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Elvis Perkins in Dearland. (click for larger version)

May 14, 2009

Elvis Perkins in Dearland
Most people were hoping that Oz Perkins would be the Anthony Perkins offspring to start up a band. Oz is spooky. Instead, he's sticking with acting while Elvis Perkins ends up as the Jakob Dylan of the Perkins clan. The new Elvis Perkins in Dearland—the album and his band share the same name—even mines the same swirly Americana as The Wallflowers, without the distraction of hit singles. Perkins is also weirder, but he doesn't flaunt his artistic bent by banging on pots and pans in a bid to become another Tom Waits. He's also old enough to have been influenced by the cosmic cowboys of classic rock. Meanwhile, Oz is in that new Star Trek movie. (Friday, May 15, Bottletree.)

Delbert McClinton
If pub-rock had taken off in the '70s, Delbert McClinton would be a pioneering icon like Johnny Cash or Van Morrison. Instead, he's the welcome respite for music fans who are embarrassed to be into famous acts like Johnny Cash or Van Morrison—or Bonnie Raitt, who hasn't been obscure for decades. Anyway, the veteran blues rocker certainly lives like he's maintaining a rock-star image. McClinton is as handsome as ever, and his singing remains effortless—except when he strains his voice for some touching balladry. McClinton is mostly a Texas blues rocker nowadays, but the live show still draws from over four decades of work. If McClinton draws too large a crowd, then go buy a Dirk Hamilton album. Nobody knows about Dirk Hamilton. (Saturday, May 16, Do Dah Day in Caldwell Park.)

Meg Hutchinson
As the Janeane Garofalo of Americana, Meg Hutchinson has enjoyed a long career by mixing a spry spirit with dour folksiness. She also brings a certain flair to the politics you'd expect from a Massachusetts gal whose liberal arts degree should have left her working at the local organic food collective. The new Come Up Full is a twittering collection of songs that (mostly) showcase the surprising charm of her rushed melodies. None of them are particularly funny, but neither is Janeane Garofalo. (Saturday, May 16, O Kafés! Coffee House.)

Her Space Holiday
Her Space Holiday was once an Austin act that goofed around with simple techno beats. Then frontman Marc Bianchi discovered a simpler need in his audience. He moved to northern California to record last year's Xoxo, Panda & the New Kid Revival, where he abandons the dance floor and provides folksy singalongs about happy times and occasional bouts of self-pity. It's a cheery fireside sound that warrants a name change to Clap Your Hands Say Idiocies. (Saturday, May 16, Bottletree.)

The Wood Brothers
When Loaded came out last year, it was an album of mega-brained acoustic folksiness from Chris and Oliver Wood. There were also a few moments of the jazziness you'd expect from a slumming member of Medeski, Martin & Wood. This year, however, Loaded stands out as the album Neil Young should have released this year. Young's own Fork in the Road won't be remembered by August, and the Wood Brothers make feisty rants sound a lot more fun. (Sunday, May 17, Workplay.)

The Thermals/The Shaky Hands
Now We Can See is the sound of a smart indie band running out of ideas—except that the new album by The Thermals is the work of a dumb indie band, so it sounds energetic and wild. It took a while, but the Portland act has become an entertaining pop-punk outfit playing with bar-band simplicity. You get a similar feel from fellow Portlanders The Shaky Hands—who are also on the Kill Rock Stars label—except with real musicianship and some drone behind their dark jangle. (Monday, May 18, Bottletree.)

The Hot Rods/Pretty Things Peepshow/The Suicide Girls
It's the Musical Mayhem's Traveling Rock N' Roll and Burlesque Review—brought to you by dolts whose historical knowledge doesn't include a word like revue. This evening of embarrassments is headlined by The Hot Rods, who hack their way out of Atlanta while playing something meant to be psychobilly. That means relying on various genres—including limp psychedelia and rote punk—to provide the energy that the band can't muster.

At least The Hot Rods might wake up anyone who's been put to sleep by the Pretty Things Peepshow. This (sadly typical) bumbling burlesque features attractive women who are far from sexy. The show is more like a sorority fundraiser with young women going for laughs because sensuality is too awkward. Or maybe just not fashionable. Any guy who gets excited by this show is clearly gay—and probably there to marvel at the personal appearance by some Suicide Girls, who can at least boast that their tattoos aren't anachronistic. (Wednesday, May 20, Zydeco.)

Don Chambers and Goat/Dust Congress
Last year's Zebulon must have been an interesting album for Don Chambers and Goat to write and perform. They're the kind of band that gets excited about turning their tour journals into yet another album. There are all kinds of small Southern towns with interesting names—like Zebulon, Georgia—and sometimes you might see a sign where a boiled peanut has a word balloon that says, "Eat Me!" Actually, Chambers wouldn't write about that boiled peanut. It wouldn't be appropriate for his tiresome Southern Goth rock fixations. There's nothing ethereal and exotic about a boiled peanut.

Dust Congress's backwoods pop ambitions seem much more natural. They're like Sgt. Pepper's Salvation Army Band, with instruments pulled from the thrift store bins. This Texas act also avoids any preciousness. They have pretentious trappings but never conjure up anything more artistic than hillbilly glam. (Thursday, May 21, Bottletree.)

The Charlie Daniels Band with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra
Charlie Daniels enjoyed a legendary Nashville career even before recording his debut album in 1971. By 1976, The Charlie Daniels Band was a bluesy country-rock act that was proving to be Duane Allman's greatest legacy.

Of course, today Daniels is best known as one of country music's most ornery eccentrics—most recently for complaining that Guitar Hero III allows Satan to sometimes win if you challenge the Prince of Darkness to a guitar duel over "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." He's more than 70 years old now but still puts on an impressive show. It probably helps that there's so much to get ornery about lately. (Friday, May 22, Caldwell Park.)

April Cover
They're the Birmingham band most in need of getting a record out, and this headlining show might be a promising sign. April Cover is a teenybopper act in the Click Five tradition of relatively cute young men who can play their instruments. Of course, people are already forgetting the Click Five. April Cover still have an album's worth of memorable rock songs (and one sappy ballad) that sound reliably catchy without echoing the corporate-pop assembly line. The band needs to find their audience soon, though. They're not getting any younger, and Disney is already grooming Mitchel Musso for pop stardom. He's pals with Hannah Montana, you know. (Saturday, May 23, Workplay.)

Isis/Pelican/Tombs
In the '70s, Rush was the hard-rocking antidote to Yes. A band like Isis would have been the antidote to Kansas. This long-running metal act crams in plenty of hardcore and country touches among their proud prog-rock. The new Wavering Radiant has some surprising moments buried in its seven long tracks. There's an entire jazz album being played in the mix of "20 Years/40 Years," and there are a few bluegrass tunes buried in other parts. Isis still remembers to be a proud metal act every few minutes—usually when Aaron Turner's comically gruff vocals show up. Say what you will about Kansas, but Steve Walsh was a soulful screamer.

It's been a few years since the last Pelican album, but they're still the most important instrumental act in metal. They create tunes of depth and elegance while being as playful as any fashionably childish art-rock act. They're also versatile enough to create both heartland rock and big-city aural sculpture.

Tombs would have been alt-rock heroes in 1994—or been dismissed as just another My Bloody Valentine tribute act. Today, the Brooklyn trio sounds like a post-hardcore act looking to overload your speakers. Winter Hours is a collection of short songs that are far too dense to be punk or metal. It's just a blur of art, with noise and textures and other stuff that's usually kind of boring. Tombs uses all that to write actual songs, so at least they can't be mistaken for a Jesus Lizard tribute act. (Saturday, May 23, Bottletree.)

Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles
She's probably too young to qualify, but Sarah Borges and her band sound like any '90s Boston alt-rock act reduced to playing country-rock after their major-label subsidiary folded. The new The Stars Are Out is still a fine selection of songs that sound a mite precious in that cornpone Bostonian fashion. It's also an improvement over their disappointing debut, where they tried to be a straight country act. They're not too interesting as a pop act, either, but The Stars Are Out does offer clever covers of songs by the Lemonheads, Magnetic Fields, and NRBQ. None of those acts are particularly authentic, either. (Friday, May 29, Birmingham Museum of Art.)

John Paul Keith & The One Four Fives/Vulture Whale
He sings about a girl who's pure cane sugar, but John Paul Keith is more like high-fructose corn syrup—and he's probably never actually met a girl who's been raised on sugar cane. They're scary. The new Spills and Thrills remains lots of fun as this Memphis act attempts a throwback to pre-British Invasion rock 'n' roll. Keith is no mere mimic, and his band finds some personality by playing with the fervor of post-Beatles power-pop. That's something the Everly Brothers never tried. Local act Vulture Whale opens with their vision of post-methedrine blues played like pre-cocaine country. (Friday, May 29, Bottletree.) &

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