Memphis based Jody Stephens is best known as the drummer and only surviving founding member of the Alex Chilton fronted Big Star. Together with LA based singer songwriter Luther Russell, he has formed Those Pretty Wrongs who are due to release their self titled debut album in May. At 63 years of age, he’s looking and sounding as though he has discovered the fountain of youth.
Opening the evening was Two Am I, aka Tim Rogers and Davey Lane. This was far from You Am I lite but it was a great chance to hear some new tunes in an intimate and more stripped back fashion. Tim told the small but appreciative crowd that had shown up early that they would be releasing 2 new albums later this year – I guess his self proclaimed mantra of the night “semen, drugs and recording” is working out well for him so far. Along with the new tunes was a cover of Ashes to Ashes that was heartfelt and raw which balanced out Rogers’ somewhat antsy demeanour on this particular evening.
Those Pretty Wrongs hit the stage after much anticipation as to how this outfit would present themselves as a duo here. There were no drums, no electric guitars or rock and roll bravado, just Russell playing a 12 string named Bob (the same name of his famous songwriting grandfather who wrote the lyrics for He Ain’t Heavy He’s my Brother) and Stephens with the occasional shake of a tambourine backing their melodic and harmonious voices. Stephens spotted a couple of Ardent Studios Tees in the crowd which prompted a mini tribute to his former boss and mentor the late John Fry before launching into the new album in its entirety. The majority of the songs I would describe as Beatlesque, melodic pop infused with tasteful harmonies. The first single, Lucky Guy, actually gives a nice nod to Stephens’ Big Star history with the line “keep an eye on the sky” snuck in there which was not lost on the fans who were obviously here as a result of that legacy. ‘Empty City‘ and ‘Throw it Away‘ exemplified the melodic pop that hinted at what was to come on the more fleshed out studio version ahead. The stories behind some of the songs were delightfully told by Stephens and ‘The Cube‘ in particular being written about an ornament depicting sideshow freaks with a storied past much in the way John Lennon had written ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite‘ upon seeing a circus poster.
Golden Smog fans were not forgotten as Stephens launched into ‘Fear of Falling‘, a song from their Weird Tales album that he co-wrote with Jeff Tweedy and Gary Louis. A beautiful version of Big Star’s ‘13‘ was a definite highlight as was ‘Way Out West‘. These translated a love of playing and a love of songs and their gratitude to be able to play them for us – a feeling that was very much reciprocated by the lucky people who were able to hear this intimate showcase.