Reigning Sound in Leeds
Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Monday 18th July 2022, £20.00
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The old saying you cant go home again is most often true. Life moves on and nothing stays the same, but thats certainly not the case for songwriter Greg Cartwright, who returned to his home city of Memphis to record the new Reigning Sound album, A Little More Time with Reigning Sound.
Its been over 15 years since Cartwright uprooted to Asheville, but this new Memphis-made record shows the songwriter in top form and wholly inspired by his birthplace. And its not only the terrain thats familiar: For this new LP, Cartwright also reunited with Reigning Sounds original Memphis lineup of Jeremy Scott (bass), Greg Roberson (drums), and Alex Greene (keyboards), all of whom played on the bands earliest recordings. The new songs explore fresh lyrical and musical territories but at times also tastefully echo back to Reigning Sounds Break Up, Break Down and Time Bomb High School. Thats not by chanceits just what happens when these musicians get in the same room. Their sonic chemistry hasnt faded a bit.
A Little More Time, Reigning Sounds seventh proper full-length, is the original lineups first in-studio collaboration since 2005s Home for Orphans LP, which Merge reissued last year. Ultimately, that 2020 reissue laid the groundwork for the outfits reunification. One thing led to another, Cartwright explains. When Merge reissued Home for Orphans, to promote the LP we booked a little string of shows with the original lineup. We still love to get together and play every couple years. The short reunion tour wrapped up just as the pandemic hit the United States, and soon after, Cartwright found himself with a batch of new songs. With Reigning Sounds current lineup based in New York City, a COVID-19 hotspot at the time, Cartwright made the decision to produce the new record back in Memphisthough he did regret not being able to work with the players behind 2014s Daptone-recorded Shattered. It was not something I anticipated, making a record with the original lineup again, Cartwright says. Mainly, because I had guys I was playing with, and we had an established dynamic that was working. Im happy with the guys in New York. Theyre all great players. Weve had fun playing shows and making records for many years.
In addition to working with his old bandmates on A Little More Time, Cartwright enlisted an old friend, acclaimed producer Scott Bomar (Al Green, William Bell) at Electraphonic Recording, to produce the LP in downtown Memphis. The two Memphians go way back. Scott was in a band called Impala for many years, Cartwright recalls. And he also played bass with me and Jack [Yarber] on the Compulsive Gamblers Bluff City album. As for Bomars studio, Cartwright says it has everything he needs to make a Reigning Sound album. Working with Scott was really great, he adds. He also has the machine I like to record on, a Scully one-inch 8-track.
Ive worked on one-inch 8-tracks for the last four records Ive made, and Im kind of addicted to them now. While having 24 tracks offers up more capability for overdubs, Cartwright said he prefers the limitations of the 8-tracks. Its super helpful when you get to the mixing process and your head isnt still going, What should I add? It helps streamline the process, and it helps me stay focused on each song so I can focus on whats there instead of whats not. Then I can just work on the sound. And that sound is rich and full. For the new LP, Cartwright invited Elen Wroten (cello), Krista Wroten (violin), Graham Winchester (additional drums and percussion), and John Whittemore (pedal steel) to play on some of the tracks.
Beyond that, Coco Hames (The Ettes, Parting Gifts) sings co-lead vocals on Just Say When. The end result is a diverse tracklist of eleven originals that span Cartwrights vast sonic universe. Lets Do It Again, the albums boisterous opener, captures the mundaneness and yearning that isolation creates, but with the backdrop of Reigning Sounds signature foot-stomping rock n roll. Its also delivered with optimism and a desire to reconnect with people, play records all night, and dance like we used to do. Elsewhere, on tracks like Ill Be Your Man and Oh Christine, the LP decelerates and shifts into moody ballad territorya delicate world Cartwright has long explored. Rounding out A Little More Time with Reigning Sound is a raucous cover of Adam Faiths I Dont Need That Kind of Lovin. The 1965 single is a longtime staple at Reigning Sound shows, but this is its first appearance on record. As for the lyrical meaning behind each track, Cartwright himself is hesitant to say. Sometimes it takes months or years for me to realize what songs are about, he reveals. When I write songs, mostly its the melody I write first. The melody dictates what the mood iswhether its about being happy, confused, sad, lonely, or whatever The melody speaks to a feeling.
From there, my job is to translate that feeling into words. I try not to be too structured in how I think about that because the more ambiguous it is, the more people can read their own story into what youre saying, and I think thats important. On some level, I consciously dont want to know what a song is about. Ambiguities aside, the LP closes with the poignant On and On, a song that reminds us that despite all of the highs and lows we face, love is still a choice love is the only choice. It offers a glimmer of light. These days, thats not a bad note to end on.
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