With Release, Selvidge Relaunches Legendary Memphis, TN Record Label Peabody Records

Steve Selvidge (The Hold Steady band member) has revived the famed Peabody Records label, home to Alex Chilton’s seminal Like Flies on Sherbet album as well as Memphis folk/blues legend Sid Selvidge. The label’s first release in its second life is the vinyl/digital album MEM_MODS, Vol. 1, out last Friday, by an instrumental trio of Memphis music consisting of:

• Selvidge (Big Ass Truck band member, credits with Bash & Pop, Jimbo Mathus, Cory Branan, Harlan T. Bobo) on guitar, bass, Rhodes, and drum machine;

• Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars, credits with The Replacements, The Black Crowes, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, RL Boyce, Bash & Pop), who has been nominated for three GRAMMYs for his solo albums on bass and various keyboards;

• and, “Memphis favorite multi-instrumentalist” per the Memphis Flyer and MEM_MODS secret weapon Paul Taylor (leader of New Memphis Colorways, who has graced stages with Eric Gales, Ann Peebles, Kirk Whalum) contributes drums, percussion, omnichord, bass, fretless bass, washtub bass, synth pedals, and soundscapes.

Dickinson shared the following note on his social media:

“It’s been a lifetime in the making, and it’s out today! MEM_MODS vol 1 is truly an artifact of friendship. Steve Selvidge, Paul Taylor and I have been collaborators since our teens and friends longer than that and we finally made a proper instrumental album together! MEM_MODS is an homage to the music we grew up loving as kids (and still love) and a testament to the freedom of stream of consciousness, improvisational, collaborative compositions made possible by the ease of modern day recording technology. The icing on the cake is Marc Franklin and Art Edmaiston, who honored us with their funky yet classy horns Yes, Horns!!! MEM_MODS is a joyful, wild ride down the back streets of midtown Memphis we grew up creepin round in our youth, roaches in the ashtray and cassette tapes Bumpin the junk!”

The Hold Steady shared a letter from Selvidge via its social media:

“In the spring of 2020, I found myself, like so many other musicians, without any gigs and no idea what the future would hold. Not long after, I got an email from my friend Luther Dickinson. He said that he had sent a track to our friend Paul Tayor to add some drums. “Paul put some drums on this, you should put some guitar on it,” he wrote. “I know you don’t got anything else to do!” So, I did. It was really fun, and it took my mind off of a global pandemic for a second. The 12 songs that are being released tomorrow, 02/24/23, are the result of that email. MEM_MODS Vol. 1 was born that day. What ensued was a whirlwind of remote recording (we all have home recording setups and we all live in different cities), heated discussions, heady reminiscing (we’ve been making music and hanging out with each other for over 30 years), and a deepened musical bond. For the people that know us, a lot of this music is not at all what they might expect from each of us. And I love that. I truly hope you enjoy this album. It was a godsend for myself, Luther, and Paul.”

Final single “Congressional Tadpole” came out earlier last week.

The buzz has been steady for the new trio:

–Relix Magazine, December 6, 2023

“Elements of funk, space rock, soul, orchestral, and jazz combine for a flavorful gumbo.”
–Hal Horowitz, American Songwriter,

“This record, it just blew my mind… it’s an awesome album.”
–Kacky Walton, WKNO (Memphis NPR), February 23, 2023

“This high energy instrumental fusion of jazz, funk, and electronic burrows toward a sound somewhere between Al Green’s backing vocalists and a John Cassavetes soundtrack, where the boys get downright funky.”
–It’s Psychedelic Baby Mag, January 13, 2023

“The resulting music is a true Memphis melting pot of styles—funky, spacy, and gritty all at once.”
–Chris McCoy, Memphis Flyer, November 7, 2022

“Will be greatly enjoyed by open-minded music fans who can appreciate a bit of experimentation.”
–HipHop Paranoia, December 14, 2022

“An amalgamation of Memphis sounds of different periods.”
–American Blues Scene, February 6, 2023

“like a lost ’70s soundtrack, evoking everything from Augustus Pablo-like dub to funk bangers to smoldering Isaac Hayes-like ballads. Tasty, ear-catching synth sounds abound. Indeed, the trio leaned into their multi-instrumental talents… Over these elements sit some of the finest horn parts to come out of Memphis in recent years”
–Alex Greene, Memphis Flyer, March 1, 2023

–Franklin B., Indie Tapes, December 7, 2022

Despite the group having two bona fide guitar heroes, MEM_MODS choose a different path. This is groove music, funky, soulful, futuristic, fusion-adjacent, partly electronic, slightly psychedelic, and 100% Memphis. Vol. 1 is the work of three incredibly creative figures coming together on a collaboration thirty-plus years in the making, with all three growing up playing music together in Memphis, TN, all with legendary fathers: Paul reared by Pat Taylor and his stepfather a member of ‘70s cult band Zuider Zee; Steve with his folk-blues artist father Sid Selvidge; and Luther, of course, kin of the legendary Jim Dickinson. Luther and Steve are also both members of the Sons of Mudboy, which performs the music of Sid Selvidge and Jim Dickinson’s band Mudboy & The Neutrons; Paul and Steve have played with Luther in North Mississippi Allstars; and Steve and Luther have both played with Bash & Pop; Paul has played in Steve’s former band Big Ass Truck. Add in stints with Tommy Stinson, the Black Crowes, and Seasick Steve, and the branches grow heavier.

The three had discussed an album together for years but in 2020, with these booked-solid musicians suddenly facing empty calendars, it became apparent that the time had come. The problem? They were all sheltering in place, just like the rest of the world. No problem: the music was made long-distance, with tracks sent via email and thoughts sent via video messages on the app Marco Polo. That approach allowed each musician more of a clean slate to stretch out and follow off-kilter artistic impulses than they might have jamming together in person.

An utterly freeform survey of instrumental music, and a clarion call for the future of recording, MEM_MODS, Vol. 1 unfurls from the speakers like a reimagined Quincy Jones score screwed and chopped with Isaac Hayes’ landmark Shaft soundtrack. That is, if the core Stax unit was backed up by Sly Stone and the Beastie Boys, and John Shaft had been plucked from the streets of Harlem and dropped into the animation panels for Fantastic Planet.

The album’s opener, “Capricorn Catastrophe,” draws on equal parts Jean Michel Jarre and Booker T. & the MGs. Like Jarre’s breakthrough album Oxygene, surreal sounds bounce and bubble. However, the horn work and propulsive, emotive guitar hooks are innately Memphis. This is music for now – a buoyantly imaginative refutation of the reality of life as we know it, perhaps a film score to a long-lost retro-futuristic psychedelic cult classic that doesn’t exist. ”Harmolodica” joyously conjures up a mental image of Money Mark, Charles Stepney, and Augustus Pablo staggering and stuttering through outer space. “Knotty Pine Kitchen” is a feel-good, Hi Records-influenced midtempo jam.

Memphis horn mainstays Marc Franklin (Don Bryant, The Bo-Keys, Robert Cray, Rev. Sekou, Wu-Tang Clan, Solomon Burke) contributes trumpet while Art Edmaiston (Amanda Shires, The Greyhounds, Cut Worms, Don Bryant, The Bo-Keys) adds saxophone. Selvidge mixed the record himself. Jeff Powell (Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Big Star, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Lucinda Williams, Al Green) cut the vinyl, which is being manufactured at Memphis Record Pressing in Memphis.

Selvidge has performed at Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall, and on late-night shows with The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and Jools Holland. As a session musician, he’s played guitar on more than sixty albums.