Concert Review: The Americana Music Festival with The Bo-Keys

The Bo-Keys have come to represent solid Memphis soul revivalism. With a performance at the Americana Music festival on Sept. 13 in Nashville, TN, the group traced the evolution of the city’s sound in real time. In 2011, the group released Got to Get Back, a soaring collection of Memphis-soul motifs.

On the Rutledge stage in Nashville, vocalist Percy Wiggins attempted to connect the city’s two histories with brief vignettes about Jimi Hendrix’s days as a back-up player on Jefferson Street. He also waxed nostalgic about cutting singles with Jerry Crutchfield at Owen Bradley’s recording studio in 1967.  When he wasn’t recalling Nashville’s R&B history, Wiggins stood firmly in the spotlight, counting out beats with his sturdy right hand.  Sweat dripped from Wiggins’ chin as he plowed through the set with bottomless charisma. Fatigue was definitely not a factor here. Drummer Howard Grimes trotted out propulsive rhythms that elicited appreciative squeals from the audience, while Archie Turner anchored the Electro 2 keyboard with playful crescendo stabs.  The almost- capacity crowd was composed of boozy stragglers and seen-it-all industry types.

Notably absent from the Memphis soul all-stars’ set was guitarist Charles “Skip” Pitts. A fixture in the Stax music scene and former collaborator with both the Bo-Keys and Issac Hayes, Pitts died last May.  “Skip didn’t have to stay in Memphis, but he loved Memphis and Memphis musicians. He loved the people here and being a part of this music community,” bassist Scott Bomar said in an interview with The Commercial Appeal.

In the after-hours haze of the Nashville nightclub, Pitts’ beefy wah-wah guitar work would have added an extra edginess to the proceedings. A few words of reverence would have been nice, but Wiggins’ velvet croon regularly struck emotional gold anyway on downtempo numbers such as “Book of Memories” and “Catch this Teardrop.”

– Joey Hood

Joey Hood has been writing about musicians since 2003. His byline has appeared in “American Songwriter,” “Nashville Scene,” Nerve.com, NPR and “Ya’ll.” He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in mass communication from Middle Tennessee State University with a focus in the recording industry. Read more: Joey Hood | eHow.com

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