Memphis Music Feature: Southern Avenue
Ed. Note: In honor of the International Blues Challenge – which kicks off this week on Beale Street – I’m happy to share this post from new ILM contributor Wesley Paraham. – Holly
Updated January 2019.
Southern Avenue is a band tempered by Memphis. They’ve got it in their name, you can see it in their members, and you can certainly feel it in their music.
Here’s a little background information: Guitarist Ori Naftaly grew up in Israel, but that didn’t stop Memphis from finding on the other side of the world. “Albert King, the blues, I listened to everything that came out of Memphis,” he said. He became an incredibly skilled blues guitarist and made his way here to compete in the International Blues Challenge. “It was a dream to be able to come,” he added.
It was such a dream, in fact, that he decided to stay.
While ingraining himself in the Memphis blues scene, he met Tierinii Jackson. She’s Memphis-born and grew up in the church, and we all know that’s where some of the best talent is nurtured. Ori and Tiernii starting writing songs together, and they clicked. “Everything I lack, she has. And everything she lacks, I have.”
Apparently, they worked so well together that they both shelved very successful solo gigs in order to form a band. To fill out the songs they had written, Tiernii brought her sister Tikyra in to play drums. They threw in jazz bassist Daniel McKee and keyboardist Jeremy Powell to round it out. They weren’t even a band a whole year yet before they recorded an album and signed to Stax Records.
Before a recent live studio appearance Southern Avenue did in 2017 on WREG News Channel 3’s Live at 9, news anchor Alex Coleman remarked that some people are calling the band “the future of blues music.” That’s a lofty statement to throw at any young band, but, after watching their performance, it’s not hard to come to the same conclusion.
Southern Avenue’s brand of blues is infused with soul, R&B, rock, and jazz in a genuine way that presents a valiant effort move the genre away from the bombastic space that contemporary blues rock occupies.
I got the chance to listen to their debut album, and the track I keep revisiting is “Love Me Right”, a solemn, soulful ballad about the pains of unrequited loyalty in a relationship. Even though their sound errs on the side of classic, modern influences are in the forefront.
Tierinii Jackson’s voice is stadium quality. There’s much more Beyoncé force than Memphis Minnie grit there, and it’s a blessing. To me, that’s what makes this band worth talking about. In addition to the ridiculous amount of talent you get by tallying everyone in this band, Southern Avenue is youthful and vibrant.
They’re out here giving life to a genre too long dominated by people obsessed with emulating the past. And that’s a good deed done for blues fans everywhere.
Apparently, a number of folks agree with me. Not only has Southern Avenue found success touring internationally, they represented Memphis in 2016’s International Blues Challenge. American Blues Scene described their single “Don’t Give Up” as being “as comfortable at a Friday night fish fry as it would at Sunday morning services.” I mean, if that’s not a glowing review, I don’t know what is.
- Southern Avenue’s debut eponymous record was released on February 24, 2017 from Stax Records. You can and should get it on their website, on iTunes, on Google Play, on Amazon, or listen to them on Spotify.
- In May 2018, Memphis Tourism sent the band to represent Memphis at the huge Blues On Broachbeach Music Festival in Australia.
- Also in May 2018, Southern Avenue won the Blues Music Awards’ Best Emerging Artist category.
- They’re now out touring the country.
- Check out this special video feature about why the band loves Memphis.
- Follow the band on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and their website.
Full tour dates listing.
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