Loveland Duren – “Johnny Boy” (review)

Loveland Duren – “Johnny Boy” (Edgewood Recordings) review

The Memphis music community endured a huge loss in late 2014 with the passing of both John Hampton and John Fry, within six days of each other. The former was a producer and co-owner of Ardent Studios, the latter was the studio’s founder. As a way of handling their grief, the duo of Vicki Loveland and Van Duren penned, “Johnny Boy,” as a loving tribute to both men.

The song was recorded, where else? Ardent. The track is not surprisingly somber, with Earl Lowe handling brushes and light percussion, while Sam Shoup provides a fluid, fretless bassline. A key addition is Jim Spake on soprano saxophone, who ironically played on legendary Memphis power poppers Big Star’s reunion album In Space. It’s his sweet lines that give hope even in this troubling time. Loveland’s vocals are gruff, yet heartfelt, while Duren propels the track with his acoustic guitar and background singing.

The lyrics begin with shock: “Eternity has taken you / How can that be?” Yet, things end on a positive note as we find that “The soundtrack never dies.” “Johnny Boy” is a big jump stylistically for the pair, showing that their influences have blurred together nicely. It’s also a nice preview of a full-length the duo plan to complete in 2016. Most importantly, it also serves as a fine epitaph for two colossal figures in the Memphis music scene. —Tony Peters