I’ve never travelled or been close to Memphis, Tennessee, but it strikes me as being a nexus, at least as far as the genesis of the American “id” is concerned. From the advent and subsequent growth of the recorded music industry in the early 20th century, it has seen many iconic musicians leave their mark, whether it be the early ragtime and country blues of (Gus) Cannon’s Jug Stompers, Robert Wilkins and Furry Lewis in the late 1920s, the proto-rockabilly of Sun Records in the 1950s, the Motown-south counterpart of Stax Records and Hi Records in the 1960s, or Anglophilia of Alex Chilton and Big Star in the 1970s. As a result, when it comes to the record I have chosen to review today, Sid Selvidge’s The Cold of The Morning, we see a product that is distinctively Memphis-ian; that is to say influenced by the city’s past, but taking it in its own idiosyncratic direction.
The constant that holds this album together is the pressure cooker that was Memphis in the early 1970s. A lift on a late-night liquor ban in bars on the Beale Street strip meant that establishments on that iconic strip were again privy to much merry making, and that there had to be, by extension, artists who would perform for these masses. Enter Sid Selvidge, former Stax and Elektra artist, and a student of Memphis’ country blues and ragtime history (and close friend and student of said elder artists like Furry Lewis), who held a residency which mixed his originals with folk covers and classic country blues. Through mutual acquaintances, Sid managed to befriend a financial benefactor in the form of the fledgling Peabody Records, and enlist the production services of the late Jim Dickinson (the man who played piano on The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” and produced Big Star’s “Third”). It was from these circumstances that Sid entered the studio with the aim to distill his residency setlist into a 45 minute snapshot.