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There are few things more annoying than when a publication like Rolling Stone decides to dub a band “maybe the best unsigned band in America.”
There are few things more annoying than when a publication like Rolling Stone decides to dub a band “maybe the best unsigned band in America.” For most music fans, proclamations like that inspire skepticism, not excitement. But perhaps even RS can’t be wrong every time. The Whigs—one of the magazine’s 10 “Artists to Watch in 2006”—play hooky garage rock that is unpretentious, not overthought and never overwrought. Recorded in an old mansion across the street from the 40 Watt in their hometown of Athens, Ga., their self-released debut Give ’Em All a Big Fat Lip is filled with grungy guitars, bright melodies and youthful longing (with lines like “The scratch on my back means you know where I am,” delivered in singer Parker Gispert’s raw, expressive voice). It’s that undercurrent of exuberance and angst that really makes these songs glow from the inside, and it’s exciting and even rejuvenating to hear a band sound so thoroughly organic, so casually rock ’n’ roll. (www.thewhigs.com ) The Basement —LEE STABERT MUSIC THURSDAY, 27TH UMBRELLA TREE If you’re going to be weird, then it helps to be good. If you’re going to wail and flail, forcing people to either come with you or sit there gawking, then you need to hit all the notes and include moments of exquisite beauty. Local rock trio Umbrella Tree manage all those things. Artsy, quirky, dramatic—maybe even a little spastic—this band’s dynamic balance and emotional intensity remain relatable. Both guitarist Zachary Gresham and keyboardist Jillian Franklin (who pass singing duties back and forth) have expressive, musical voices that prevent their sound from ever veering toward farce. Their songs are atmospheric collections of bizarre images drawing on offbeat themes—Gresham’s “Bats in the Belfry” sounds a bit like your crazy old uncle playing an out-of-tune piano in the attic, but in a charming, gothic way. That’s the thing about this band: they’re idiosyncratic, at times dissonant and often strange, but never boring—especially onstage, where they perform with the reckless energy of a high-speed chase. ( www.myspace.com/umbrellatree ) CD release show at Mercy Lounge —LEE STABERT Larry Keel and Natural Bridge In the words of acoustic guitar virtuoso Norman Blake, flatpicking master Larry Keel is a “five-star maniac.” The Larry Keel Experience, an acoustic group with an affection for long solos, found acceptance with the jam-band crowd as well as folk and bluegrass fans, and have recorded songs as diverse as Duke Ellington’s “Caravan,” Bob Marley’s “Hammer” and the theme from Star Trek. Keel will be performing with his current band, Natural Bridge, who steer a more traditional bluegrass path with musical input from his wife Jenny on bass and Mark Schimick on mandolin and vocals. Station Inn —COLLIN WADE MONK JACE K. SEAVERS The local bassist and vocalist celebrates the release of his debut recording, Uncertain Adventures of Jace K. Seavers, a five-song EP that thrives on the varied, sympathetic accompaniment of multi-reed player Jim Hoke and Scene staffer Jack Silverman on guitar. All original, literate compositions, the tracks represent the core fabric of one of his live sets: a series of swinging bass pulses support cosmic verbal forays in the manner of a classic lounge singer. On the final track, Seavers’ hipster attitudinizing wraps itself around the cocky rejoinder, “There’s no need for God and Superman”; if Atlas were to shrug at this faith in humanity’s potential to move mountains, it would only be due to the singer’s nonchalance in delivering the message, as if a child of the Rat Pack told you it’s all a matter of trading in self-help for cool swagger. CD release show at Douglas Corner Café —BILL LEVINE Feable Weiner It’s not surprising that Feable Weiner, a band thus far focused mainly on adolescent themes, would mature on their second record. Their debut release, Dear Hot Chick, exemplified bouncy, juvenile pop, with songs like “Lameface” that taunted, “You said this song was lame and / I said so is your face.” But if Dear Hot Chick was, say, junior high school—lightning-bolt-covered Trapper Keeper in tow—then the follow-up 2FN HOT represents the transition into high school. Maybe there’s some facial hair now, the Trapper Keeper’s been replaced by a girlfriend, and their understanding of the opposite sex is, to say the least, more nuanced. Thursday night’s show at The End marks a few milestones for the band; it not only kicks off an industrious 31-shows-in-31-days tour, but also the release of a 20-track single that includes a few songs off the new Matt Mahaffey-produced record. What is surprising, though, is just how much this ’Boro band have progressed. They’re no longer just a funny pop-punk group with a clever turn of phrase; they’ve graduated to more complex arrangements without abandoning what made them exciting in the first place. Take the new track, “Dude, Your Girlfriend Sucks,” a riotous finger-pointer that recalls a ’50s rock medley, fusing hints of “Great Balls of Fire” with “Johnny B. Goode.” “Dude you’d better wise up,” the track warns, “because no girl has PMS for two weeks / or three weeks.” Spoken like a true freshman. The End —TRACY MOORE FRIDAY, 28TH Richard Buckner/Doug Gillard The Buckner/ Gillard tour is rolling its thunder into Nashville, even if not quite on par with the Dylan/Ronson electro-ramble of 1975. Buckner plows the same furrow as many other gruff-voiced modern-day troubadours, and reaps what you might expect from oft-tilled ground within well-tended fences. His songs are interesting but rarely stunning, and his voice exudes gravelly warmth without ever achieving intimacy. Ex-Guided by Voices guitarist Doug Gillard’s solo debut, Salamander, is proof that he had more to do with the latter-day sound of GBV, and certainly their flirt with mainstream acceptance, than he was given credit for while standing in the inebriated shadow of frontman Robert Pollard. Gillard wrote all the songs and played nearly all the instruments on Salamander; Superchunk’s Jon Wurster drums on three tracks. 3rd & Lindsley —COLLIN WADE MONK LONESOME RIVER BAND Closing in on their 25th anniversary, the LRB arrive in town with another new—and solid—lineup. Fifteen-year veteran Sammy Shelor (banjo) and five-year vet Jeff Parker (mandolin) have been joined by guitarist Shannon Slaughter and Barry Berrier on electric bass. The result is a negotiated balance between the group’s signature sound—”bluegrass with a rock ‘n’ roll attitude” is how Shelor describes it—and the particular strengths of the new members. Slaughter, most recently a member of Melonie Cannon’s group, is a better-than-journeyman player and singer who’s never wanted for a gig, but the exciting development here is the addition of Berrier, who possesses one of the great country-bluegrass voices. His solo debut of a few years back, First Time With Feeling, showed off a rich, resonant baritone that recalls Haggard and Frizzell without being derivative, and he’s only gotten better since. The Station Inn —JON WEISBERGER GRAND OLE OPRY feat. Connie Smith, Del McCoury and Lou Reid & Carolina It’s a typically strong and varied spring lineup at the Opry this Friday, with the luminous Connie Smith among the brightest of the veteran stars. With any luck, Del McCoury will preview a number or two from his upcoming all-gospel album; surprisingly enough, it’s the first of his career. But the real item of interest here is the long overdue Opry debut of Lou Reid & Carolina, whose meditative “Time” (the title track of the group’s latest CD) is currently at No. 1 on Bluegrass Unlimited’s airplay chart. One of the original members of the groundbreaking and influential Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Reid also served with the Seldom Scene, and while he may have lost a note or two at the top of his soaring tenor range, it’s more than made up for by his increasingly insightful song selection and interpretive maturity. He’s no stranger to the Opry stage—he made many appearances there as a member of Ricky Skaggs’ band from 1982 to 1986—but it’s his first time as a bandleader, and he’s more than ready. Also on the bill: Terri Clark, John Conlee and Ricky Skaggs. Grand Ole Opry House —JON WEISBERGER SATURDAY, 29TH GRIMEY’S SPRING FLING FESTIVAL & BIG-ASS SALE Free music, sunshine (hopefully) and Yazoo beer—what’s not to like? Grimey’s is holding a “spring fling” festival on Saturday to clear out some inventory and show Nashville a good time. Headlining the bill is Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s, a band from Indianapolis that plays lilting, melodic indie rock and has the staff from Grimey’s and The Basement all excited. Also on the bill are local favorites The Privates, Forget Cassettes, Stone Jack Jones and many more. DJs will spin between sets. Why run the marathon when you can drink all day instead? ( www.grimeys.com ) The Basement parking lot —LEE STABERT THE BEES (U.S.) There’s already a U.K. outfit called the Bees, hence the burdening of Nashville’s own buzz band with that clunky geographical parenthetical. That’s a shame, because music this effortlessly airborne shouldn’t be weighed down by anything at all. The Bees’ upcoming High Society album imagines a chamber-pop 1960s in which bands didn’t smother their melodies with window dressing, leaving the focus on chiming acoustics and clear, clean vocals, a sound that’s more lovely than lush. Every ebullient Society song is essayed with a bare minimum of instrumentation, allowing an unobstructed view of its unforced beauty. The result is perhaps the year’s most compulsively listenable album to date, one whose charm never turns to smarm. Saturday’s show is a CD release party, and every lucky person in attendance will receive his or her very own copy of High Society. Mercy Lounge —CHRIS NEAL Van Hunt Hunt is one of the few contemporary R&B artists still clinging to neo-soul’s retro tenets, a creative choice that suggests he never tried to capitalize on the trend. On his latest record, On the Jungle Floor, Hunt’s antecedents are easily picked out; Curtis Mayfield here, Prince there, a little George Clinton there. Still, one can see a talented songwriter and producer beginning to emerge from the cacophony of classic-soul knock-offs, and Hunt seems to find his voice through mining the back catalog of legends. He toys with blending influences, like the smashing together of Sly Stone and Sade’s backup band Sweetback on “Priest or Police,” where Sly’s cracking warble and wah pedal guitar meet Sweetback’s electronic chill. He sweetens The Stooges’ “No Sense of Crime” with a funky bass line and a Prince-like synth riff. “The Thrill of This Love” perhaps suggests Hunt’s future direction; an exuberant pop love song, it sounds fresh even with all the aforementioned influences lurking below the surface. On the Jungle Floor is proof there’s always hope for the derivative, as long as they’ve got strong talent of their own. ( www.vanhunt.com ) Hunt opens for Anthony Hamilton at the Ryman, then plays 11 p.m. at 3rd & Lindsley —MARK MAYS Anthony Hamilton After kicking around the music scene for 10 years, Hamilton finally released Coming From Where I’m From in 2003, riding the neo-soul bandwagon to quick celebrity. It might be sacrilegious to compare Hamilton’s gruff baritone to Lou Rawls rather than recent neo-soul icons, but that comparison illustrates what sets Hamilton apart from other contemporary R&B singers. Like Rawls, Hamilton inhabits the guise of the older, bent-but-not-bowed everyman in his songs. Yes, he’s as obsessed with love and sex as every other cat, and is taken aback when he reads the latest headlines. Yet there’s an ache, a weariness that is apparent in Hamilton’s phrasing and singing—you know his head and heart are as heavy with the latest failed relationship as they are with overdue bills and an ornery boss. Hamilton’s songs are mechanically retro, which fits the image his record company is selling; even his reggae cut has a throwback feel. But there’s really no other subgenre of soul music that fits his style. Hamilton boasted that many babies were conceived to his first LP; that’s highly likely. ( www.anthonyhamilton.com ) Ryman Auditorium —MARK MAYS Heather Headley It’s unusual, though not surprising, that Broadway would honor a singer with Headley’s booming gospel voice. It’s also unusual, though not surprising, that Headley could find success in the pop vocal arena as well, with her Grammy-nominated debut This is Who I Am. Her stage training gives her the ability to tweak each phrase with subtle emotional weight, without having to rely on octave jumps or screaming like some of her peers. The soul charts haven’t been visited by many singers of Headley’s unique talents lately; still, much of her material is fairly ordinary. Her new record In My Mind contains some exceptions, like the doo-wop number “Back When It Was,” or the two dancehall tracks the Trinidadian cut with Shaggy and Vybz Kartel. A reggae/dancehall record with a singer of Headley’s caliber would be unusual and surprising—and welcome. ( www.heatherheadley.com ) Opening for Anthony Hamilton at Ryman Auditorium —MARK MAYS SUNDAY, 30TH SHAWN MULLINS The Atlanta troubadour’s first round as a member of successful songwriter trio The Thorns seems to have provided secondary benefits. His wordy songs have more melody and focus, and while he still over-romanticizes the rambling outsider life, his tunes now resonate with sharper opinion, detail and insight. His latest, 9th Ward Pickin’ Parlor, was recorded pre-Katrina in one of New Orleans’ hardest-hit neighborhoods, and ace Nashville engineer Gary Paczosa and the Crescent City flavor bring added variety and depth to Mullins’ arrangements. Songs like “Beautiful Wreck,” co-written with his Thorns partners Matthew Sweet and Pete Droge, are among the best he’s recorded. Mullins has always known how to relate to a club crowd, and the once frequent visitor hasn’t been in town in a while. 3rd & Lindsley —MICHAEL McCALL TUESDAY, 2ND

TONY BENNETT The master jazz vocalist turns 80 in August, and his once flawless voice is now raspy where it was rangy. But his phrasing remains sublimely expressive, and his interpretive ability with the great American songbook is unparalleled in its emotional nuance. His late-career renaissance seems to have gone on forever, but it won’t. He’s among the last of a great generation who taught the world how to sing with grace and style. Bennett and his outstanding combo love playing this historic landmark, and its warm tones return the favor. Ryman Auditorium —MICHAEL McCALL


THEATER GRIMM SHORTS Jeremy Childs might be Nashville’s most prolific playwright. In the past five years, he’s penned Vampire Monologues, Palisades and Zombies Can’t Climb, each of which has supplied a forum for the versatile actor/director/writer’s satiric and subversive slants on America and its pop culture. This new work mines the tacky world of self-help seminars; the Brothers Grimm somehow factor into the characters’ desire to seek their inner children, with Childs’ penchant for chaos and loopy humor driving the show. The cast features the playwright’s brother Josh Childs, Karen Garcia and, in a rare onstage appearance, Actors Bridge Ensemble director/designer Don Griffiths. Grimm Shorts opens at Bongo After Hours Theatre on April 28 and plays through May 12. For tickets, phone 385-1188. —MARTIN BRADY COMEDY Gallagher One of the first stars to emerge from cable TV during its explosive growth in the 1980s, Gallagher is most famous for smashing watermelons with sledgehammers, but his routine goes far beyond. Besides, what’s more American than fruit and tools? Though Gallagher is provincial, he’s more universal than Jeff Foxworthy; though he’s political, he’s more populist than Al Franken; and though he’s broad, he’s far more cerebral than Larry the Cable Guy. In other words, Gallagher is a solid middle-brow entertainment value—high praise in a year when Robin Williams is asking us fork over $8 to sit through the crapfest that RV looks to be. And how often can an audience member wear a raincoat indoors without being labeled a pervert? Gallagher performs at Zanies through April 30. (Check out an interview with the comedian at www.smallworldpodcast.com/mp3/smallworld120205.mp3 ) —COLLIN WADE MONK ART Tracy Ginsberg/Roddy Capers The latest show at American Artisan’s Upstairs at the Artisan gallery features works by painter Tracy Ginsberg and glass sculptor Roddy Capers. Ginsberg incorporates mythology, politics, pop culture and feminism in an attempt to prod viewers “to reflect on seemingly incongruous forces in their own lives.” Her works feature a variety of media and textures and combine representational and abstract images and patterns. Capers has been busy rebuilding his parents’ New Orleans home, damaged by Katrina. His latest works reflect the chaotic energy of last year’s Gulf Coast hurricanes, while incorporating the colors of Mardi Gras—purple, yellow and green—in an attempt to reclaim the spirit of the area. The show opens with a reception, 5-8 p.m. Friday, April 28, and runs through May 27. —JACK SILVERMAN BOOKS RHYS BOWEN At the beginning of Oh Danny Boy, the fifth novel in Rhys Bowen’s award-winning Molly Murphy series, Molly is thinking she needs a change. Her fledgling career as a private investigator is less lucrative and more dangerous than she expected. Her lover, NYPD captain Daniel Sullivan, has proved to be deceptive, and she resolves not to have anything more to do with him—that is, until he’s falsely accused of taking bribes and needs her help. Molly is determined to save him, a course made more dangerous by the fact that one of his current cases is the East Side Ripper, a brutal serial killer. Bowen skillfully depicts life for an Irish immigrant in New York at the beginning of the 20th century; if the final revelations are a little hard to believe, it’s still worthwhile to spend a couple of hours in Molly Murphy’s world. Bowen reads at Davis-Kidd Booksellers at 6 p.m. April 27. —FAYE JONES FILM UNITED 93 Better than anyone could have dared hope, given the problems of representing real-life events as well as commemorating history, Paul Greengrass’ terrifying docudrama re-creates the events leading up to the passenger revolt aboard United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, an act of self-sacrifice that thwarted a terrorist attack on the White House. Wisely cast with unfamiliar faces—including many 9/11 principals as themselves, which gives the behind-the-scenes build-up the intensity of psychodrama—the movie avoids exploitation, using its conjecture about what happened on the doomed flight without speechifying or maudlin voyeurism. Even so, its portrait of the stunned inaction on the ground and the bloody uprising in the sky will rekindle many debates—along with all the anger, anguish and bloodlust we felt on that day. Not to be missed, the film opens Friday; see the review on p. 75. —JIM RIDLEY TSOTSI This year’s Oscar winner for best foreign film, Gavin Hood’s drama follows a teenage South African hood (Presley Chweneyagae) whose conscience is awakened by the baby of the wealthy woman he shot and robbed. Recommended to fans of City of God and adapted from an Athol Fugard novel, the film opens Friday at the Belcourt; see the full review online at www.nashvillescene.com. —JIM RIDLEY AKEELAH AND THE BEE In Doug Atchison’s winning family drama, an 11-year-old schoolgirl (Keke Palmer) ignites the hopes of her South Central Los Angeles neighborhood when she becomes a spelling-bee contestant. Featuring a benign reunion for Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne (who produced), last seen as Ike and Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It, the Starbucks-promoted movie starts Friday at Green Hills; see the full review online at www.nashvillescene.com. —JIM RIDLEY SOPHIE SCHOLL—THE FINAL DAYS This poignant and haunting film recounts the days between the arrest and execution Sophie Scholl, a key member of the German Student Resistance Movement, also known as the White Rose, in 1943 Munich. Using newly declassified transcripts, the film captures the stunning stoicism, intelligence and resolve of the young Scholl (Julia Jentsch), particularly in the intense exchanges with her Gestapo interrogator, Robert Mohr (Alexander Held). The film, nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category, received several accolades at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival, including Best Actress for Jentsch and the coveted Audience Award. Joel Dark, head of Tennessee State University’s Department of History, Geography and Political Science, will introduce the film, 7 p.m. Friday, April 28, the start of a weeklong run at the Belcourt. —MICHELLE JONES KILLER DILLER A hell-raising car thief (William Lee Scott) brings the boogie to a Christian halfway house’s rickety gospel band in this amusing tall tale adapted from Clyde Edgerton’s novel. Co-starring Lucas Black, Fred Willard and W. Earl Brown, the movie opens Friday at Green Hills. —JIM RIDLEY


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