Spacecase Records (SCR007)
Vanity Session was the result of a year-long residency Ross Johnson and Jeffrey Evans held at The Buccaneer club in Memphis, TN. The album was recorded on March 21, 2008, at Zebra Ranch Studio in North Mississippi by the legendary Jim Dickinson with the help of former Reigning Sound drummer, Greg Roberson.
Ross Johnson has been a staple of the Memphis music scene for more than three decades. He's probably best known for his ranting on Alex Chilton's seminal solo record, Like Flies On Sherbert (Ross is the Baron). Johnson was also the original drummer for The Panther Burns—although he missed the Behind The Magnolia Curtain sessions due to drunkenness. Now retired from his job as a librarian, Ross currently spends most days drinking, ranting, writing about music and playing drums (typically in that order). Like Don Ayler's trumpet playing, Ross is unrestrained—at a high volume, he'll tell you everything you wanted to know (and more) about Memphis music.
Jeffrey Evans came to Memphis in the mid '80s, following the path to Sun Records. A devotee of Charlie Feathers, Evans influenced many with his band The Gibson Bros. Alongside the late Jack Taylor, Evans fronted '68 Comeback throughout the '90s (and produced Tav Falco and The Panther Burns excellent return to form, Panther Phobia, in 2000). He currently fronts Jeffrey Evans and His Southern Aces.
Vanity Session features Ross and Jeff switching off on lead vocals; at their request, Jim Dickinson showed them how he performed "I've Had It" for Like Flies On Sherbert. Thankfully Evans recorded the song and it appears on the record. Backing Ross and Jeff are Greg Roberson (drums), John Paul Keith (guitar), Adam Woodward (piano and organ) and Jeremy Scott (bass).
Vanity Session is highly recommended for fans of Like Flies on Sherbert, the film Stranded in Canton, The Gibson Bros., and vanity records (because that's what it is).
A slice of Memphis history on wax. You really shouldn't need any introduction here, and if you do, you've got a lot of homework to do. Jeff Evans (68 Comeback, Gibson Bros, CC Riders, etc...) and Ross Johnson (OG Panther Burns drummer, Alex Chilton's 'Like Flies on Sherbert', etc..) held a year long residency at the Buccaneer club in 2008 and this LP documents their set live in the studio, backed by members of Reigning Sound, Preacher's Kids and more, recorded by Jim Dickinson. How's that for a star-studded lineup? They loosely run through a collection of classics (everything from Cordell Jackson to "Teenage Head") and a Ross Johnson original ("Three Beer Queer"!) packed with plenty of ramblin', honky-tonkin', and goofin' around (yes, they do work blue) that you would expect from two of Memphis' most legendary characters. There is some serious playing here too, but it of course comes off sounding as easy and natural as two guys of their legendary status might make it seem. This is one of those records that really makes you think about Memphis, of course - just imagine being able to go out and see this on a weekly basis. Shit. Anyway, there's not much you can say about this except it makes you want to get really drunk. God bless America.
--RK, Terminal Boredom
Lemme fill you hobos in on some key facts before we tackle the platter at hand.ROSS JOHNSON, former co-conspirator of famed goons like TAV FALCO and ALEX CHILTON, has littered a slew of legendary records with his simplistic, drunken poetics and semicompetent drumming. JEFFREY EVANS’ legend looms large in the record collections of a great many beefy American rockers, having fronted the criminally underappreciated units known as GIBSON BROS and 68 COMEBACK, specializing in rock ’n’ roll injected with truth serum and scholarly smarts. These guys rate really goddamn high in my book, so I’m on board and beer number three before even dropping the tone arm.
Vanity Session, their aptly named dream-team debut, is the product of a year’s worth of late nights spent serenading town drunks around Memphis, Tennessee. The vibe is pure barroom, only with this royal duo holding court, chatting your ear off, leering at ladies in younger demographics and obliterating rock ’n’ roll to its most basic and deviant levels. Johnson’s bop is next-level genius shit here, no joke. It’s impossible to pull a specific quote or drunken riff to single out because the flow is so goddamn perfect that you never want it to end. Think you’ve heard all that could ever be done with a standard such as “Girl Watcher?” Think again! Ridiculous! Evans keeps things firmly grounded musically, which ain’t an easy task considering the substances rumored to be afloat during the sessions (ARTHER LEE’s weed?!). Add the capable backing of TEARJERKERS and REIGNING SOUND personnel, not to mention genius producer Jim Dickinson steering the ship (his turn fronting the boys for “I’ve Had It” is jaw-dropping!!!) and you have an absolute can’t-miss record, the sort that is all too rare in this day and age. It’s already become the soundtrack to my stay-home weeknight drunks… those kinda nights where you rationalize drinking toward blindness because your day off is only X hours away.
Vanity Session simply spills over with charm, sounding lecherous, intelligent and highly rockin’ all at once. It’s real rock ’n’ roll music, and it’s been too long since you last heard it.
--Mitch Cardwell, Maximum Rock n Roll