New music releases: Memphis artists’ albums you should listen to

New music releases: Memphis artists’ albums you should listen to

Summer 2024 will be a busy time for Memphis music and artists.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen, and will continue to see, a slew of LPs, EPs, and singles from a variety of local artists, from hip-hop chart-toppers to seasoned punk rockers, from soul queens to Americana singer-songwriters.

Here’s a look at some of the hot new local records and their accompanying debut shows.

Valerie June

West Tennessee native and former Memphian Valerie June recently released two new singles with strong ties to the Bluff City. In 2022, June collaborated with Stax Records queen Carla Thomas on the Grammy-nominated “Call Me A Fool.” Now, June and Thomas have teamed up with Stax Music Academy students for a cover of a song by Staple Singers patriarch Pops Staples. The track, “Friendship” — which originally appeared on Staples’ posthumous 2015 collection “Don’t Lose This” (produced by his daughter Mavis Staples and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy) — is being released to celebrate Mavis’ 85th birthday.

Produced by June and recorded at the Stax Academy of Music, the song follows last month’s release of “High Note.” It was another collaboration June made with Stax Academy of Music students. As June puts it, “Without Mavis and Carla, the students wouldn’t have Stax Academy of Music or the rich legacy they’ve created to help the community thrive by educating the next generation of musicians. To have a close friend like Carla sing this in memory of another queen — Mavis — is such a gift.”

Both “Friendship” and “High Note” are currently available for streaming.

Mark Edgar Stuart

A longtime veteran of the Memphis music scene, mostly as a bassist and band member (the Pawtuckets and The Secret Service, among others), Mark Edgar Stuart broke onto the scene as a solo artist more than a decade ago with his acclaimed 2013 album, Blues for Lou. A master craftsman of story songs, Stuart has continued to win over fans and critics with several albums of cleverly constructed narratives.

His latest album, “Never Far Behind,” was produced by Texas-to-Memphis guitar giant Will Sexton. Sexton’s wife, Americana artist Amy LaVere, duets with Stuart on “We Better Call It A Day,” while a cast of the Bluff City’s finest musicians and vocalists (Susan Marshall, Kelley Mickwee) also contribute to the project. Across the 10 tracks, Stuart showcases his wit and wordplay on clever tracks like “Sleight of Hand,” “I’m Not That Kid Anymore” and the Sun Records heir apparent “The Ballad of Jerry Phillips.”

Stuart will celebrate the release of “Never Far Behind” with a concert at Hernando’s Hideaway on July 28.

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Aaron James

A member of the Memphis art/music/design collective Unapologetic, Aaron James is a singer-songwriter who first gained serious attention with his 2022 debut LP, “Nobody Really Makes Love Anymore.” The Pennsylvania native, who came to the Bluff City to attend the University of Memphis and eventually met the Unapologetic crew, recently released a new EP called “The Last Day of the Cold.” The four-song set further develops the delicate beauty of James’ finger-picking guitar/folk-pop voice.

James will play at the Overton Park Shell on September 27 as part of the venue’s Orion Free Concert Series.

Under the Youngsters

Formed in the mid-’90s, Memphis punk band The Subteens rocked the local music scene for a decade before disbanding after releasing two albums, including the 1999 classic “Burn Your Cardigan.” The group — Mark Akin, John Bonds and Jay Hines — reunited for a few live shows in 2022 to release their first new album in nearly 20 years. Now the band is back with a 25th-anniversary reissue of “Burn Your Cardigan,” available for the first time on vinyl in a deluxe package featuring rare photos and liner notes from rock critic Chris Davis.

Money man Yo

Multi-platinum Memphis rapper Moneybagg Yo returns this summer with his highly anticipated fifth studio album. Released in June, Moneybagg’s “Speak Now” follows his 2021 LP “A Gangsta’s Pain,” which became a breakout hit by topping the pop album charts. The new 17-track effort is an extensive body of work that includes collaborations with the country star Morgan Wallen (“Whiskey Whiskey)”R&B singer Chris Brown (“Drunk Off You”), rappers Lil Durk (“Gangsta Relate”), Kevo Muney (“Go Gho$t”) and more. The album spawned a Top 40 hit with “Tryna Make Sure” and a new single, “Taboo Miami,” is climbing the charts, with the album itself debuting at #13 on the Billboard 200 and #3 on the rap charts.

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Chris Milam

Memphis singer-songwriter Chris Milam’s third album, “Orchid South,” offers a different feel than his previous efforts, 2017’s “Kids These Days” and 2020’s “Meanwhile.” A smart and talented composer who has delivered folk/pop and Americana sounds in the past, Milam is mostly a live performer on his new album, sounding relaxed and hitting a sweet spot with a set of classic Memphis power-pop tracks. Working once again with producer Toby Vest at High/Low Recording in Memphis, Milam developed his sound organically, and this sounds like his strongest work yet.

Milam will be performing a concert to celebrate the release of “Orchid South” at Railgarten on August 10.