Critics' Picks 

Bare Jr. Reunion, Nashville Chamber Orchestra, SNMNMNM, Nickel Creek and more

FRIDAY 11/23

MusicBARE JR. REUNION It seems it’s never a bad time for an expired band to pull the reunion card. Already this year we’ve witnessed the likes of Jason and the Scorchers and Superdrag, and Nashville gets another nostalgic fix this weekend when eponymous roots rock outfit Bare Jr. dusts off the old set for a show at the Exit/In. Since parting ways in 2002, Bobby Bare, Jr. has filled the void with his revolving-door collective, the Young Criminals’ Starvation League. The rest of the guys have passed the time by joining up with Cheap Trick (drummer Keith Brogdon), playing bass for Will Hoge (Dean Tomasek) and running a local venue, adjoining record shop and rock cover band (Mike Grimes). For the first time since 1999, the band will return to its original form, performing their raucous rock blaster (and major-label debut) Boo-Tay in its entirety, as well as a few choice cuts from their follow-up, Brainwasher. 8 p.m. at Exit/In —SETH GRAVES

MusicNASHVILLE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA Suppose the Nashville Chamber Orchestra—adventurous spirits that they are—wanted to pay tribute to an R&B icon. Where might they turn to find music that would be interesting and have body to it as an orchestral piece? Marvin Gaye? Al Green? Nah, “Let’s Get It On” or “Let’s Stay Together” might sound anemic without bass guitar and drum kit nudging the groove along. So Paul Gambill and the NCO settled on Stevie Wonder, specifically the most expansive effort from Wonder’s early-to-mid-’70s burst—Songs in the Key of Life. And with the amount of musical territory he covered, there’s plenty there to work with. With the NCO Gospel Choir, Jonell Mosser, Odessa Settles, Todd Suttles, Abby Burke and Scat Springs—all well-versed in R&B, gospel or jazz—to carry the vocals, it won’t all be instrumental. And since it’s Thanksgiving week, the two consecutive evenings will offer a cornucopia (sorry) of Wonder, gospel, gypsy jazz and Puccini. 8 p.m. at Schermerhorn; also 8 p.m. Saturday, 24th —JEWLY HIGHT

MusicCHELSEA JANE, STEPHEN BRAREN & DAMN OLE TENNESSEE BOYS Freight trains don’t roll smoothly—they rumble, clang and lurch in reckless bursts, then slow down in growls of scraping metal. That’s the sound Chelsea Jane approximates, a sexual stomp that sometimes speeds like a Jon Spencer blues explosion, sometimes swaggers like The Gun Club, and sometimes gets sultry like a ’40s bar car. Co-lead singer Chelsea Crowell’s bloodline accesses two generations of great American music, and with Stephen Braren and Scottie Gilbert coaxing fire from all manner of stringed instruments, bassist Fletcher Bangs Watson getting low and dirty, and percussionist Marty Linville chasing Lonnie Donegan on the Rock Island line, they’re part of a rumbling, clanging, reckless band that features strong songwriting yet doesn’t let the words get in the way of the cross-tied tracks. 9 p.m. at Springwater —MICHAEL McCALL

MusicHANNAH MONTANA/MILEY CYRUS Set aside for the moment the furor that’s erupted over the scarcity and scalping of tickets at every tour stop made by Disney’s tween sensation, and try instead to appreciate the pop songs sung by Miley Cyrus and her alter ego Hannah Montana. “See You Again” is a pure adrenaline rush; “G.N.O. (Girls Night Out)” is super slick pop, with robotic handclaps and machine-gun drumming, but also fast, dramatic and satisfying. You don’t have to be 14—Cyrus’ age—to enjoy it, because whether wearing Montana’s blond wig, or singing surprisingly touching songs as herself, she has a hint of a twang that makes her sound vulnerable and human. The Disney machine has turned her into a sensation, but she has more than met them halfway. By the way, her Achy-Breaky dad plays the Wildhorse Saloon Saturday night. 7 p.m. at Sommet Center —WERNER TRIESCHMANN

 

The Night They Drove Old Dixie DownBELCOURT MIDNIGHT MOVIES: THE LAST WALTZ Martin Scorsese: brilliant director, lousy interviewer. Lucky for us, there’s much more of the former than the latter in his 1978 concert film, which shapes The Band’s farewell show at the San Francisco Winterland into a combination wake, celebration and rollicking rent party. Yes, Scorsese gave Spinal Tap all the ammo it needed as he lobs softballs to the bandmates and makes goo-goo eyes at Robbie Robertson—but damn do these performances hold up beautifully: The Band stomping through “The Shape I’m In” and “Up on Cripple Creek,” Muddy Waters working his snake-charmer mojo on the camera with “Mannish Boy,” Van Morrison looking like a large grape but delivering a powerhouse “Caravan.” Featured performers include Emmylou Harris and The Staple Singers (filmed in a separate soundstage segment), Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Ronnie Hawkins, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Neil Diamond (?); the movie is being shown as part of the Belcourt’s six-film Dylan tribute, timed to coincide with the opening of the Dylan biopic I’m Not There (see the review on p. 61). Midnight Nov. 23-24 at the Belcourt —JIM RIDLEY

SATURDAY 11/24

MusicLONE OFFICIAL Over the course of two full-length collections, Lone Official’s Matt Button has made angst sound like the sincere confessions of a songwriter who likes to win at the track. If their self-titled 2003 debut offered great ideas that sometimes failed to take flight, last year’s Tuckassee Take stands as an apotheosis of indie pop, and one of the best records ever made about horse racing. The Nashville sextet have a fine sense of dynamics, while the twists and turns of songs such as “Lost My Ass” benefit from producer Mark Nevers’ layering of pedal steel, trombone and synthesizer. So far, Tuckassee has been available in this country only as an import, but Lone Official’s label says there are plans for a domestic release in spring 2008. Meanwhile, catch these guys while you can—they’re an elegantly rocking live band, with special props to drummer Ben Martin’s slinky, buoyant timekeeping. 9 p.m. at The 5 Spot —EDD HURT

MusicTHE WILDBIRDS A year ago, this Wisconsin quartet took to the wind just as their name implies, alighting in a converted bus that runs on vegetable oil, bringing their blues boogie and psych-folk shamble to the people. Their debut, Golden Daze, covers familiar territory, from trippy, idling, Eastern-tinged drone to Stonesy roadhouse rock swagger and achy alt-country twang. They even channel the Kings of Leon doing their best Strokes imitation on the chiming, “Last Nite”-ish “Shake Shake.” There’s no doubt these ’birds are still seeking a sound of their own, but there’s a crackle to the performances that bodes well. The ballad “Suzanna” is particularly alluring, with its wistful harmonies, jangling acoustic and shuffling beat like a steam engine. Frontman Nicholas Stuart has a raspy, ragged tenor croon—pocked, frayed, and soaked for weeks in whiskey and cigarettes for your listening pleasuring. 9 p.m. at the End —CHRIS PARKER

Crafty BehaviorSATURDAY CRAFT FAIR Stash the socks, screw the fruitcake and stall the re-gifting until January. Surely you can find a creative gift idea at the Nashville Farmers’ Market, where more than 40 local artisans gather each Saturday through Christmas Eve to peddle their wares. The organic clothing of rising local stars Ask Apparel, the whimsical whatnots of Meretricious Creations, the stained-glass wind chimes of Lee Shropshire—all these and more line the booths of the Farm Shed, along with anything from paintings to purses. And wander over to check out the locally grown Christmas trees at Direct Growers, where they’ll have hot cider and popcorn on hand for the kids. A list of participating artists can be found at craftacreativecommunity.com. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 24-Dec. 24 at the Nashville Farmers’ Market —JIM RIDLEY

MusicBUDDY JEWELL It’s easy to forget that Jewell, a country singer-songwriter from Arkansas, bested none other than Miranda “Gunpowder & Lead” Lambert to win the first season of Nashville Star. A couple of years after Jewell was handed the first-place prize of a major-label contract, Lambert put out her debut and, since then, her star has been on the rise and Jewell’s has been on the decline. The reason is that Jewell is a genial throwback, an a`rtist who could have thrived in the early ’80s but now sounds a little out of place. Nevertheless, Jewell has an inviting voice and songs that are warm and sweet. Nashville’s dog-eat-dog marketplace might not have much of a place for Jewell, but that only gives his fans more reason to embrace him. 6:30 & 9:30 p.m. at Ryman Auditorium ; also Friday, 23rd. —WERNER TRIESCHMANN

Sibling RivalryTOPDOG/UNDERDOG Destiny Theatre Experience producer Shawn Whitsell fulfills a recent dream by finally mounting the Nashville premiere of Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which was previewed during the Shades of Black Theatre Festival in September. Two brothers—symbolically named Lincoln and Booth—struggle to survive after their parents abandon them. Making their way out of poverty, the brothers choose different paths yet compete with each other, vying for control in their chaotic world. Whitsell co-stars with Rashad Rayford. John B. Wiggins directs. 7:30 p.m. Friday, 3:30 & 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Darkhorse Theater —MARTIN BRADY

SUNDAY 11/25MusicMELT-BANANA Now going on their 15th year, Tokyo’s underground luminaries Melt-Banana can still summon monumental chaos and groove within the space of 20 seconds or less. But over the years, they’ve gotten ever more powerful by expanding their attack into longer songs and realms of melody and texture that might once have seemed unattainable to them. Melt-Banana could have deteriorated into a dead-end novelty act long ago but, even this late in the game, they continue to grow more seasoned without losing a shred of the blinding, spastic energy that made them legends. And the band’s untouchable live show simply dazzles. The combined charisma of all four members makes them a marvel to watch as they continue to draw on familiar hallmarks of punk, hardcore, grindcore, noise, art-rock and no wave, yet still manage to sound as if there’s no precedent for what they’re doing. Not to be missed. 9 p.m. at The End —SABY REYES-KULKARNI

Cool! Crazy!WEST SIDE STORY Hey kids—it’s the High School Musical of 1961! Only the extracurricular activities here include knife fights and gang rumbles. There’s a place for star-crossed Tony (Richard Beymer) and Maria (Natalie Wood), but no place safe as directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins update Romeo and Juliet to gang-torn 1960s New York, grounding Robbins’ eruptive choreography in realistic street scenes and location shooting. The marvelous Stephen Sondheim-Leonard Bernstein score (including “Maria,” “Somewhere” and the still-biting showstopper “America”) has lost none of its luster or urban-symphony sweep, and the tensions between the Anglo Jets and Latino Sharks seem just as pertinent, alas. If you haven’t seen it on the big screen, you haven’t seen it—and make sure you stay for Saul Bass’ ingenious closing credits. It’s the feature this week in the Belcourt’s “Family Weekend Classics” series, recommended for ages 7 and up. Noon Nov. 24-25 at Belcourt Theatre —JIM RIDLEY

MusicCHEAP TIME When you think of Nashville punk rock, you typically draw a blank, and those who don’t probably still haven’t heard of local three-chord enthusiasts Cheap Time. Stocked with former members of house-show faves Eaglebreeze, Party Cannon and The Rat Traps, Cheap Time combine Memphis garage punk with the quirky power pop of Sparks, which, despite all the progress we’ve made, still sounds alien to Music City ears. Fortunately, the band isn’t wasting any time trying to win over Nashville audiences before taking on the rest of the country. They kick off a national tour at the beginning of next month with fellow punk ’n’ rollers The Wax Museums, but tonight they open for Japanese avant-garde all-stars Melt-Banana, alongside Chris Crofton and his local comedy/rock combo, The Alcohol Stuntband. 9 p.m. at The End —SETH GRAVES

MONDAY 11/26

MusicBEN CYLLUS The influences cited on his MySpace page (among them Gram Parsons and The Shins) speak volumes about Ben Cyllus. Roughly half of the tracks off his 2005 Cinnamon Matinee (i.e., “Barmaid Beauty Queen,” “Arkadelphia”) would fit right in at the Americana Music Festival, while others (“Traffic,” “Unpredictable You”) sound like they could be wafting off a Pitchfork side stage. That’s not a dig—heck, the same thing could be said about Wilco, not to mention that Cyllus’ strong songwriting and way with a hook (thanks in part to writing partner John Howard) keep the album from sounding too hodgepodge. His voice is pliable, from the gruff earthiness of “Travel Light,” to the dramatic Jeff Buckley-ish falsetto on “Meanwhile the Moon.” By day an optician at Image Optical, Cyllus moved to Nashville from Detroit in June, and his Motor City bandmates are heading to town for this engagement. Cyllus will play a 45-minute BMI showcase at 8:30 p.m. to kick off Monday’s 8 off 8th show at Mercy Lounge. —JACK SILVERMAN

Players’ BallINAUGURAL MUSICIANS HALL OF FAME AWARDS SHOW Even if you don’t know the names, the licks are immortal: the skittering guitar solo that climaxes “Jailhouse Rock,” the soaring piano intro to “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the pulse-of-the-city beat that ushers in the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.” And their credits write the history of post-war pop and country: Blonde on Blonde to Pet Sounds, “Inner City Blues” to “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “I Fall to Pieces” to “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Vince Gill, Peter Frampton, B.J. Thomas, original Chicago drummer Danny Seraphine and The Office regular Creed Bratton may be the featured guests at the Musicians Hall of Fame’s first induction ceremony, but it’s the inductees who deserve the spotlight. Among the certified legends accepting honors: the cream of the Nashville A-Team, including Harold Bradley, Ray Edenton, Jerry Kennedy, Charlie McCoy, Bob Moore and Hargus “Pig” Robbins; an entire contingent from Los Angeles’ renowned Wrecking Crew, including guitar monster James Burton, keyboardist Larry Knechtel and drummer’s drummer Hal Blaine; stalwarts from Motown’s Funk Brothers, featuring Nashvillian Bob Babbitt; Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana from Elvis Presley’s Blue Moon Boys; Marshall Grant and Bob Wooten from Johnny Cash’s Tennessee Two; and members of the Memphis Boys, including Bobby Emmons and Reggie Young. Their faces belong on Mount Rushmore, but this is a start. Tickets start at $50. 7:30 p.m. at Schermerhorn Symphony Center —JIM RIDLEY

TUESDAY 11/27

MusicBLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA The irony was not lost when Stevie Wonder recently presented this gospel vocal group with a lifetime achievement honor at gospel music’s pointedly named Vision Awards—and then joined in for a blazing funk workout on Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” which the Blind Boys recently covered. Still led by tenor Jimmy Carter and, when his diabetes isn’t acting up, baritone Clarence Fountain—two of the founders in 1939—these septuagenarians bring new layers of meaning to Wonder’s line, “I’m going to keep on trying / ’Til I reach a higher ground.” They’ve been reaching for, and leading others to, that higher place for seven decades now, and even at their advanced ages, their glorious voices still get crowds on their feet shouting hallelujah. Besides Wonder, in the last few months the Blind Boys have been onstage with B.B. King, George Thorogood and The String Cheese Incident, and they reach across another genre when they perform as guests of the Grand Ole Opry. 7 p.m. at the Ryman Auditorium —MICHAEL McCALL

TheaterWHITE CHRISTMAS Once again this World War II-themed holiday classic rears its ubiquitous head. The stage version of Michael Curtiz’ delightfully sappy 1954 film musical (starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and the vastly underrated Vera-Ellen) is all about the wonderful Irving Berlin songs—“Count Your Blessings” (sincerely moving), “Sisters” (to die for), the well-worn title tune (what the heck, one more time). The plot concerns the fate of old soldiers put out to pasture, with a mix of sentiment and swagger that might equally please Ken Burns and George Bush. (“We’ll follow the old man, wherever he wants to go….”) Jeff Calhoun (Disney’s High School Musical) directs a cast featuring players with top-flight Broadway credits, including Tom Galantich, Marla Schaffel, David Engel and Kristen Beth Williams. The reworked book is by noted comic playwright David Ives with Paul Blake, and choreography is by Noah Racey, a devotee of the Fred Astaire style. Nov. 27-Dec. 2 at TPAC —MARTIN BRADY

MusicSNMNMNM If the geeks inherit the earth, SNMNMNM could be the house band. They’re Buddy Holly’s bespectacled relatives, purveying pop infused with enough innocence and sweetness to make it a felony taking them across state lines. Their quirky charm and playful exuberance fuel tunes that combine the directness of Jonathan Richman with the friendly bounce of They Might Be Giants. The Chapel Hill quartet is supporting their third release, Crawl Inside Your Head, which balances the rock of their 2003 debut, Power Pack Horse Crunch, and the pop of 2005’s As Best We Can. At first blush, their punchy bounce seems straightforward enough, but listen closer—that’s no bass, but rather Mark Dauman on the amplified tuba, while the Kenney brothers, singer/guitarist Seamus and lead guitarist Matthew, switch up the accompaniment with trombone, trumpet or accordion. It’s catchy, winning power-pop that thrives thanks to its lighthearted sensibility. 9 p.m. at The End —CHRIS PARKER

Why, Martha!EDWARD ALBEE Three Pulitzers and three Tony Awards only tell part of the story: Albee is a theatrical and literary legend, the point man for the American absurdist movement and, by virtue of stage and screen presentations of his powerful, well-crafted works, a show-biz icon. The master playwright turns 80 on March 12, 2008, so to have him in Music City as a part of Vanderbilt’s 2007-2008 Chancellor’s Lecture Series is a major event. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? probably remains Albee’s most enduring work—and most easily recognizable to the masses—but he’s penned some 30 others, and age has not deterred him one whit, nor affected his vision. The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? won him a Tony as recently as 2000, and will be mounted early in the new year by Tennessee Repertory Theatre. In 2005, Albee published Stretching My Mind, a collection of writings on theater, literature, the visual arts and the politics and culture that have defined our times. He’ll deliver an address entitled “The State of Theater and the Arts in America.” A complimentary reception opens festivities at 5 p.m. The event is free and reservations are not required, but seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. 6 p.m. at Ingram Hall —MARTIN BRADY

MusicROMAN CANDLE With their percolating melodies bursting like fireworks and raining down, Roman Candle capture a feeling of stomach-churning, heart-in-the-throat abandon and aching, just-out-of-reach longing. Skip Matheny’s honeyed croon shimmies bittersweet before a power-pop backdrop of swelling organ, glimmering guitar chime, and lilting, mid-tempo sway. The Chapel Hill quintet’s terrific 2006 V2 debut, The Wee Hours Revue, was recorded with Chris Stamey and languished for two years on Hollywood Records’ shelves before V2 came to the rescue. In the intervening time, they began work on a follow-up, Oh Tall Tree in the Ear, expected out early next year. The crisp, assured preview tracks posted on MySpace suggest an early challenger for next year’s best release. 7 p.m. at the Basement —CHRIS PARKER

WEDNESDAY 11/28

MusicSICK CITY No need to worry about emo, because it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon—even if it does seem the army of sad boys with record contracts and guitars has lessened in number in the last few years. This five-man Canadian band fits quite nicely in the Fall Out Boy blueprint, with choruses dipped in neon and guitars that go whomp and crunch when necessary. “Killing Ourselves to Feel,” which is about as emo a title as you can get, is one of the songs on the band’s debut, the just-released Nightlife. It’s quite catchy, as is most of the record. Keep the hooks coming and Sick City can stay as blue as they want. 8 p.m. at The Muse —WERNER TRIESCHMANN

Sprung LeakVALERIE PLAME WILSON The whole sorry story started with craven Bush administration lies. Former ambassador Joseph Wilson wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times accusing the Bushies of fabricating evidence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and in retaliation a whole crew of miscreants—including Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Richard Armitage and Scooter Libby—conspired to leak the true identity of Wilson’s wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, to the media. The outing of an undercover spy is a federal crime, and the subsequent investigation sent Times journalist Judith Miller to jail for contempt of court (she refused to divulge her Bush administration sources) and earned Scooter Libby a perjury conviction (though naturally, thanks to the president’s intervention, he served no jail time). Valerie Plame Wilson discusses the sordid details. 7 p.m. in the ballroom of the Vanderbilt Student Life Center; Tickets are $10 and available at Ticketmaster —MARGARET RENKL

MusicNICKEL CREEK This groundbreaking trio’s blend of explosive improvising and accomplished pop craft has altered the creative and commercial possibilities of progressive acoustic music over the last decade. They’ve been playing together for 18 years, even though the oldest member, guitarist Sean Watkins, just turned 30, and his sister, fiddler Sara Watkins, and mandolinist Chris Thile are 26. A decade after turning heads with their debut Sugar Hill Records album, they’re going separate ways, at least for a spell, with a two-night stand at the Ryman Auditorium, home of several of their most unforgettable concerts. More than likely, they’ll invite a few famous friends to join in, and, just as likely, those guests will marvel at the technique and endlessly unpredictable ideas of these first-rate players. As with all good bands, something happens between these players (including longtime bassist Mark Schatz) that doesn’t happen with anyone else. There’s decades of music ahead for all of them, but these shows end an amazing era for them, whether they reunite in the future or not. 7:30 p.m. at Ryman Auditorium —MICHAEL MCCALL

MusicDARIEN BROCKINGTON, the hype man and hook guy on North Carolina rap-duo Little Brother’s current Get Back CD, has been the crew’s go-to singer since their posse met as students at North Carolina Central University in the late ’90s, appearing on all the crew’s major releases and mixtapes. He’s got a croon on this year’s “Two Step Blues” reminiscent of Marvin Gaye, but he’s been alternately compared to neo-soulers like Bilal and Carl Thomas. On another new single, “Good Clothes,” you can hear him comically yet soulfully suggesting to a plus-sized woman in a club who’s wearing low-rider jeans with much, much more than a muffin top spilling out that she’d “better go to Lane Bryant.” There’s even more to love on “D-Brock’s” solo LP Somebody to Love, released late last year. Appearing with Little Brother. 9 p.m. at Mercy Lounge —MAKKADA B. SELAH

BooksSTEVEN WOMACK’s series of suspense novels featuring private investigator Harry James Denton placed Nashville on the thriller map. Dead Folks’ Blues won the Edgar Allan Poe award for the best original paperback novel, and Murder Manual won the Shamus Award. His most recent, By Blood Written, took readers inside the mind of a serial killer. Besides writing novels, Womack teaches screenwriting at Watkins Film School. He has co-written two screenplays: Proudheart and Volcano: Fire on the Mountain. A gifted and generous teacher, Steven Womack has long shared his experience and talent with novice writers at conferences and workshops both locally and nationally, as on this night of writerly discussion. 7 p.m. at the Brentwood Barnes & Noble Writers’ Night —FAYE JONES

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