Critics' Picks 

Our Pick of the Week

Dr. Lonnie Smith * Friday, 2nd

When he started recording for Blue Note in the late ’60s, organist Lonnie Smith was a major player in the label’s transition from hard bop to soul jazz. B-3 combos rode in the vanguard at the time, and Smith anchored some of the funkiest sessions on record. Early in their careers, guitarist George Benson and tenor player Joe Lovano would bounce off the rippling grooves that Smith laid down, and to this day, he bears the standard for the classic jazz organ groups of the urban North. His sets are no historical reconstruction, but rather the living essence of packing the pocket with soulful riffs, trading lines with the sidemen and letting the pulse ride over all. His 2004 album Too Damn Hot shows him in his best form, stretching out the opening motif of “Sweet Georgia Brown” on “Norleans.” It’s more than just the second-line backbeat, two-guitar comping and the dancing organ stops that are drenched with jubilation. The turbaned, self-appointed doctor’s manner is to begin with a familiar melody or chord progression and push it to the bursting point, so that the reassuring groove eventually becomes a launching pad for the heights of free expression. Hair of the Dog —Bill Levine

 

MUSIC

Thursday, 1st SYBRIS At times, these Chicagoans sound something like a more interesting version of Bardo Pond, whose own music mixes rock and experimental impulses but subsumes them in a deafening roar. At others, Sybris sound like a fascinating and innovative amalgam of their influences. Singer and guitarist Angela Mullenhour sounds enough like Chan Marshall that she’s probably not going to hear the end of it soon, but her approach to singing is very different, and the contrast between her vocals and what she and the rest of the band are doing around them can be stark. Mullenhour singing distractedly over a now-thrashing, now-droning wall of sound—a My Bloody Valentine wall, as opposed to a Phil Spector wall—can be downright incongruous, but then she’ll keep riffing and drawing on her inner Yoko Ono, and things will come together in ways that are satisfyingly strange. Then there’s the lighthearted pop angle Sybris sometimes take, which just adds to the element of surprise. Hair of the Dog —Steve Haruch TREY SONGZ When this 20-year-old from Petersburg, Va., recorded a reply to R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet” on a mix tape, it not only irked the elder singer, it revealed Songz to be a talent to watch. Unfortunately, you barely can hear his voice on the overproduced, run-of-the-mill jamz of his recently released debut, I Gotta Make It. And ironically, where you can make out his vocals over all the mechanical bumping and grinding, Songz owes quite a lot to R. Kelly—indeed, he’s got Kelly’s testify-talk and urgent whine routine down cold. The best way to find out if he can actually hold his own against contemporary R&B standouts like Mario or Omarion, though, is to check him out live as part of this college tour sponsored by Cingular. Gentry Center, Tennessee State University —Makkada B. Selah THE ALTERNATE ROUTES This alt-rock quartet from Connecticut take their name to heart, gaining momentum by following a grassroots approach. They’ve done weekly residencies in various high-profile Northeastern venues, including New York’s Knitting Factory, Philadelphia’s World Café and Boston’s Paradise Lounge, where they’ve been picking up fan support and adding to an active street team. They recorded their recent album, Good and Reckless and True, in Nashville with producer Jay Joyce, who captures the immediacy of the band’s stripped-down arrangements and singer Tim Warren’s sweet, expressive tenor. Reminiscent of Guster and The Thrills, the Alternate Routes recall the classic song structure of folk-rock groups of the ’70s while strutting just enough like rockers to keep things interesting. 3rd & Lindsley —Michael McCall THE BISCUIT BURNERS It’s barely been a year since this quartet from North Carolina released their debut album, but as their new CD A Mountain Apart shows, they’ve made good use of the time. Distinctive from the get-go, the record finds them leaning even more heavily on Billy Cardine’s Dobro to complement the sharp, aching voices of singers Shannon Whitworth (guitar, banjo) and Mary Lucey (bass). The rhythm section of Lucey and guitarist Dan Bletz has tightened up nicely, too, keeping the ethereal melodies and moods of their original songs and instrumentals anchored in solid ground. Station Inn —Jon Weisberger Friday, 2nd DUNCAN SHEIK As modern music’s Noel Coward, or at least an American Bryan Ferry, Sheik creates sophisticated adult pop that blends contemporary textures with classic songcraft. After his 1996 debut earned critical praise and some commercial success, the South Carolina native has continued to cast a romantic figure that packs some heat and some sharp bon mots beneath his cool, fashionable surface. Live, he’s a capable singer who gains power through taste and restraint. His 2002 album, Daylight, featured his best work yet, which bodes well for the follow-up, White Limousine, due out this fall. Belcourt Theatre —Michael McCall Saturday, 3rd -Sunday, 4th MUSIC CITY JAZZ, BLUES & HERITAGE FESTIVAL Sitting on the downtown banks of the Cumberland to hear an outdoor festival is a far cry from the experience of being in Newport, overlooking the bay. Then again, the Newport Jazz Festival has increasingly invited adult contemporary or “smooth jazz” artists of the caliber that Kirk Whalum is bringing to Nashville for the Heritage Festival. This year, the Riverfront crowd can hear live performances from musicians who typically work within a studio-driven crossover genre. Free to solo within safely melodic limits over a contemporary R&B backdrop, Whalum, saxophonist Gerald Albright and pianist Jeff Lorber all have established distinctive styles and risen above the familiar, if not anonymous, productions of their genre. The festival’s headliner, Al Jarreau, is another story. As much as he’s typified the merging of pop sensibilities with adult contemporary packaging, Jarreau has cultivated painstaking vocal techniques that hark back to an earlier, more innocent era. His mannered style carries both the percussive drive of classic scat singing and the exacting theatrical delivery of vintage crooners like Johnny Mathis and Johnny Ray. Riverfront Park —Bill Levine Tuesday, 6th GREENCARDS Vivid imagery and characters fuel the music of these three recent Nashville imports. Weather and Water, their current album, playfully embraces bluegrass sensibilities but pushes further for an acoustic jam band sound—mandolin, fiddle and guitar—akin to that of Alison Krauss + Union Station or Nickel Creek. Elements of Irish folk music are evident as well, especially in the album’s title track, which could become immortal in children’s nursery rhymes or Irish pubs. The instrumentals, however, steal the show and tell even better stories. The conversational exchanges in “Almost Home” conjure images of weary travelers chirping one after another about the comforts of home. Expect accomplished musicianship and infectious energy. In addition to their date this week, The Greencards play next week’s Australian Festival in Centennial Park; see the story in Music. 3rd & Lindsley —Elisabeth Dawson DUOLOGY Joseph Brunelle and Barry Coggins play acoustic guitars as if proving that beautiful instrumentals needn’t be hopelessly middlebrow. The two white-haired virtuosos obviously have plenty of experience on their instruments, and they’ve just as obviously grown beyond the point where they need to show off with fleet string runs or unusual chord progressions. Instead, they weave subtle chordings and rich harmonics into a gorgeous sound that delights in unexpected ways. The Nashville residents celebrate the release of their new Like Water Falls with guest vocalist Kathy Hussey, a winner of the Kerrville Folk Festival’s top new artist honor. 6:30 p.m., The Basement —Michael McCall Wednesday, 6th SCHOOLYARD HEROES Across the dimensional divide, in a slimy, undead practice space, surrounded by cauldrons of warlock blood and crappy beer, Seattle’s Schoolyard Heroes have crafted their own artisanal brand of ’60s horror rock that is part Tilt, part Misfits and part Iron Queen Maiden Priest. Headed by the sometimes flirtatious (though homicidally so), sometimes blood-curdling vocals of rebel girl Ryann Donnelly, the Heroes pound out cultish zombie punk with a contemporary cut, adding occasional raspy screams and stabbing, proggy tangents to the mix. Their reputation for a flesh-melting live show precedes them, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t rock Nashville’s face off, too. Exit/In —Steve Haruch CLASSICAL NASHVILLE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA The opening gala for this year’s season of the NSO—the beginning of its post-Schermerhorn era—features two likable and grand pieces, Mozart’s “Jupiter” symphony, the last he composed, and Gustav Holst’s The Planets. Written in 1914-16, the latter piece is a combination of tone poem and symphony with seven movements, each named for, and evocative of, one of the planets. Holst’s composition has been very influential, especially in soundtrack writing—John Williams’ score for Star Wars is practically cribbed from it. A recent New York Times article discussed the ways symphony organizations are trying to make concerts more of an event to lure audiences, and this concert illustrates the point. The Holst piece will be converted into a multimedia extravaganza with visuals projected during the performance and spoken introductions giving historical and scientific background on the planets. The narrative will be delivered by no less than Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy. This was a late substitution for Jean-Luc Picard (excuse me, Patrick Stewart), who had a scheduling conflict. Any true Star Trek fan will see that the NSO has traded up, from a latter-day follower to a deity from the original series. The concert is Sept. 7 at TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall. —David Maddox ART “DEAR MILLARD FILLMORE” The up-to-now peripatetic Secret Show series appears to have found the permanent home they’ve been seeking in the building at 310 Chestnut St., a block away from the site of their previous show. They’re inaugurating the space—a former record-pressing plant—with their latest quarterly event, 7-11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3. Like previous outings, “Dear Millard Fillmore” will feature work by several recent graduates from this year’s strong Watkins College of Art and Design BFA class, along with others like Mark Hosford of Vanderbilt and Julie Roberts, a Nashville Scene contributor and probably Nashville’s leading video artist. The Secret Show group’s plans for future activities in their new home include studios, workshop spaces, longer-running exhibits, lectures and musical performances. This has the potential to fill some of the gap left by the Fugitive Art Center going offline for public events. —David Maddox R. LAND Atlanta artist R. Land adapts colorful cartoon imagery and subverts it with visions of the grotesque: animals whose heads have been replaced by melted, mutated formations, strange protuberating creatures at once monstrous and comical. He cites the influence of everything from Walt Disney to Howard Finster to Keith Haring, but in style and content his work vividly recalls the work of underground cartoonist Kaz, a contributor to the RAW publications of the ’80s and early ’90s. Fido hosts an opening 7-10 p.m. this Saturday featuring Land’s painted wooden panels and assemblages, and there’ll be live music as well. —Jonathan Marx FILM JUNEBUG Southerners routinely come away from movies about the modern-day South feeling that carpetbaggers have trampled their birthright. Now comes a film that gets the look and tenor of the small-town New South shockingly right at times—and it took a guy who makes Sonic Youth videos. The plot of Phil Morrison’s perceptive debut involves a Chicago folk-art dealer (Embeth Davidtz) meeting her husband’s squirrelly North Carolina family for the first time. It could’ve been a Sweet Home Alabama wheeze, but Morrison and gifted screenwriter Angus MacLachlan forgo easy fish-out-of-water Yankee jokes and maudlin city-vs.-country dichotomies. Instead, this is about people from different cultures making peace with the judgment of others. The film opens Friday at Green Hills. —Jim Ridley BELCOURT SECOND CHANCE WEEK All you folks who moan and groan whenever a movie leaves town too soon, here’s your chance to play catch-up. For one week only, the Belcourt brings back three movies that vanished from theaters before many people got a chance to see them. For parents and kids, there’s the sleeper hit Mad Hot Ballroom, the Spellbound of grade-school dance competition. For a different kind of family entertainment—the Manson Family—check out Palindromes, an infuriating satire from Welcome to the Dollhouse provocateur Todd Solondz. And one of the year’s arthouse smashes, Miranda July’s romantic comedy Me and You and Everyone We Know, returns for another run. Noel Murray has the, um, poop on the last of these in Film. —Jim Ridley GRIZZLY MAN No stranger to stories of mad visionaries who wrongly believe they can wrestle nature to a draw, Werner Herzog finds an ideal subject in Timothy Treadwell, the quirky ursine activist who lived among grizzlies in Alaska while believing man and bear could coexist in the wild. In 2003, in the most horrifying way imaginable, he was proved wrong. The film, which uses Treadwell’s own video journals and copious wildlife footage, opens Friday at Green Hills. —Jim Ridley “CALICO” As part of the latest Secret Show Series installation, “Dear Millard Fillmore” (see art picks, above), Nashville filmmaker Geoffrey Sexton screens his 26-minute black-and-white mood piece set to music by Godspeed You Black Emperor. Sexton’s “9-18-98” was one of the most striking films in the recent 48 Hour Film Project: it’ll be interesting to see what he can do on his own time. The show starts 7 p.m. at the old Ingram Record Plating building, 310 Chestnut St. —Jim Ridley THE CONSTANT GARDENER Boy, let’s hope the movie is as exciting as its title. Fernando Meirelles follows up his excellent City of God with this John le Carré thriller, as a mild-mannered widower (Ralph Fiennes) makes deadly enemies in Kenya when he investigates the murder of his activist wife (Rachel Weisz). Opens Wednesday. —Jim Ridley THE TRANSPORTER 2 Just about perfect for a car-chase actioner—a serious qualifier—the original lunkheaded, Luc Besson-produced Transporter was as entertaining as it was preposterous. If this even remotely rivals its predecessor’s four-course feast of fromage, bring fondue sticks. Jason Statham returns as ace wheel man Frank Martin, here challenged to save the U.S. drug czar’s kidnapped kid with his amazing (read: humanly impossible) driving skills. Opening Friday. —Jim Ridley LOS OLVIDADOS You have just a few more days to see Luis Buñuel’s still shocking 1950 drama of murderous Mexico City street life, now showing at the Belcourt in a marvelous new print that’s touring the country. Don’t miss the long-lost “happy ending” included as an extra, which is as surreal as anything in Buñuel’s prankish career. —Jim Ridley

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