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Memphis music: the next generation

(L to R) John Holiday, Garrett Marshall, Landon Moore and Alex da Ponte at the Hi Tone
(L to R) John Holiday, Garrett Marshall, Landon Moore and Alex da Ponte at the Hi Tone
Photo by Lou Nesta

The next generation of Memphis music will definitely include Alex da Ponte. I saw her Sunday night at the Hi Tone, 1913 Poplar Ave.

Every so often a new artist comes along that exceeds all expectations. Alex da Ponte is such an artist. Here is a young lady barely out of college with the focus and determination of someone much more experienced. She not only writes her own music (with the exception of two songs on the upcoming album which are a collaboration between Alex and friend and fellow songwriter Jobeth Dunn), but she also is co-producing and designed the cover. Her songs are written from the heart and they reach out and grab you. They say what many times you wished you could have in the same situation. Her appeal as a writer and as an artist spans many demographics and genres of music.

Alex is just finishing up an album called Nightmares with veteran Ardent engineer and producer Pete Matthews producing along with Alex. I loved the songs I heard from the album so I expected Alex to be good but she was much better than good. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw and heard, how unbelievably good she was.

I recently interviewed Alex and Pete for an upcoming Examiner article. Alex was quiet and unassuming. When I saw her perform it was hard to believe it was the same person. She knows how to communicate with the audience. She has a gift of talking to them, not at them. At one point she put her guitar down and sang the beautifully written by Alex and JoBeth Dunn, “The Abyss.” She joked afterwards about not knowing what to do with her hands when not holding her guitar. Nobody really noticed, they were mesmerized by her voice and the feel of the song. When it was over my friend Carla Christian, a great singer in her own right, said “I love that song.” Carla was putting a voice to what many around the room were thinking.

Alex and Pete have put together a great backup band including drummer Garrett Marshall who has gained attention in Memphis for his work in The Deep Shag Band 714 and East Memphis Trio. John Holiday, who is known for not only his considerable guitar skills around Memphis but he also played Carl Perkins in the Johnny Cash bio movie, Walk the Line. Landon Moore plays bass and has been a fixture on the Memphis music scene for over a decade and does session work at Ardent.

This band of experienced musicians obliviously respects Alex as an artist. Marshall is a powerful drummer and Holiday can tear the guitar up but the night was about Alex and her music. They came together as a single unit creating a sound that was as unique as her writing. They were so smooth, not like a live performance as much as a recording. Mark my words, Alex da Ponte will be the next major recording artist to break out of Memphis. That's not my opinion or my prediction, that's a fact.


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