Our Critics Picks 

Asleep at the Wheel, Saturday 14th

Don’t call Asleep at the Wheel revivalists. Now in their fourth decade, the Austin band have long earned their position as the premier Western swing outfit in America.
Don’t call Asleep at the Wheel revivalists. Now in their fourth decade, the Austin band have long earned their position as the premier Western swing outfit in America. The Wheel are more than that, too, as they shift easily from boogie to honky-tonk to barroom balladry, all dusted with a breezy, offhand lightness and instrumental expertise. With founder singer-guitarist Ray Benson still steering, the current Wheel lineup includes longtime members Jason Roberts on fiddle, David Miller on bass and David Sanger on drums, as well as recently added vocalist Elizabeth McQueen. They’ve been performing a musical, Ride with Bob—based on the life and music of Bob Wills—for the last two years, including a staging last week in Washington, D.C. But they’ll draw on their own repertoire when crowding onto a local stage. ( www.asleepatthewheel.com ) 3rd & Lindsley —MICHAEL MCCALL MUSIC THURSDAY, 12TH THE FRAY W/AQUALUNG The Fray have hit it big with folks who play the radio at work in the hopes of passing the time before happy hour more quickly—not a good sign. Yet like the best stuff by Counting Crows, the Denver band’s namby-pamby pop-rock often redeems its adult-contemporary context; “Over My Head (Cable Car)” and “How to Save a Life,” their two big radio singles, convincingly reflect the small-time tension of a regular dude’s crises of confidence. Aqualung is Englishman Matt Hales, who dreams of an alternate universe in which Jeff Buckley had fronted The Bends-era Radiohead. With Katie Herzig. ( www.thefray.net ; www.aqualung.net ) Ryman Auditorium —MIKAEL WOOD HOWARD TATE In an era when veteran soul singers reinvent themselves with the aid of young producers, Howard Tate’s comeback is perhaps the most heartening of them all. Now 67, the Georgia-born and Philadelphia-bred Tate has long enjoyed an exalted reputation among aficionados for his Verve sides, made between 1966 and 1968. On those recordings, Tate’s surgically applied falsetto and canny phrasing complemented producer Jerry Ragovoy’s songwriting and arranging. Tate quit performing in the mid-’70s but was found, alive and well, by a New Jersey disc jockey in 2001. His new A Portrait of Howard pairs him with producer Steve Weisberg, who will accompany Tate on piano for this date. The great falsetto is intact, and A Portrait finds Tate intelligently covering Randy Newman and Lou Reed. This appearance marks Tate’s first Nashville appearance in decades; don’t miss it. ( www.howardtate.net/index.html ) 6 p.m. at Grimey’s —EDD HURT HOWARD TATE In an era when veteran soul singers reinvent themselves with the aid of young producers, Howard Tate’s comeback is perhaps the most heartening of them all. Now 67, the Georgia-born and Philadelphia-bred Tate has long enjoyed an exalted reputation among aficionados for his Verve sides, made between 1966 and 1968. On those recordings, Tate’s surgically applied falsetto and canny phrasing complemented producer Jerry Ragovoy’s songwriting and arranging. Tate quit performing in the mid-’70s but was found, alive and well, by a New Jersey disc jockey in 2001. His new A Portrait of Howard pairs him with producer Steve Weisberg, who will accompany Tate on piano for this date. The great falsetto is intact, and A Portrait finds Tate intelligently covering Randy Newman and Lou Reed. This appearance marks Tate’s first Nashville appearance in decades; don’t miss it. ( www.howardtate.net/index.html ) 6 p.m. at Grimey’s —EDD HURT FIVE FOR FIGHTING Songs that populate woeful prime-time dramas have become a genre unto themselves—call it TV rock—and there’s a song for every degree of melodrama and schmaltz bad dialogue can’t convey on its own. Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik has become something of a Slim Whitman of the genre. The band’s first record, Message for Albert, was a Billy Joel-inspired take on Ben Folds’ piano-driven pop-punk, with a dollop of leftover grunge angst mixed in, and Ondrasik’s lyrics displayed an interesting ambivalence toward modern-day America. Then came “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” the ubiquitous ex post facto tribute to the heroes of 9/11 (and of course Smallville). It seems the public outpouring over the song led Ondrasik to believe that he’d finally found his voice—a tinny, warbling falsetto that is deadlier than gold kryptonite—and now insists on singing every song in it. Mercy Lounge —MARK MAYS THURSDAY, 12TH-SATURDAY, 14TH MADISON BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL If Madison seems like an unlikely home for a new bluegrass festival, the idea makes a certain amount of sense—the near north suburb served in the past as home to legends like Earl Scruggs and the late Josh Graves, while today it can claim artists like award-winning bluegrass singer/songwriter Ronnie Bowman as its own. In fact, the three-day affair kicks off with Bowman’s former group, the Lonesome River Band, whose new lineup offers an unusually muscular take on the quintet’s signature repertoire. On Friday night, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver—the music’s premiere vocal ensemble—stop by, while Saturday is headlined by the Country Gentlemen (led by founding vocalist Charlie Waller’s son, Randy) and the durable IIIrd Tyme Out, featuring the supple-as-ever lead vocals of Russell Moore. So while it’s not the most pastoral of settings, “behind the Madison Square Mall” is sure to be Bluegrass Central in Nashville this weekend. 301 Madison St. —JON WEISBERGER FRIDAY, 13TH BECK On last year’s Guero, Beck proved that making the bummed-out space-blues of Mutations and Sea Change hadn’t dimmed his ability to churn out the sort of scrappy folk-hop that endeared “Loser” to a nation of nascent slackers back in the post-Nevermind days of 1994. The Information, Beck’s quick Guero follow-up, proves the same thing: it’s full of funky-fresh hip-hop tunes whose high-gloss production effects (courtesy of Beck’s longtime collaborator Nigel Godrich) don’t conceal the fact that many of the songs sound like they were written mere minutes before they were recorded. A Beck show is nearly always defined by the unexpected, but tonight expect one thing: puppets. With Spank Rock. ( www.beck.com ) City Hall —MIKAEL WOOD ALIAS Classical music programming may well be hopelessly hidebound, but you wouldn’t know it looking at Alias’ 2006-07 season. Nashville’s adventurous chamber ensemble is devoting its season to presenting music by living American composers. Its series, called “Double Take,” is being held in conjunction with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra’s American Encores initiative, which is presenting second performances of previously commissioned music. “We’re going to play music by four of the composers featured on the symphony series,” says Zeneba Bowers, Alias’ artistic director and violinist. On the program Friday is music by Stephen Paulus, a prolific American composer who has created an extensive catalogue of operas, symphonies, songs and chamber works. Alias will perform Paulus’ Air on Seurat for cello and piano, a work of prismatic beauty inspired by Ira Sadoff’s poem “Seurat: A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Le Grand Jatte.” Turner Concert Hall, Blair School of Music —JOHN PITCHER ROYAL COURT OF CHINA “It’s all changed,” Royal Court of China singer Joe Blanton once sneered in one of the band’s best-loved songs. But that’s a lie: 20 years on, Royal Court remain a highlight of ’80s Nashville rock. Offering the old scene’s most unfettered pop-metal stomp, the quartet blended heavy chords, hummable melodies and memorable tunes that that would’ve fit nicely alongside Guns N’ Roses. Blanton brought Southern heat and Nashville craft to the aggressive sound, while guitarist Oscar Rice Jr. had a Zeppelin-like ability to blend slashing chords and dreamscape acoustic picking. The rhythm section of bassist Robert Logue and drummer Chris Mekow also shifted capably from pounding to psychedelic, and during their A&M days the band worked with Motorhead’s producer and with video director Sam Raimi, who went on to high-profile Hollywood success. The original quartet reunites for a 20th anniversary concert that will show why they’re held in such high esteem. Another leading ’80s survivor, Tommy Womack, opens. ( www.myspace.com/royalcourtofchina ) Exit/In —MICHAEL MCCALL SATURDAY, 14TH JOHN DAVIS Superdrag fans will always find their way to a John Davis show, if for no other reason than the possibility of hearing one of his former band’s Beatles-driven pop confections with a jagged edge. But in some ways, Davis’ post-Superdrag, faith-inspired solo work is merely the difference between a bender and a moment of clarity. Musically, these could be Superdrag songs: the material on his eponymous solo debut mined the same fuzzy guitar-pop, but left the buried vocals and infatuated urgency behind. Davis is just back from L.A., where he recorded again with Superdrag producer and former Knoxvillian Nick Raskulinecz, who won a Grammy for his work with the Foo Fighters and put the fat sheen on the band’s In the Valley of the Dying Stars. This show is a chance to catch Davis in a setting he’ll easily rule—expect the new stuff to be a little louder. ( www.myspace.com/johndavis ) The Basement —TRACY MOORE ADRIENNE YOUNG & LITTLE SADIE Plenty of artists have made use of agrarian imagery in their songwriting (think Guy Clark’s “Homegrown Tomatoes” or Robert Earl Keen’s “Farm Fresh Onions”), but few have obsessed over the fruits of the earth as much as Adrienne Young. The Nashville singer-songwriter has a way of organically merging artistry and activism without either suffering. She plays sparkling old-time folk music, her clear soprano and clawhammer banjo playing augmented by Little Sadie, a solid four-piece backing band. Young is innovative in her plugs for local agriculture. Each copy of her 2004 debut, Plow to the End of the Row, came with a seed packet (a booklet of Ben Franklin’s thirteen virtues—ideological seeds—accompanied last year’s well-received follow-up, the Art of Virtue), and it’s not uncommon to see produce grown by local farmers displayed alongside her own wares in the merch booth. This show is no exception—Young is calling it “Good Food For Good People,” and starting off the evening with a cornucopia of locally grown fruits and vegetables. Exit/In —JEWLY HIGHT AMOS LEE If you’re a sensitive singer-songwriter with a penchant for exhaling poignant narratives over arrangements that suggest a milder, earthier Bill Withers, you’re in luck, because we’ve entered the new era of the acoustic folk-soul artist. Amos Lee, Ray LaMontagne and others are releasing records that have one foot planted in an earlier decade (circa 1971) and one in the present, and people—especially AAA types—are listening. Lee has just released his second Blue Note offering, Supply and Demand. Not much has changed from his self-titled 2005 debut, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Supply’s 11 songs maintain a subtle, easy flow, and Lee’s soothing tenor carries cozy tunes like “Sympathize,” his pleasing, natural melodies wrapped in spare acoustic arrangements. Last year saw the Philadelphia native filling the opening slot on tours with Bob Dylan and Norah Jones. This time Lee is the main event. Cannery Ballroom —JEWLY HIGHT NASHVILLE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA Give the Nashville Chamber Orchestra credit for trying to make the usually ossified classical music subscription program seem, well, juicier. Its concert this weekend will include a welcome mix of new music and old classics, all bound together using the latest multimedia techniques. Don Hart’s Concertino for Two Mandolins and Guitar, which the NCO commissioned in 2004, will be performed to a choreographed sequence of photos projected on three large screens (the theme of the photos will honor Nashville as a great place to live, work and raise a family). There will be a similar “photochoreographic” performance of Haydn’s Symphony No. 7, along with, we imagine, a good, old-fashioned and heroic rendition of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. —JOHN PITCHER SUNDAY, 15TH PETE CHRISTLIEB WITH THE LORI MECHEM QUARTET Even if you don’t know Pete Christlieb by name, chances are you’ve heard his playing. Besides being a 20-year veteran of the Tonight Show band, the tenor saxophonist lent his skills to many a prime-time TV show, including the original Star Trek series and nearly every one of its spinoffs. He played on Natalie Cole’s Unforgettable and has been a member of several high-profile bands, including Woody Herman’s and Louis Bellson’s. Last April, Christlieb came to Nashville and recorded a live date at the Nashville Jazz Workshop’s Jazz Cave with the Lori Mechem Quartet, featuring Mechem on piano, guitarist Andy Reiss, bassist Roger Spencer and drummer Chris Brown. (Mechem and Spencer run the Jazz Workshop.) The CD features some top-notch playing on standards by the likes of Bill Evans, Benny Carter, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, but it wisely avoids well-worn chestnuts. The lineup reconvenes this week to play a live afternoon set celebrating the album’s release. Nashville Jazz Workshop’s Jazz Cave, 4-6 p.m. —JACK SILVERMAN GIN BLOSSOMS W/ JOSH KELLEY Their last album of new material came out in 1996, but the Gin Blossoms sound like they never went anywhere on Major Lodge Victory, the first studio fruit of the Arizona power-pop act’s low-profile 2002 reunion. Is this a good thing? Sure: this country’s rock clubs can always do with more of the jangly little gems the Blossoms seem to write in their sleep, and it’s (sort of) admirable to hear that the band have stuck to doing what they do best, even if the radio and MTV have long since moved on. Los Angeles-based opener Josh Kelley plays tidy white-guy soul-rock for folks unnerved by John Mayer. ( www.ginblossoms.net ; www.joshkelley.com ) 3rd & Lindsley —MIKAEL WOOD MONDAY, 16TH SHAWN COLVIN, THE WRECKERS, BRANDI CARLILE Here’s a fine triple bill for people reminded by last week’s Sheryl Crow show of Lilith Fair glory days. Shawn Colvin just released her first album for Nonesuch, which should win the tireless Austin singer-songwriter an overdue share of the NPR audience that’s gobbled up records the label has released lately by Wilco and Emmylou Harris. These Four Walls, the new album, is more subdued than “Sunny Came Home,” Colvin’s 1996 folk-pop smash, but it’s got a dreamy soul-blues vibe that fits her breathy voice just fine. The Wreckers are former teen-pop star Michelle Branch’s country-rock duo with Jessica Harp, her former back-up singer; their debut doesn’t kick as much shit as the band’s name would suggest, but does include a very likable ditty about hanging out in an open field that’s become a Walgreen’s. Brandi Carlile, from Seattle, has a huge voice and songs that almost contain it. ( www.shawncolvin.com ; www.thewreckers.com ; www.brandicarlile.com ) Ryman Auditorium —MIKAEL WOOD TUESDAY, 17TH THIS DAY AND AGE Of the approximately 3,758 bands in America that sound like Coldplay, This Day and Age is one worth knowing. The New York quintet, headliner of a package tour of acts from their Orlando-based label, 111, believe in fast tempos and the redeeming qualities of pianos and chiming, layered guitars. They have an expert rhythm section, with a drummer who pushes their lush songs to sweet highs. On The Bell and the Hammer, the band’s second album, the tunes are so tightly constructed and spring-loaded with hooks that you can forgive the too-earnest lyrics. But a novelty number or two wouldn’t hurt, and it might help This Day and Age separate themselves from hordes of Coldplay hopefuls. ( www.thisdayandagemusic.com ) Exit/In —WERNER TRIESCHMANN ASOBI SEKSU This Brooklyn quartet’s name translates to “playful sex” in frontwoman Yuki’s native Japanese, and that’s a pretty apt description of Asobi Seksu’s sound: they do retro-’80s shoegaze pop that never puts the punishing crunch of James Hanna’s supersized guitar fuzz before Yuki’s sensual coo. Eagle-eared cinephiles will recognize “Thursday,” a deliciously dreamy cut from the band’s new Citrus, as the soundtrack of the trailer for the upcoming indie flick Flannel Pajamas. ( www.asobiseksu.com ) The Basement —MIKAEL WOOD JENNY LEWIS AND THE WATSON TWINS Jenny Lewis is known for many things—her childhood acting career (Troop Beverly Hills anyone?), fashion sense, girlish charm and ability to attract high-profile beaus like Jake Gyllenhaal, not to mention her role as the frontwoman of popular indie-pop quartet Rilo Kiley. But it took her solo debut, comprised of songs written during rare moments of solitude on the road, to drive home just what a gifted songwriter and vocalist she is in her own right. Rabbit Fur Coat contains sharply written, sweetly performed vintage-tinged blue-eyed soul-pop that genuinely merits the Laura Nyro comparisons it’s garnered. The Watson Twins surround Lewis’s dulcet vocals with their lilting, Kentucky-bred harmonies to rapturous effect on a capella album opener “Run Devil Run.” Lewis and the Watsons already packed the Belcourt earlier this year, so this time they’ve graduated to a larger venue. Cannery Ballroom —JEWLY HIGHT MAJOR BANG, OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE DIRTY BOMB The second event in the Great Performances at Vanderbilt lineup is this appearance by a progressive, Obie Award-winning New York ensemble whose mission merges community activism with experimental theatricality. The Foundry produces original works and adaptations that tackle daring subjects, stretch the boundaries of thought and, according to its mission statement, “compel us to reconsider the impact of theatre on the larger society.” Major Bang, under the direction of Paul Lazar, is billed as “part suspense thriller, part magic act, part instructional seminar,” and samples Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove along the way to making darkly comic points about 21st century concepts of fear. The show is presented 7:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at Ingram Hall. Lazar will teach a master class, 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 12. For tickets, call 255-ARTS or visit vanderbilt.edu/greatperformances/foundry. For master class information, call 322-2471. —MARTIN BRADY ASOBI SEKSU This Brooklyn quartet’s name translates to “playful sex” in frontwoman Yuki’s native Japanese, and that’s a pretty apt description of Asobi Seksu’s sound: they do retro-’80s shoegaze pop that never puts the punishing crunch of James Hanna’s supersized guitar fuzz before Yuki’s sensual coo. Eagle-eared cinephiles will recognize “Thursday,” a deliciously dreamy cut from the band’s new Citrus, as the soundtrack of the trailer for the upcoming indie flick Flannel Pajamas. ( www.asobiseksu.com ) The Basement —MIKAEL WOOD THEATER MAJOR BANG, OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE DIRTY BOMB The second event in the Great Performances at Vanderbilt lineup is this appearance by a progressive, Obie Award-winning New York ensemble whose mission merges community activism with experimental theatricality. The Foundry produces original works and adaptations that tackle daring subjects, stretch the boundaries of thought and, according to its mission statement, “compel us to reconsider the impact of theatre on the larger society.” Major Bang, under the direction of Paul Lazar, is billed as “part suspense thriller, part magic act, part instructional seminar,” and samples Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove along the way to making darkly comic points about 21st century concepts of fear. The show is presented 7:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at Ingram Hall. Lazar will teach a master class, 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 12. For tickets, call 255-ARTS or visit vanderbilt.edu/greatperformances/foundry. For master class information, call 322-2471. —MARTIN BRADY PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES Donelson Senior Center for the Arts presents this lively down-home musical, which stars recording artists Deborah Allen (“Baby I Lied”) and Heather Kinley, lead singer of the popular country duo The Kinleys. Kaine Riggan directs. Presented through Oct. 19. Dinner-theater option available. For tickets, call 883-8375 or visit seniorarts.org. —MARTIN BRADY AIDA No, we’re not talking about Elton John’s crappy, mediocre musical. This is the grand operatic thing, Giuseppe Verdi’s tragic masterpiece about the beautiful Ethiopian slave Aida and her lover, the Egyptian general Radames. Set in ancient Egypt, Verdi’s melodrama lends itself to spectacle, and for its production, Nashville Opera is going all out. The production will feature live African cats, camels and even an 80-pound albino python that reportedly requires two brave extras to carry on stage. Still, dramatic director John Hoomes promises this will be more than a gimmick from Animal Planet. “There will be a lot of human passion and pathos,” he says. There will also be soprano Michele Crider, an Aida specialist who sang the title role at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City last season. Expect her Act III aria “O patria mia” to be utterly heartrending. Performed Thursday and Saturday, Oct. 12 and 14, at TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall. —JOHN PITCHER THE DOYLE & DEBBIE SHOW CD RELEASE PARTY Nashville’s ongoing theatrical hit has spawned a CD filled with creator Bruce Arntson’s hilarious spoofs of country songs, featuring titles such as “Stock Car Love” and “I Ain’t No Homo (But Man You Sure Look Good to Me),” all recorded with great local musicians and featuring Arnston and co-star Jenny Littleton’s excellent vocals. To celebrate the CD’s release, the dynamic duo take a break from the Bongo After Hours stage to perform the entire show with a full live band, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Belcourt Theatre. (The Bongo performances feature Arntson and Littleton singing over prerecorded tracks.) For tickets, call 846-3150 or visit www.belcourt.org. —MARTIN BRADY CABARET Boiler Room Theatre takes a crack at this bawdy and dark Kander-Ebb classic, set in Berlin in the 1930s. A promising cast has been assembled under the direction of Corbin Green. Expect a notable performance from Jennifer Richmond as Sally Bowles. Billy Ditty takes on the delicious role of the Emcee; other stalwarts include Daron J. Bruce, Dan McGeachy, Scott Rice, Megan Murphy, Lauri Bright and BRT newcomer Anne Bomar. Cabaret runs through Nov. 4. For tickets and show times, call 794-7744 or visit www.BoilerRoomTheatre.com. —MARTIN BRADY OKLAHOMA! Circle Players moves from one iconic Broadway musical to the next, from The Music Man to this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. (The King and I is next on their schedule.) Tim Larson directs a large community-theater cast through the comic tale of farmers and cowboys, featuring a familiar and often beautiful score. Oct. 13-29 at the Looby Theatre. For tickets and show times, call 332-PLAY or visit circleplayers.net. —MARTIN BRADY AIDA No, we’re not talking about Elton John’s crappy, mediocre musical. This is the grand operatic thing, Giuseppe Verdi’s tragic masterpiece about the beautiful Ethiopian slave Aida and her lover, the Egyptian general Radames. Set in ancient Egypt, Verdi’s melodrama lends itself to spectacle, and for its production, Nashville Opera is going all out. The production will feature live African cats, camels and even an 80-pound albino python that reportedly requires two brave extras to carry on stage. Still, dramatic director John Hoomes promises this will be more than a gimmick from Animal Planet. “There will be a lot of human passion and pathos,” he says. There will also be soprano Michele Crider, an Aida specialist who sang the title role at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City last season. Expect her Act III aria “O patria mia” to be utterly heartrending. Performed Thursday and Saturday, Oct. 12 and 14, at TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall. —JOHN PITCHER COMEDY GEORGE CARLIN Carlin’s been in the biz nearly 50 years and he’s still challenging social mores. Every shock jock and dirty comic raging on a smoky stage at 2 a.m. owes a debt to his groundbreaking, obscenity-law challenging “Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV” routine. With his conversational discussions of sex, politics, religion and the intricacies of the English language, he’s as much a philosopher as he is a stand-up comic. He’s had some recent health scares and substance-dependency issues, but as Carlin himself has long imparted, we’re all human, we’re all screwed and if we can’t appreciate the bumps in the road, there’s no point in taking the journey. Carlin performs Oct. 14 at the Ryman. —JULIE SEABAUGH BOOKS SETH W. B. FOLSOM In The Highway War: A Marine Company Commander in Iraq, Folsom, now a major in the Marine Corps, tracks the company of 25 light armored reconnaissance vehicles he commanded as a captain during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The company, part of a larger battalion, moves from Kuwait through Baghdad and ultimately to Tikrit, often on or near Iraq’s major highways. While not the tip of the spear, the company was close to it in various ways. Mostly, though, their role was to endure morale-sapping delays, traffic jams, impossible terrain, sandstorms, mind-numbing fatigue and rotting feet. Enemy contact, for which they all lusted, was frustratingly rare. Though he agonizes over his self-perceived inadequacies as a leader, Folsom is obviously a Marine’s Marine in outlook, lifestyle and speech. He also has a fiction writer’s instinct for drama and reality-grounding details, drawn—along with the unsanitized language—directly from the journal he kept as his company moved through Iraq. The narrative is fast-paced, though the complex terminology and technology of modern Marine operations slows things some; readers who insist on understanding everything will rely heavily on the six-page glossary of terms. Folsom will be at the Clarksville Borders at noon Oct. 14. –RALPH BOWDEN JONATHAN MILLER Each of the chapters in Miller’s The Compassionate Community: Ten Values to Unite America begins with an Old Testament story and a personal vignette to illustrate a concept such as work, family, peace, justice, respect and stewardship. All these values are hallowed in the American experience, though eroded, Miller argues, in current political practice. He argues for their revival as the basis for public policy. His interest is innovative and successful programs that improve education, reduce poverty, encourage self-reliance, reduce dependence on foreign energy sources, and convert the present partisan and mean-spirited “politics of personal destruction and self-interest” into a politics of respect, compassion and community. Miller himself is as interesting as the book. A Native of Lexington, Ky., he is a devout, Sunday school-teaching Jew in an overwhelmingly Christian area. He has won two races for treasurer as a Democrat in a red state with a Republican governor and senate. He is also a rising star in the Democratic party; young (38), personable, Harvard educated, well connected (Al Gore contributed the afterword to this book) and experienced in legislation and administration on the state and federal levels. This book is his manifesto, announcing a hopeful new direction in government. Jonathan Miller will discuss and sign The Compassionate Community, 6 p.m. Oct. 12 at Davis-Kidd Booksellers. –RALPH BOWDEN BOB COWSER A good memoir like Bob Cowser’s Scorekeeping is something to be treasured, something which is by parts autobiography, history and essay. In the wrong hands, memoirs can become maudlin or trite, but Cowser is sure of his ground and has written a deeply satisfying book. He was born in New England and moved to the little town of Martin, Tenn., when he was in elementary school. His father was a college professor and his mother, although a scholar in her own right, was a housewife. His parents were not always happy in the alien environs of Martin, and Cowser delves perceptively into the desperate dissatisfactions of their lives. But mostly he writes of leaving Martin and moving into the liberating world of college, marriage, writing and teaching. His most impressive essay tells the story of an influential college professor at Loyola University of New Orleans who taught him the value of books and writing. His other pieces cover the gamut of childhood and youth, sometimes elegiac and sometimes not, and he offers a moving meditation on Tennessee’s execution of Robert Glen Coe for the murder of Cary Ann Medlin, one of Cowser’s childhood friends. Cowser will appear and sign at Davis-Kidd Booksellers at 6 p.m. Oct. 18. –WAYNE CHRISTESON JANIS COOKE NEWMAN It’s impossible to say if every single detail of Mary, Janis Cooke Newman’s portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln, is historically accurate, but it’s clear that as a fictional character, Mary is complex and compelling. Committed to the Bellevue Asylum by her son Robert, this fictional Mary decides to write her life story, convinced that otherwise history will misjudge her because she is a passionate, intelligent and ambitious woman. In the novel, she seduces Abraham Lincoln before their marriage and encourages his political career, giving him elocution lessons to make his high-pitched voice more stirring. But passion in a woman (whether sexual or political) is frowned upon in 19th century America: before Abraham will marry her, she must prove she can “subdue” her sexual urges. Alternating between the past and the daily life of the asylum, Mary is a story of repeated loss. After the death of her mother, Mary spends her childhood trying to win an indifferent stepmother’s love. This begins the long list of tragedies in Mary’s life: she outlives her husband and three of her four children. A friend writes an unflattering book about her family. She watches a fellow inmate starve herself to prove to her husband that she can control her appetites. Although clearly sympathetic to her protagonist, Newman doesn’t shy away from the controversial aspects of Mary Lincoln’s life, such as her obsessive spending sprees and passion for séances. Still, the Mary who is so deftly portrayed on these pages is one who manages to survive despite the best efforts of her world to subdue her. Newman reads at Davis-Kidd Booksellers at 6 p.m. Oct. 17. –FAYE JONES ART OCTOBER 13TH ART SHOW This group show gathers 15 people working across a wide range of media, from jewelry and copper repoussé to photography, painting and sculpture. The participants include Harry and Trevor, probably Nashville’s two best-known and most prolific one-named artists. The show was organized by Caryn Cast (who has shown her dramatic portraits at The Art House), Shonna Sexton and Stacie Berry. The one-night show runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13 at Crystalwood Studios, 516 Houston St. —DAVID MADDOX Watkins College of Art and Design Annual Faculty Art Exhibition One sure sign that the fall art season is upon us is this annual show by the educators at what has become a hotbed for exciting new talent in Nashville’s art community. Hosted at the Brownlee O. Currey Jr. Gallery, the show will feature painting, sculpture, photography and digital media by faculty members Dan Brawner, Terry Glispin, Leslie Haines, Kristi Hargrove, Armon Means, Rob McClurg, Joy McKenzie, Robin Paris, Lesley Patterson-Marx, Madeline Reed, Ken Rowe, Elizabeth Sanford and Terry Thacker. The show will also include work by new faculty members Caroline Allison, Brady Haston, Lauren Kalman and Jack Dingo Ryan, a recent recipient of a Tennessee Arts Commission grant for his sculpture. Watkins holds a free reception for the artists 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13; the show runs through Nov. 3. —JOE NOLAN EARTHWORKS INVITATIONAL EXHIBIT With 20 artists involved, it’s not fair to say this group show features anyone, but its two participants from New Orleans, Karen Abboud and Kathy Hughes, draw particular resonance from work that incorporates debris from Hurricane Katrina. Hughes’ encaustics feature direct references to the flood, such as waterlines, boats and rows of shotgun houses, while Abboud makes more abstract images, some of which have a Paul Klee-like delicacy. Most of the other artists in this show, organized by Sher Fick, are from Middle Tennessee—some are recently out of school and others, such as Kaaren Engel, Marsha Rusk, Andee Rudloff, Beth Seiters and Tiffany Denton, are more established. The one-night show will also be a listening party for Matthew Sigmon, who has a new CD out. EARTHworks takes place 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 14 at Crystalwood Gallery, 516 Houston St. —DAVID MADDOX FILM BLACK GOLD W/TADESSE MESKELA Starbucks made headlines recently by raising coffee prices a nickel: good thing one kilo of coffee—which produces 80 cups, at roughly $230 value—can be bought from dirt-poor Ethiopian farmers for a whopping 23 cents. Marc and Nick Francis’ documentary hits coffee drinkers right in their cupholders, showing the poverty produced by the global java trade. Fighting those conditions, on the leading edge of the growing fair-trade movement, is the movie’s hero: Tadesse Meskela of the Oromia Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative, who seeks to bypass international middlemen and get more money directly to the farmers. The film runs Sunday through Tuesday at the Belcourt; Meskela will appear at the 7 p.m. screening Sunday for a Q&A. It’s sponsored by Fido, which serves nothing but fair trade and organic coffee—a case of acting both locally and globally.  —JIM RIDLEY JUMPING OFF BRIDGES W/SAVANNAH WELCH Writer-director Kat Candler’s Austin-shot second feature examines the effect of suicide on a stunned teen (Bryan Chafin), his outwardly tough girlfriend (Savannah Welch), his close friends and his stoic math-teacher dad (Michael Emerson, Lost’s diabolical Henry Gale). Featuring Sufjan Stevens, American Analog Set and more on the soundtrack, the film makes its Nashville premiere with a single screening 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14 at the Belcourt. Nashville native Welch, the daughter of singer-songwriter Kevin Welch and an actress currently working out of Austin and Los Angeles, will be on hand to introduce the movie.  —JIM RIDLEY THE SEARCHERS Is John Ford’s 1956 Western one of the greatest movies ever made, or a bunch of mildly revisionist hooey unaware of its own racism? Even after a half-century the arguments haven’t died down: what remains inarguable is the force of John Wayne’s performance as Ethan Edwards, the embittered Indian fighter determined to find his captured niece (Natalie Wood)—and to kill her if her purity has been tainted by redskin hands. A major influence on films as varied as Taxi Driver and Star Wars—and with a justly famous last shot echoed by Brokeback Mountain’s—the movie is this week’s Weekend Classic Matinee at the Belcourt, showing Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 11:30 a.m. Also showing this week: Kirby Dick’s ratings-board doc This Film Is Not Yet Rated  and the held-over anti-tax documentary America: Freedom to Fascism. —JIM RIDLEY THE REFUGEE ALL STARS After their triumphant appearance at Bonnaroo, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars—the group made up of musicians who fled their native land’s decade-long civil war, at great personal risk and loss—will finally make their first Nashville appearance Oct. 20 at the Belcourt. In their honor, the theater is screening Zach Niles and Banker White’s award-winning documentary portrait, which juxtaposes the members’ often horrifying stories with their lilting, percolating music. The movie runs Oct. 16-17. —JIM RIDLEY CAFÉ COCO CREATURE FEATURE Every Monday night, Café Coco behind the Exit/In shows public-domain features on DVD. Halloween fare dominates the slots for October, with this week’s entry a double bill of 1960’s underrated Amicus shocker Horror Hotel, with Christopher Lee in a tale of demonic sacrifice, and the 1985 Alien rip Creature. Movies start at 8 p.m., free with any purchase at the Back Bar; stay for trivia, giveaways and $1 Shiner Bock. —JIM RIDLEY

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