Tonya Dyson
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Tonya Dyson


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"Interview / Performance on Vh1 Soul "Soul Cities"" - Vh1 Soul

"Stay Tuned"

Movin' On Up
Chris Herrington
August 1, 2008
The past year has seen several young artists on the Memphis scene increase their profile both locally and nationally.

At the head of the class is punk prodigy Jay Reatard. A fixture on the local scene since he was a teenager, Jay Lindsey took his surname as a member of the late-'90s punk band the Reatards then later made a bigger local splash as co-leader of the aggressive new-wave band Lost Sounds. In late 2006, his solo debut, Blood Visions, was released to little fanfare on the Los Angeles indie label In the Red. Uniting the skeletal drive of the Reatards with the musical ambition of Lost Sounds, the album captured the twentysomething Reatard in the midst of an artistic growth spurt, newfound melody rippling beneath his furious speed and volume. The album's reputation grew and, after a whirlwind string of performances at the 2007 South By Southwest Music Festival, Reatard became a hot commodity and rising national name.

He has kept the fires burning over the past year with a series of singles and recently signed a three-record deal with venerable New York indie label Matador, a label that's launched many an indie and alternative star over the past couple of decades.

Another of Memphis music's emerging stars, versatile roots musician Amy LaVere transcended the local with her rapturously received, Jim Dickinson-produced 2007 album Anchors & Anvils, an album that drew great songs from sources generally close to her (including three from the artist herself and two from boyfriend/drummer Paul Taylor) and put them across with a gritty musical intimacy rooted in LaVere's own upright bass playing. This spring, LaVere was one of the few artists to play multiple official showcases at Austin's vaunted South By Southwest festival, including being tabbed for the Americana Music Association's showcase. This summer, she parlayed her growing success into performances at Nashville's Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and a European tour.

Another local act that double-dipped at Austin's South by Southwest festival and Bonnaroo this year was the outlandish "aristocrunk" crew Lord T. & Eloise. It had been two years since the "old-money" rap duo/performance art act had become a local cause celebre via their genre-starting debut Aristocrunk, a comedic rap album that tweaked that genre's money lust. But Lord T & Eloise returned with a vengeance late this summer with their follow-up, Chairmen of the Bored, an epic album that includes guest appearances from a variety of Memphis rap heavyweights, including Al Kapone, 8Ball, and Kingpin Skinny Pimp. The group — which also includes rapper/singer/producer MysterE and DJ Witnesse — also strutted their stuff at the Beale Street Music Festival this year.

And if Lord T & Eloise think they've been busy, they should talk to Tim Regan. The Memphis-bred singer-songwriter-bandleaders is juggling three bands these days — Midtown institution Snowglobe, Austin-based indie-rockers Oh No, Oh My!, and, most recently, his own semi-solo project, Antenna Shoes.

If Regan is dedicated to all three bands, it's Antenna Shoes, where he is the lone songwriter and frontman, that has become the focus for this prolific musician, whose often-piano-driven songs suggest the most melodic side of classic rock from the Sixties and early Seventies. The band released its debut album, Generous Gambler, earlier this year via established local indie imprint Shangri-La Projects.

Antenna Shoes pairs Regan with some of the city's finest musicians: Snowglobe bandmates Brandon Robertson (bass) and Nashon Benford (trumpet), Coach & Four guitarist Luke White, and two of the city's most talented sidemen, drummer Paul Taylor and guitarist Steve Selvidge.

But, it hasn't just been upstarts making waves this year. Memphis soul legend Al Green is also having a very good year, as witnessed by the recently released Lay It Down.

Produced by Amir "?uestlove" Thomp-son, drummer for the hip-hop band the Roots, the album finds Green backed up by a younger generation of neo-soul and hip-hop musicians he's inspired. The resulting work may be Green's third album of the decade (following 2003's I Can't Stop and 2005's Everything's O.K.), but it's also probably his best since the Seventies. Lay It Down sounds vintage without trying too hard to sound vintage. It's a subtle, moody, slow-burning groove album in the classic Green tradition, but the difference is somewhere in the grain and texture of the music that defies description. If Lay It Down hadn't been preceded by I Can't Stop and Everything's O.K., very solid records with the great back-story of Green's reunion with Willie Mitchell, it would be getting even more attention. It's probably the best album by a classic-era soul star since Aretha Franklin's Who's Zoomin' Who? in 1985.


Some local artists may be making a leap of late. But plenty of other Memphis-music heavyweights are merely living up to well-established high standards.

Two years ago, local rap-scene pioneers Three 6 Mafia had their biggest year ever, bracketing their biggest crossover hit singles — "Stay Fly" and "Side 2 Side" — around the most unlikely of triumphs with their Oscar win for "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp," their contribution to the soundtrack of Hustle & Flow.

In the aftermath, Three 6 struck quick, with cameos on television shows Entourage and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip setting up their own hip-hop Beverly Hillbillies-style reality series for VH-1, Adventures in Hollyhood, in which Three 6's Juicy J and DJ Paul moved to glitz city with camera crews in tow.

This year, the duo capitalized on their newfound fame with the album Last 2 Walk, a long-delayed follow-up to 2005's pre-Oscar Most Known Unknown that, surprisingly, doesn't spend all that much time referencing a celebrityhood that's exploded since their last album. High-level R&B collaborators (Lyfe Jennings on "Hood Star" and Akon on "That's Right) make Last 2 Walk the group's toniest album by far.

Tireless touring is the result of the success of Lucero's immensely popular 2006 release Rebels, Rogues, & Sworn Brothers.

Popular local rockers Lucero celebrated ten boozy, noisy years of existence in 2008 by taking a bit of a recording hiatus, though the roots-punk quartet have maintained a blistering touring schedule off the strength of their sixth and best studio album, 2006's Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers, which debuted an enhanced sound big enough to fill the arenas they don't quite play. The drums boom, the guitar riffs reach for the rafters, and, in an unexpected twist, rock-and-roll piano (courtesy of local session ace Rick Steff) comes rising out of the mix.

Lucero got their start opening for another beloved local band, the North Mississippi Allstars. Earlier this year, the three-piece blues-rock band released Hernando, an album named for the trio's North Mississippi hometown and the first album (their fifth studio-recorded release) disseminated through the band's own Songs of the South label. A band built around the virtuoso guitar playing of frontman Luther Dickinson and the limber rhythm section of his drummer brother Cody and the pair's longtime friend, bassist Chris Chew, the Allstars have had a constant but evolving relationship with blues tradition.

Hernando is the band standing alone — modern blues-rock on almost all original songs — but with that blues heritage as a foundation. Here, the Allstars draw on the language of the blues to spice recordings that foreground guitar and groove. Lyrical references ("standing on a corner in Holly Springs," "in the backwoods under the syca-more trees") and hill-country blues echoes ground the record in a specific place, but the music grabs for harder-edged blues-rock in the vein of Cream, ZZ Top, or the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and sometimes veers into metal. The result sounds like a trio no longer obsessed with their own blues-world background but with making their own brand of heavy rock with the blues, helplessly, in their veins.

Soon after the release of Hernando, Luther hit the road as a hired-gun guitar ace for Southern rock institution the Black Crowes. Meanwhile, Cody and Chris Chew have dabbled in a side project, the Hill Country Revue.

A somewhat more recent local sensation, Harlan T. Bobo is a left-of-center singer-songwriter in the Tom Waits mold who became an instant icon in some corners of the local music scene a few years ago with his debut album Too Much Love. To his credit, Bobo declined to offer up Too Much Love 2 with his 2007 follow-up, I'm Your Man, which instead investigates the roots and limitations of the romantic messiness that made his debut so popular.

Bobo frequently pairs with garage-rockers Jack O. & the Tearjerkers, both at home and on the road. One of the city's best current rock bands, the Tearjerkers are the primary outlet for quintessential Memphis roots rocker Jack "Oblivian" Yarber, who, after years on the local punk and garage-rock scene (most notably with the classic '90s garage-punk band the Oblivians), has really come into his own in recent years with a pair of terrific, rootsy, rock-and-roll records — 2004's Don't Throw Your Love Away and 2006's The Flip Side Kid.

If the preceding artists have been at the forefront of contemporary Memphis music, there's still plenty of other action going on across the local music landscape, in a variety of genres and scenes:


The Midtown Memphis music scene has long been an incestuous network. It's almost hard to find prominent musicians who haven't worked together at one point or another. But one of the more interesting pairings in this world might be Robby Grant and Alicja Trout, who co-front the under-recognized indie-rock quintet Mouserocket, whose ramshackle sophomore album, Pretty Loud, is a strong contender for 2008's best local album. When Grant and Trout aren't collaborating in Mouserocket, they keep their hands full in disparate separate projects — Grant concocting quirky, cozy, homemade indie-pop under the moniker Vending Machine; Trout playing howling garage-punk at the head of the power trio River City Tanlines.

Elsewhere on the Midtown indie scene, the Makeshift Music collective continues to be a strong force, with flagship band Snowglobe re-emerging in the past year with other notables including bracing guitar bands the Third Man and the Coach & Four, sunny pop addicts Two Way Radio, and singer-songwriters Holly Cole and Blair Combest.

Other noteworthy acts include: Jump Back Jake, who infuse elements of Southern soul and swamp rock into their sound; eclectic roots-rockers Giant Bear; Hi Electric, where newcomer Neil Bartlett's moody, melodic alt-pop is backed by local luminaries such as ex-Grifter David Shouse and former Big Ass Truckers Robert Barnett and Steve Selvidge; and experimental folk-rockers the Warble.

A slightly different strain of local rock is the punk and garage-rock centered around the Cooper-Young shop Goner Records.

Goner had a huge success last year with the release of Make It Stop: The Most of Ross Johnson, a collection of recorded rants from a scene elder who got his start playing drums for the likes of Tav Falco and Alex Chilton. It wasn't the most accessible local record of the year, that's for sure, but Johnson's "career"-spanning collection of spoken-word rants "set" to music is a sneaky-smart and self-aware series of whooping nonsense, comic tall tales, and raw-but-funny confessionals. Johnson can still be seen regularly at local clubs, typically alongside fellow garage-scene stalwart Jeffrey Evans.

If Goner has a house band, it's probably the Final Solutions, a noisy, idiosyncratic punk outfit in the vein of Cleveland cult legends Pere Ubu. But the local punk/garage scene — which also includes the aforementioned Reatard, Bobo, Tearjerkers, and River City Tanlines — contains multitudes: The popular Subteens have regrouped, playing sweaty shows to rock-and-roll true believers with more regularity of late. The Secret Service is an ace outfit for guitarist Steve Selvidge to unleash his six-string power. The Wallendas have given former Reigning Sound sideman Jeremy Scott a great outlet for his own songcraft, while the Perfect Fits attend to the rock-and-roll basics with similar aplomb.

Other local rockers of note include Egypt Central, a five-piece hard-rock band whose style of hip-hop- and alt-rock-tinged metal was a next big thing that got derailed by record-label problems. The band finally saw its eponymous debut album get a national release earlier this year.

Joining Egypt Central among the ranks of Mid-South rockers getting national exposure are Saving Abel, a band of Southern-rockers from north Mississippi who made a Virgin Records debut this year, and Ingram Hill, whose melodic radio-ready rock is displayed on the band's second national release, Cold in California.

One to watch: Oracle & the Mountain, a promising new quartet whose music evokes grunge, alt-country, and contemporary indie rock in equal doses and are scheduled to release their debut this year.

Three 6 Mafia's Oscar win helped the rap poineers become TV darlings with cameos on HBO and NBC shows, as well as their own MTV reality show.


Three 6 Mafia is only the most recognizable act on the local hip-hop and R&B scene. Rivaling Three 6 (and cohorts Project Pat and Lil Wyte) for beat-and-rhymes supremacy are the old-to-the-new school duo 8ball & MJG, who pre-date Three 6 and released another major-label record last year with Ridin' High. In 2008, the duo is splitting up for a pair of solo albums.

Elsewhere, upstarts Yo Gotti and Kia Shine have made a push to the top via their associations with national labels TVT and Universal, while veteran Memphis rapper Al Kapone has benefited from providing music for the Craig Brewer film Hustle & Flow and has been working with a new live band, the Untouchables.

On the indie hip-hop scene, the trio Tunnel Clones have led the way, dropping an excellent second album, World Wide Open, last year, while cohorts the Iron Mic Coalition also returned with a second full-length album this year.

On the neo-soul flip side, promising fusion act Free Sol has been busy recording tracks from Justin Timberlake's production company Tennman, while soul singer Tonya Dyson-Jerry has been highlighting a soul scene around the Edge District venue the Hattiloo Theatre.


North Mississippi-based producer/side-man Jim Dickinson has been making music in one form or another since the '60s but, until 2006, had only released a grand total of two solo albums. Now he's released two in two years and both on the same label (the local imprint Memphis International), with last year's Killers From Space following 2006's terrific Jungle Jim & the Voodoo Tiger, both records highlighting Dickinson's charismatic growl, ragged-but-intimate musical tone, and talent for finding good songs you've never heard before. Recently, Dickinson has rounded up a younger cohort of garage-rock and roots musicians for a new band, Snake Eyes.

Speaking of talented local record makers who haven't exactly been prolific, singer-songwriter Rob Jungklas went 14 years between official album releases before resurfacing in 2003 with Arkadelphia on the local roots label Madjack. That album was a departure from his more commercial '80s music, coming across as something like a personal tour of Delta mythology (including the eternal title "Drunk Like Son House"), a foreboding song cycle populated by a vengeful Old Testament God and an ever-resourceful devil. Four years later, Jungklas returned with Gully, a sort of spiritual and sonic sequel to Arkadelphia. The result was a rattled, atmospheric, bluesy roots-rock record that evokes artists such as Nick Cave and Tom Waits, though with more gothic/biblical authenticity.

Other roots-rockers of local note include former Nashvillian John Paul Keith who, along with ace backing band the 145s, are one of the acts to watch in the coming year. The bluegrass/folk group the Tennessee Boltsmokers blend original songcraft with fine acoustic musicianship. Honey-voiced chanteuse Susan Marshall always sounds great whether belting out torch-song soul or Gram Parsons-style alt-country. And Deering and Down, a recent addition to the local scene, separate out the guitar and vocal chores with a collision of inventive, classic-rock fretwork and soulful singing that's one of the city's more exciting new sounds.

On the bluesier side of the equation, organ master Charlie Wood continues to shine. The onetime Beale Street stalwart is probably more identified with that instrument than any Memphis musician since Booker T. Jones. But jazz/soul chops are only the tip of Wood's musical iceberg. A longtime fixture at Beale's King's Palace Café, Wood left his nightly gig a couple of years ago to concentrate more on recording and producing, which has made the once-sporadic recording artist quite prolific of late.

Similarly versatile is Alvin Youngblood Hart, an internationally known "blue" musician who calls Memphis home, even if his local performances are rare treasures. When Hart does play, almost anything might happen: gutbucket blues, delicate acoustic blues, stomping boogie-rock, Stax-soul, honky-tonk, and, um, ska. Over the course of five masterful, searching albums, most recently 2005's Motivational Speaker, Hart has proven to be a commanding, consistently pleasurable musician.

The North Mississippi Allstars-as good as it gets below the Mason-Dixon.

Over on Beale Street, the blues and classic soul torch is kept alive by artists such as James Govan, Preston Shannon, Ruby Wilson, Eric Hughes, and Barbara Blue, with one-man-band Richard Johnston sometimes setting up out on the street. Elsewhere, artists such as harmonica master Billy Gibson, down-home bluesman Daddy Mack, and the North Mississippi Juke Joint Duo (Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm) can be found at venues such as the Center for Southern Folklore and the new Memphis location of the Ground Zero Blues Club.


Justin Timberlake isn't the only hometown musical product to make good outside the city. This year, one of the hottest new rock bands around, Brooklyn's MGMT, was led by a Memphis product, White Station High School graduate Andrew VanWyngarden. VanWyngarden made a minor splash on the local music scene at the beginning of the decade via his teen band Accidental Mersh. But this year local-kid-made-good hit the big time when MGMT released its major-label debut, Oracular Spectacular.

MGMT in a rare local appearnce at the Hi-Tone this summer. The group has been touring across the globe and making the late-night talk show circuit, getting plenty of ink from national mags all the while.

MGMT, in which VanWyngarden is the lead singer alongside musical partner Ben Goldwasser, landed a multi-album deal with Sony/Columbia soon after the duo graduated college. Produced by alt-rock notable David Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev), Oracular Spectacular is an ambitious blast of psychedelic pop that echoes David Bowie ("Weekend Wars") and even Prince ("Electric Feel") at times. The album's lead single, the sardonic anthem "Time to Pretend," was a college-radio smash that became a theme song in the major motion picture 21. On the band's rapid path to success, they were named one of the "Artists to Watch" for 2008 by Rolling Stone magazine, performed on The Late Show with David Letterman, and played a sold-out showcase at the South By Southwest Music Festival. On tour, VanWyngarden reunites with another Memphian, former Accidental Mersh bandmate Hank Sullivant, who joins MGMT on guitar.

At a slightly lower level of national — and international — exposure was the duo of Bob Frank and John Murry, who released the collection of newly written but traditional-sounding murder ballads, World Without End. Expatriate Memphians Frank, 62, and Murry, 27, found each other in Northern California and concocted a high-concept album that tops what either of them produced when they lived here.

Finally, look for another much-missed Memphian, Reigning Sound frontman Greg Cartwright, to return in the coming year when his garage-rock band par excellence releases its next Memphis-recorded album.

From punk to hip-hop, roots-rock to blues, and beyond, these are the artists forging Memphis music today. Where will they take it in the coming year? Stay tuned. M - Memphis Magazine

"The NeoSoul Woman"

Shonda Lewis
February 21, 2008

It’s Friday afternoon and you and your friends want to get out, but you don’t have a clue where you can go. You are hoping to catch a musical artist or perhaps hear some poetry. Perhaps you are an up- and-coming artist who wants to know what venues will allow you to cut your artistic teeth.

Don’t worry. Tonya Dyson-Jerry is here to help you. The talented musical performer has carved a niche in the promoting business, taking on the responsibility of bringing the Memphis area new and established artists.

Tonya Dyson-Jerry has carved a niche in the promoting business bringing the Memphis area new and established artists. (Photos by Justin Morris)
By demeanor, Dyson-Jerry, a Covington, Tenn., native, is quiet with a low-key laugh. Those qualities belie an intense determination. Using connections that she has within the music industry, as well as people that she knew in Memphis, Dyson-Jerry began securing venues for new artists to showcase their talents. It was the abundance of talent in Memphis that inspired her to start this venture.

As a musical artist, Dyson-Jerry doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t singing. For the last three years, she has been honing and displaying her skills with her band, Reflections. Before then, she was a member of the duo Men-Nefer (the Kemtic spelling of the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis.)

“Soul Music,� is Dyson-Jerry’s own description of her musical sound. “Music that you can literally feel. . . . Audience members have come to me and told me that they get a spiritual connection when they hear me; they can feel the emotions behind the words of my songs.�

Her songs are a gumbo of gospel, (a carryover from her growing in the church), classical training in concert choirs, jazz choirs and growing up under the influence Stax Records artists such as Shirley Brown.

“I study her for her sound,� Dyson-Jerry said.

She feels that she has a spiritual connection with her audience.

NeoSoul promoter Tonya Dyson-Jerry: “I want to keep people directly hooked with the artists and the events.� (Photo by Justin Morris)
In booking musical performers, Dyson-Jerry looks to make a hookup between the already established and an up and coming with the same musical sound. The new artists have the chance to dialogue with the more established artist, as well as be the opening act.

Tired of hearing from peers that there was nothing to do in Memphis, Dyson-Jerry decided to not only promote events herself, but to let others know what was going on at other venues around the city.

“It wasn’t that there was nowhere to go, rather people just didn’t know what was going on in the city,� she said. “Neo-soul events are not heavily promoted on the air and therefore when those artists come to town people usually hear about it from word of mouth. The problem with that is when they do hear about it, it is usually the day after the event.�

Dyson-Jerry the problem solver created a Web site – — and launched it in Nov., 2007. It’s home for blogs expressing her views about cultural themes in her blogs and a weekly listing of all of the activities in the neo-soul, blues, R&B, and progressive hip-hop circles. She also gives visitors CD reviews and interviews with artists.

“I want to keep people directly hooked with the artists and the events,� Dyson-Jerry said. “I want to talk to artists about different things, not just their music.� registers 5,000-plus hits each day, including international visitors from places such as Austria and Singapore.

“People want to know that there is something going on in the city on a weekly basis that they can build their schedules around and look forward to,� she said.

“I just want it to be the place that people go to find out about the things going on in the city so that they can come out and support the wonderful talent that we have access to.�

As a musical artist, Dyson-Jerry doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t singing. For the last three years, she has been honing and displaying her skills with her band, Reflections. (Photo by Justin Morris)
Tapping into the spoken-word phenomenon, Dyson-Jerry partnered with Ekuandayo Bandele, owner of the Hattiloo theatre, and formed “The Spokenherd.� Every Wednesday evening at 8, poets and poetry lovers convene at Zora’s lounge inside the Hattiloo. On any given Wednesday, one can expect fire-laden words of conscious thoughts and inspiration, and occasionally get the bonus sound of Dyson-Jerry and her band. - The Tri-State Defender

"Voices of the South"

The Memphis Music & Heritage Festival goes back to the future.

If the Southern melting pot has a sound — and you better believe it does — you can hear it at the Center for Southern Folklore's Memphis Music & Heritage Festival. That's where, every year since 1988 (and don't forget the first one, back in 1982), musicians, artists, dancers, cooks, craftspeople, and, of course, citizens gather to celebrate and express their shared culture. This year's festival, held Saturday and Sunday, August 30th and 31st, is more diverse than ever, representing what's going on today, looking to the future, and never losing sight of the past.

"Each year, we give people the chance to sample the richness of Memphis' musical culture," says Judy Peiser, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Southern Folklore. "We go to the people like Billy Lee Riley, Eddie Bond, and Sonny Burgess, who have been performing rockabilly since they first recorded at Sun Studio. But then we go to young neo-soul performers like Tonya Dyson, Tim Terry, and Hope Clayburn, who are looking at the music heritage of this area and putting their own spin on it.

"It's not something like [renowned mule trader and auctioneer] Ray Lum used to call 'p.m. whiskey' — it's not past memories. It's a chance for you to know the musical history of the area but also to know what's happening today."

Spread over five stages at the intersection of Main Street and Peabody Place, the festival will be a one-stop spree for all the senses. You can eat Ella Kizzie's best-of-all-time peach cobbler while watching the folks moving to the sounds of Bobby Rush or Al Kapone, or you can smell Neely's barbecue while getting your hands on a knockout painting. Multiply that by north of 100 performers, artists, and food vendors, and your options are almost limitless.

One unique feature of the festival is the Talkers Corner. There you can sit and listen to quilters, musicians, songwriters, radio DJs, beer-brewers, baseball players, and others tell about their lives.

Another calling card is the festival's family-friendly nature, with puppet shows, music and craft workshops, children's storytelling, and general PG rating. (This year also features kid-friendly music from Joe Murphy and the Flying Monkey Man Band.)

Yet another calling card is the festival's emphasis on dance — or, more precisely, spirit. "The dance is amazing," Peiser says, "because whether it's square dancing, Chinese, Latin, or drum lines, people show out."

One new feature this year is FestPass. The festival, as usual, is free. But for a $20 contribution to the Center for Southern Folklore, you get a dollar off all beverages, a 2008 festival poster for half-price, and priority seating, when possible, at the stages.

This year's festival showcases two notables from recent International Blues Challenges. One is Eden Brent, a blues chanteuse/boogie-piano performer who won the competition in 2006. The other is the Homemade Jamz Blues Band, a set of siblings from Tupelo who were runners-up in 2007. What makes Homemade Jamz special isn't just their sound but their sound in light of their ages: Ryan Perry (guitar/vocals) is 16; Kyle (bass) is 14; Taya (drums) is 10.

Their father, Renaud, wrote all the songs, save one, on their excellent debut album, Pay Me No Mind, and he handmade Ryan's guitar from a carburetor.

Can you have the blues if you ain't even old enough to shave? From the sound of Homemade Jamz, that'd be yes. (Hey, if an Olympic gold-medal-winning gymnast can be only 14, why not a blues bassist?) You can and should check my math when the band plays Sunday evening.

The 2008 festival is dedicated to "Little" Laura Dukes, the diminutive dancer, singer, and ukulele and guitar player who toured with Robert Nighthawk and many Dixieland bands and performed in the Memphis Jug Band with Will Shade and Will Batts. In her honor, two jug bands will be on the bill: the Last Chance Jug Band and Steve Gardner and the Jake Leg Stompers.

"We're presenting live music for people to enjoy, smile at, reminisce with, and dance to," Peiser says.

To get you in the mood for this year's festival, go to the center's website at There you can watch and listen to clips of performances from festivals past, such as Rufus Thomas tap dancing or Mose Vinson playing "Tell It Like It Is, My Girlfriend Won't Be Still."

"It's great to have an archive," Peiser says, "but if it's not accessible and not used, what good is it?"

Of course, like past festivals, this year's will be documented for future generations. Still, you're going to want to be there in person. It's the best vantage point from which to see the horizon of Southern culture, spread out before you, the past blending into the future.
- Memphis Flyer

"Vh1 to Spotlight Memphis Talent in Showcase Series"

VH1 Soul will be in Memphis later this month filming their television series, “Soul Cities,� a show that attempts to discover the “real soul� of cities that are historically known for soul music. The digital network will be here for five days, looking to shine the national spotlight not only on our rich musical heritage, but equally as important, the renaissance that is taking place on the local soul music scene today. The show will also feature a performance by local R&B/Soul artist, Tonya Dyson.

Dyson’s performance will be filmed on Wednesday, July 16th at the Hattiloo Theatre, at 7 PM. The event will be held in conjunction with her regular weekly production,�The Spokenherd,� which offers an open-mic platform for local and regional poets and spoken word artists. Visit for more information on The Spokenherd and other NeoSoulville events.

Tonya Dyson represents the new generation of soul music coming to life here in the Bluff City. Having gained notoriety on the local, regional, and national soul music circuit as part of the talented duo, Men-Nefer, Tonya is poised to take her career to the next level as a solo artist. She has already shared the stage with phenomenal acts like Stevie Wonder, Justin Timberlake, Eric Roberson, Calvin Richardson, Algebra Blessett, Kindred, and Jaguar Wright, just to name a few. Currently, Dyson is working towards completing her solo project, which is a powerhouse of gospel-influenced soul stirrings that are reminiscent of Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and Sarah Vaughan. Visit for more information.

VH1 Soul chose to feature Memphis on “Soul Cities� because of its deeply spiritual connection to the history of soul music. After all, this is the city where Stax/Volt Records was born and flourished. Moreover, it is the home of dozens of highly respected soul music impresarios and a bevy of gospel singers who have charmed audiences around the world for decades. Other stops on the “Soul Cities� circuit include New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, and Philadelphia. The series is scheduled to air on VH1 Soul in the late fall. -


"Find My Way" (Single)
"Love's Return"
Vh1 Soul "Soul Cities" Live Performance
"Sunny Day"
(Men-Nefer) Kloud 9 presents...The Vibe Room Compilation (2006-Expansion Records/UK)
(Men-Nefer) Kloud 9 presents...The Vibe Room Compilation (2006-Expansion Records/UK)
"Love It When"
Dogg Pound ft Men-Nefer- DPGC
(2006-Gangsta Advisory)
"You Remind Me"
Dogg Pound ft Men-Nefer- DPGC
(2006-Gangsta Advisory)



Is anything more engaging than sweet refrains of soul music that stay with you, songs that touch you to the core with pinpoint vocal accuracy, songs you want to sing along with and grooves that last after the music has stopped? Tonya Dyson is a product of that essence, crafting a sound as indelible as those who influenced her to bring it to life. From the first listen of her debut album and single, Find My Way, it's easy for listeners to connect with this indescribable feeling.
Born in Covington, TN, (known to scholars of soul music as the birthplace of Isaac Hayes) and raised in a household where music played a key role in her development, Tonya began singing at a very early age. "I started singing at the age of 4 in church. I can remember that I was so short they used to stand me on a chair so I could reach the mic!" Though raised with the influence of gospel music, she would go on to discover and be influenced by core volumes of what are considered classics in the world of soul music.
In her words, "My Mom introduced me to artists like Stevie Wonder...she bought me the ‘Master Blaster’ 45, which I played until I lost the little thing that keeps the 45 in place (what's that called?) She also introduced me to the Jackson 5 & Parliament, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and so many others. My mom was young when she had me & was very much a nightclub-goer, so I feel blessed that I learned about good music at an early age through hearing the albums she bought."
After singing in her high school choir, Tonya began appearing in talent contests and competitions statewide, garnering selection to represent Tipton County in the Miss Black Tennessee pageant. All the while, Tonya continued being weaned on a steady diet of Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, D'Angelo, and a wealth of positive hip-hop from artists like the Native Tongues crew. Tonya relocated to Memphis, a spiritual center of her soul music influences, eventually earning a BBA from LeMoyne-Owen while continuing to perform in nightclubs.
Her first professional singing venture, Men-Nefer, became a staple of the burgeoning neo-soul movement bubbling up in Memphis, earning the group inclusion on a compilation released by the Expansions label in the UK. Numerous accolades and the attention of producers and fellow artists followed, including the legendary David Porter. "David Porter inspired me to continue writing. I was performing at a benefit that he attended where I performed `Love's Return’. David came backstage to ask me if I had written the song. After telling him it was my song, David simply smiled and told me that I was `something very special’." That chance meeting and note of encouragement proved a turning point and motivating factor in Tonya's career.
The last two years have been a whirlwind for Tonya, from sharing the stage with the likes of Stevie Wonder and Justin Timberlake to a featured appearance on the VH1 Soul show "Soul Cities", hosted by Nelson George and broadcast worldwide. If Memphis, and by extension Stax Records, is known as "Soulsville U.S.A.", Tonya is well-known as the mayor of Neosoulville, re-igniting the spirit of Stax and sharing her passion for music with others at Neosoulvile.Com. Tonya has become a sought-after vocalist, performing on stages throughout the U.S. and overseas, all the while quietly crafting her first full-length recording, entitled Find My Way.

Surely only a woman with Tonya's effortless energy and talent could assemble a team so impressive for a debut recording: over half the album is produced by Memphian Jon Rych (producer and musical director for Angie Stone). Other producers who came on board for the album include Grammy-award-winning producer Carlos Broady (India.Arie), Richard Tucker (Kindred the Family Soul) and Dogg Pound impresario Daz Dillinger. The credentials serve to validate the quality of the songwriting and the performances Tonya brings.
Regarding the songs, Tonya's muse is less obvious than it may seem on the surface. "People seem to think `Find My Way' is about a guy," she says. "It's actually about anything and everything I was scared to let go of for some reason or another. Situations, jobs, friendships...anything that proved to be unhealthy for me that I somehow felt I needed in my life & just couldn't do without."
On "Find My Way", Tonya is keenly aware of her grounding. "I think we are all equipped with a 'divine navigational system', a common sense & intuition that guide us. We sometimes are misled by unhealthy situations and we have to take that control back from whatever it is & become our own guide. 'Love's Return' is about the prospect of a second chance at love. Have you ever meet someone who was really great but wrong for you at that particular moment? Ever wondered what would happen if you met that person again under different circumstances?"
The year 2011 should hold continued good fortune for Tonya as she readies release of Find My Way, her soul-searching, groove-invec