New Store No.2
I’m pretty sure you’ve heard something by Chris Maxwell. He was on the Memphis scene working with Jim Dickinson, Alex Chilton and Tav Falco. He was a member of Gunbunnies and later the New York Avant-rock group, Skeleton Key. If you haven’t heard any of that, you’ve probably heard the television theme songs he did for shows like Bob’s Burgers.
New Store No. 2 is Maxwell’s second solo album in a long career. The album showcases a silky, jazz pop sound and lyrical story telling. The album is the story of Chris’s Lebanese grandfather, a man who immigrated to the United States, worked his way up from being a street peddler to owning his own store and starting a family. Chris’s memories include detail that may only make sense to people who grew up before the Clean Air Act. Maxwell remembers that the “paper mill made the whole town smell rotten.” (I remember a time when you could smell that you were getting close to Gary, Indiana). The song is wistful. Grandpa is buried up on the hill, the shop got run out of business by the big box stores: they are gone, but not forgotten.
Most of the tunes on New Store are laid back, jazzy meditations with lyrics you can spend a lot of time unpacking. The stylistic outlier is the funky, “Most of What I Know I Learned from Women” Over a driving baritone sax riff, Maxwell sings about the strong women who shaped his life (and the shifty men who showed him what not to be). It like we were chilling at Folk City and suddenly James Brown jumps on stage. It’s a cool song.
There are a lot of stories on New Store No. 2. Take your time with this one. Let the stories unfold with repeated listening. It’s that kind of record.