Reigning Sound, Space Raft, Sweet Talk | Empty Bottle | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Reigning Sound, Space Raft, Sweet Talk 

When: Mon., Sept. 1, 9 p.m. 2014
Price: $14
Memphis underground-rock stalwart Greg Cartwright cut dozens of records in the 90s and early aughts with the likes of the Oblivians and the Compulsive Gamblers, their mating of garage punk and old-school R&B in keeping with his hometown’s fierce mongrel spirit. But until he formed the Reigning Sound in 2001, his ear for raucous soul had been more implied than heard. Over the years the band has endured countless lineup changes, but its spirit and sound have stayed down and dirty—and the subtlety and craft of Cartwright’s songwriting have steadily grown. He hasn’t become fussier, but the fact that he’s released just two studio albums in the past nine years suggests that’s he become a bit more patient. He cut the new Shattered (Merge) in Brooklyn’s Daptone Studio, and it makes his love for soul plainer than ever. The record opens with the raspy-voiced rave-up “North Cackalacky Girl” (Cartwright now lives in Asheville, North Carolina), which sounds of a piece with the Reigning Sound’s raucous early repertoire, then segues into “Never Coming Home,” a string-kissed ballad where every strained phrase and cracked syllable feels like a tear falling from Cartwright’s eyes. Dave Amels’s gritty organ lines sound especially apropos on the band’s broken-down tales of woe: “If You Gotta Leave” expresses empathy for someone overcome by sadness, and “You Did Wrong” (which toughens up a lick from “Love Potion No. 9”) plumbs the thoughts of a guy realizing he fucked up a relationship. Even on “I’m Trying (To Be the Man You Need),” where Cartwright offers a boilerplate pledge of devotion (“I’d never lie / I’d be honest and true”), he sounds so sincere and direct he can redeem the most worn-out cliches. —Peter Margasak
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