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Reigning Sound, the Memphis quartet fronted by veteran garage rock guru Greg Cartwright, return to town on Sunday, with a gig at the Empty Bottle. After the raw, in-the-red screech of the aptly named Too Much Guitar, the band dialed down a bit on Home for Orphans (Sympathy for the Record Industry, 2005), although they don't bother balancing things with elegance. In fact, here and there it kind of reminds me of some Bob Dylan-style folk-rock (ca. New Morning or John Wesley Harding). There’s even a slightly catatonic, steel guitar-drenched take on “Funny Thing”—a stomper from the last album.
I can’t think of another band active in the last four or five years that can pack tossed-off sounding records with so many sleeper gems. Despite the restrained vibe of Orphans, there’s no doubt the group will raise the intensity significantly when they play the tunes live. More recently they've been backing singer Mary Weiss, leader of the legendary girl group the Shangri-Las. The band plays on her new solo album, Dangerous Game, out Tuesday on Norton Records. I’ve only heard the first single, “Don’t Come Back,” but Weiss sounds as if she hasn’t changed a bit in nearly four decades, even though there's a stomping raw rock ‘n’ roll groove behind her. The flip is a delightful spin through the Ernie K. Doe classic “A Certain Girl."