unique musical legacy.”

The transaction between Concord Music Group and Vee-Jay Ltd. Partnership was catalyzed by Scott McLain. 

Concord Music Group

"This is a homecoming in more ways than one," Kenny Wayne Shepherd says of Goin’ Home, The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band’s debut on Concord Records. "I felt like I was retracing my steps and reliving all the good times that I've had in my life because of this music.  And hopefully, that amount of happiness comes through on the album." 

In a 20-year recording career that began when he was just 16, Shepherd has established himself as an immensely popular recording artist, a consistently in-demand live act and an influential force in a worldwide resurgence of interest in the blues. Now, the five-time GRAMMY®nominee delivers one of his most personal projects to date with Goin' Home, his eighth album and his first to be recorded in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana.

Recorded in a mere 11 days, Goin' Home finds Shepherd revisiting a dozen of the vintage blues classics that first ignited his love of the blues and inspired him to play guitar. The artist's sharp interpretive skills and sublime guitar work shine on his renditions of tunes originally popularized by such blues icons as B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, Muddy Waters, Magic Sam, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells.

Goin' Home—which continues in the spirit of Shepherd's widely acclaimed 2007 album/film project 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads—came together when Shepherd decided to take advantage of an 11-day gap in his touring schedule. "Everybody was originally gonna fly home and have a break," he recalls, "but I saw it as an opportunity to make some music. I had been looking for songs and preparing to make a record like this, so I asked the guys in the band for some more song suggestions and we rerouted the tour bus down to Louisiana."

The process of choosing material for the project allowed Shepherd to relive some of his earliest musical epiphanies. "I dug through tons and tons of songs and artists' catalogues, trying to find songs that I thought would be right for this record," he explains. "That brought back all these distinct memories of sitting in the living room in front of the record player and cassette deck as a kid and learning how to play this material."

The fact that the album was recorded in Shreveport, where Shepherd had come of age musically but had never actually recorded, raised the project's emotional intensity. "Being in Shreveport really brought me back, and being surrounded by my family and the music that I cut my teeth on brought up a lot of vivid memories."

Although Shreveport didn't have a world class recording studio when Shepherd was growing up, the city is now home to Blade Studios, the celebrated facility run by respected drummer/producer Brady Blade, who's renowned for his work with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Dave Matthews. Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of American Blues, Shepherd and his band—singer Noah Hunt, ex-Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton, former Firm bassist Tony Franklin and keyboardist Riley Osbourn—cut 22 songs, with no studio trickery and minimal overdubbing.

"We did it the way records used to be recorded," Shepherd explains. "Everything, including the vocals, was basically cut live in the studio with everybody in the same room, with the instruments all bleeding together onto two-inch tape. I wanted to record these songs in the same spirit in which they were originally recorded, so the 11-day time frame was self-imposed. That put pressure on everybody to get it right the first time, and I had the utmost confidence in everyone's abilities and knowledge."

Also lending a hand on the project are several talented friends who shared Shepherd's enthusiasm for Goin' Home's back-to-basics concept. Those include fellow guitar icons Joe Walsh, Warren Haynes, Keb' Mo' and Robert Randolph, longtime friend Ringo Starr, Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman Kim Wilson, the Rebirth Brass Band and co-producer Blade's father, Pastor Brady Blade Sr., who lends a bracing dose of preaching to Shepherd's version of Bo Diddley's "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover."

"Everybody who performed on the record shared my passion, appreciation and respect for this music, but they're also all good friends of mine," Shepherd notes. "It was all pretty casual; I'd just run into people and ask if they wanted to be a part of it, and every one of them contributed something significant to the record.

"I feel like I've matured a lot as a musician," Shepherd concludes. "My purpose for making music is the same as it ever was, but I've also learned a lot over the years. Less can be more. The great blues musicians who originally moved me didn't always have to burn up the neck of the guitar by playing a bunch of notes. They knew how to play the right note at the right time, in a way that just pierces you right to your heart. That was an important lesson, and it's my goal to move people in that same way that my role models moved me."

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Concord Music Group

The Dramatics' Greatest Slow Jams


Producer Kevin “Slow Jammin'” James has brought together a collection of the ultimate slow jams from American soul group The Dramatics, whose members included Ron Banks, L.J. Reynolds, Lenny Mayes, Willie Ford and Larry Squirrel Demps. Titled The Dramatics – Greatest Slow Jams, and released on Stax Records on April 29, 2014, this compilation stems predominantly from the band’s breakout hits of the early '70s, a time when the band was recording with Stax-Volt as well as ABC Records. “Tomorrow,” a track originally released on Fantasy in 1985 by Dramatics vocalist L.J. Reynolds, has never before been made available on CD. 
This album includes such chart-toppers as “Toast to the Fool” and their popular number one R&B hit “In the Rain.” According to James, “My love life would have been dramatically reduced without The Dramatics music in my life.”   
The Dramatics began as the vocal sextet The Dynamics in 1962 and signed to Stax-Volt Records in 1968, where they found great commercial and critical success. In 1971, they released “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get,” which broke them into the top 10 of the Billboard charts with the title track and awarded them with their first gold album, selling over one million units. The following year, they released “In the Rain,” which went to number one on the R&B charts for four consecutive weeks and number five on the pop charts.
The “Slow Jams” brand began as a late night radio show in 1985 hosted by Kevin “Slow Jammin'” James.  It soon developed into a successful program and eventually a series of CD compilations that blended old and new R&B love songs.

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