Memphis the Band’s Radio truly has a fitting title, as most of the songs contained therein could be played on any random college radio station. Combining gruff vocalist Scott Morgan’s dirty, grisly rock and roll guitar with a standard jamband drum and bass backend, there are few real surprises here. It’s gritty rock-pop with a slew of piano, organ, and accordion (Pete Lucey) thrown in, for a brand of blues aligned with jam-rockers Gov’t Mule, but without the guitar-god force of Warren Haynes.
Being centered in middle North Carolina may perhaps foster an authentic roots sensibility, but Memphis never quite takes off from that local dive bar. While that quaint, lo-fi sound can be endearing, it doesn’t work for Radio, which has some lofty intentions but doesn’t quite deliver. Morgan’s spoken-styled vocals have drawn comparisons to Dylan, though forcing rhymes like “kitchen” with “chicken” and “awake” with “estate” does nothing to promote Morgan’s credibility. The highlight here is the frenetic “The Ballad of Whatever,” which was originally titled “Ballad of Therrell Childress.” Childress was one of the first soldiers killed in Iraq; and while “Ballad” is not a ballad in the strictest sense, the sentiments combined with the catchy head make the song a strong success.