THORNTON, THURSDAY, 15TH
The local rock scene can be a real bitch, chewing up and spitting out even the most hard-boiled veterans. Kevin Thornton was once its latest casualty: after being lauded as a New South version of Rufus Wainwright and courting BMI execs in black suits, Thornton’s momentum ground to a halt. He soon tore off for Chicago like a bat out of hell. But Nashville is a town brimming with second shots, and Thornton is back with a comeback album that’s a near-mortar. On the forthcoming Your Operator, Battle Tapes engineer Jeremy Ferguson captures the aching emotionalism of Thornton’s previous work while expanding the sonic palettes beneath him. Thornton himself still smolders with a wounded sexuality, but this time it’s as if he’s been combing through Blondie’s Parallel Lines instead of languishing in noir-pop purgatory. (myspace.com/thornton) Exit/In —JOEY HOOD
PHILIP GLASS The famed avant-garde composer is in town this week for a mini-festival featuring, among other things, the Nashville premiere of a new choral work with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Passion of Ramakrishna is a multi-movement, 45-minute work for large chorus, vocal soloists and orchestra that deals with the passion and death of Sri Ramakrishna, a 19th century mystic whose Hindu-centric writings helped shape modern-day India. Glass assigns the part of Ramakrishna to the full chorus, giving the holy man a luminous celestial weight and authority. The concert repeats Feb. 16-17 and includes performances of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D Major (with cellist Alban Gerhardt). The Glass Fest concludes Feb. 18 with a retrospective concert featuring the Philip Glass Ensemble. Schermerhorn Symphony Center —JOHN PITCHER
PAUL BURCH & THE WPA BALLCLUB The Ballclub’s getting an early jump on spring training. Long one of the city’s hottest Americana-whatever talents, capable of shifting from stone country to scrappy blue-eyed soul, Burch plays and sings on the hotly anticipated new Charlie Louvin record—including a George Jones-Elvis Costello duet on the Louvin Brothers’ immortal “When I Stop Dreaming”—as well as an upcoming Nashville-recorded LP by British R&B phenom Beverley Knight. Also, thanks to getting a song on David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence soundtrack, he’s been able to open his own analog studio, Pan American Sound, hosting artists such as Ultrababyfat/Tigers and Monkeys singer-guitarist-lawyer Shonali Bhowmik. Between overseas jaunts for last year’s East to West (including several U.K. dates with the Cowboy Junkies), he stops by for an East Nashville date—and possibly a song or two from 4-year-old son Henry’s project, STOP! Family Wash —JIM RIDLEY
BLACKIE AND THE RODEO KINGS Blackie and the Rodeo Kings bring the old “We’re big in Japan” joke closer to home. Though hardly a household name in the States, they’re bona fide roots rock heroes in Canada—their 1999 album Kings of Love won a Juno Award (the Canuck equivalent of a Grammy). Core band members Tom Wilson, Stephen Fearing and Nashville resident Colin Linden were all established singer-songwriters when they came together in 1996 to make High or Hurtin’, a tribute to Canadian folk music hero Willie P. Bennett. Response was so strong that they decided to make a band of it, and the resulting sound, if hard to pigeonhole, is easy to like. The first 20 seconds of “Silver Dreams,” the lead track on Let’s Frolic, sound like an outtake from All Things Must Pass, while the moody “House of Soul,” suggests a Daniel Lanois influence—not surprising, since Lanois is a friend and fan of the band. Other highlights include the old-school R&B vibe of “I Give It Up Everday” and the ZZ Top-meets-Mark Knopfler gutbucket stomper “Life Is Golden.” 3rd & Lindsley —JACK SILVERMAN
KYLE ANDREWS W/CLARE BURSON This show features the return of two Nashvillians—one native and one not-so-native. Singer-songwriter Kyle Andrews, whose earnest indie-pop can be heard on his debut Amos in Ohio, headlines his first bill since moving back to town after a brief stint in Philly. Andrews has grown exponentially as a live performer, and his sound has become moodier and more dynamic, but he never loses himself under the weight of his digital trickery. Singer-songwriter Clare Burson is a Nashville native with a casual, unnervingly expressive voice who now lives in Brooklyn. Her spare indie-Americana bears a heavy Nashville influence, both in its contributors and its sweet soulfulness. Rounding out the bill are The Bees’ Daniel Tashian and Philadelphia’s Red Heart the Ticker, a co-ed acoustic duo who trade vocal duties and carefully walk the line between mountain-music slumber and slow-charging indie burn. (kyleandrews.com) The Basement —LEE STABERT
THE INFAMOUS STRINGDUSTERS With its light touch and unerring sense of pacing and dynamics, The Infamous Stringdusters’ new Fork in the Road plays around with neo-bluegrass in ways that go beyond homage. With years of collective experience under their belts, the band isn’t afraid to tackle John Mayer’s arty “3 x 5,” or take an original instrumental called “No Resolution” into unexpected directions. Singer and Dobro player Andy Hall delivers Geoff Bartley’s “A Letter From Prison” with suitable fatalism and urgency, and while Jesse Cobb’s “40 West” might hint at math rock, these guys are more than just another jam-friendly assemblage of virtuosos. Sure, some of their songs exist in that old-time space, but this band really seems to care about what they’re singing—an achievement more elusive than any number of perfect licks. (myspace.com/stringdusters) The Station Inn —EDD HURT
A BENEFIT FOR PURE PRAIRIE LEAGUE’S MICHAEL REILLY In the fickle world of pop music, 35 years is an eternity, but that’s how long bassist Mike Reilly’s been playing with country rock mainstays Pure Prairie League. Though their days in the national limelight have long passed, PPL have maintained a loyal enough following to tour steadily since reuniting several years ago. Friends and fans gather this week to raise money for Reilly, who’s recovering from a liver transplant, and who’s incurred substantial medical expenses. The show is essentially a country rock mini-summit, with performances by PPL, Poco, Shenandoah, Deborah Allen and Anthony Smith, along with hit songwriters Don Schlitz, Jim Photoglo, John Scott Sherrill, Vince Melamed, husband-and-wife team Sam and Annie Tate and several more. A live auction includes a drum head signed by Ringo Starr, Vince Gill’s guitar from his days as a PPL member, a fiddle signed by Charlie Daniels and much more. (For auction items and bidding info, click on the auction link at pureprairieleague.com.) 5 p.m. at Wildhorse Saloon —JACK SILVERMAN
JORMA KAUKONEN Though for decades he has toured and recorded extensively both with Hot Tuna and as a solo artist, Jorma Kaukonen remains best known for his years as lead guitarist for ’60s psychedelic pioneers Jefferson Airplane. Like his friend and fellow guitar virtuoso Jerry Garcia, Kaukonen’s keen understanding of traditional American music provided a solid bluesy foundation that gave shape and coherence even to his band’s most trippy experiments. His music since the early ’70s has been a font of eclecticism, taking in folk, bluegrass and the heaviest acid rock, all woven together by his distinctively earthy fingerpicking guitar style. Recently he has concentrated on laid-back acoustic country-blues in the manner of roots music legends Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mississippi John Hurt. The upcoming Stars in My Crown shows a more personal side of Kaukonen, with the majority of its songs self-written. In a live setting though, he still finds plenty of room for covers, including rural blues tunes like “Parchman Farm” and the traditional Airplane favorite “Good Shepherd,” each providing ideal displays of his tasteful yet adventurous fretwork. (jormakaukonen.com) Belcourt Theatre —JASON BENNETT
FLATPICKING EXTRAVAGANZA W/JOSH WILLIAMS, CHRIS ELDRIDGE & ANDY FALCO With the country instrumental Grammy having just gone to a collaboration between two giants of six-string flatpicking (Bryan Sutton and Doc Watson), the timing’s perfect for a check-up on where some of the best up-and-comers in the field are headed. Williams, Eldridge and Falco usually show off their stuff in their current sideman gigs (Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, The Infamous Stringdusters and the Alecia Nugent Band), and Eldridge’s fluid but often startling approach is one of the highlights on Chris Thile’s How to Grow a Woman From the Ground. But tonight’s shows offer nonstop delight from three guys who know the importance not only of leads and licks, but of supportive rhythm too. Staged by Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, who will film the concerts for eventual DVD release, the Extravaganza promises to be a state-of-the-art affair. 7 and 9 p.m. at The Station Inn —JON WEISBERGER
LONEY HUTCHINS When Loney Hutchins moved from Gallatin to Nashville, his mission was clear: start a band, make a record and tour. Unfortunately, he met Ville Kiviniemi instead, a Finnish songwriter traveling across the U.S. with his band Poppy Fields. Within weeks, Hutchins joined Kiviniemi on keys and began recording the group’s first record with himself at the controls. (After a prominent member left the band, a name change was in order, and thus was born The Mattoid.) Hutchins has since worked with a number of influential locals, recording and mixing bands such as LYLAS, Umbrella Tree and the recently released new Hotpipes disc, as well as a few tours playing with the Silver Jews and Bobby Bare Jr. But now, he’s finally gone solo. Chelsea Jane—daughter of Rosanne Cash and Rodney Crowell—opens. The show’s free, so you’ll just need drinking money. (cleftmusic.net) Springwater —ERIC WILLIAMS
JELLO BIAFRA When Jello Biafra was busy fronting seminal California punk band Dead Kennedys in 1979, he was also working on a campaign for the mayor of San Francisco. Biafra lost but forced a run-off, effectively making himself comfortable with being the political odd man out. He continues the approach with his spoken-word performances, castigating underhanded government deals and overhanded social greed equally. If anything, Biafra combats the “lesser of two evils” criterion for electioneering: his espoused Green Party platform keeps him free to apply verbal roustabouts to Democrats and Republicans, criticizing the Clintons for selling democratic ideals down the river and affectionately dubbing Dubya the Saddam Hussein of America. But his most piquant ire is reserved for the Bush administration. “Sure, say what you want, but just make sure nobody hears you,” Biafra said recently about net neutrality. Luckily, Biafra’s not scared of his government enough to shut up. ( alternativetentacles.com ) Belcourt Theatre —GRAYSON CURRIN
TRACY BYRD Can’t keep your Tracy Byrd straight from your Tracy Lawrence or Trace Adkins? Don’t feel bad, because it isn’t exactly easy: Adkins is the big baritone behind “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”; Lawrence did “Paint Me a Birmingham” and Byrd, well, he’ll be forever twined with “10 Rounds With Jose Cuervo.” Of the three, Byrd might have the most novelty hits (“Drinkin’ Bone” and “Watermelon Crawl” are on his résumé), but he also has a strong sense for good country-pop songs, as 2006’s Different Things aptly demonstrates. Byrd is in that tricky part of a career—midway between bright young hopeful and decorated veteran. But, after 14 years of activity, he’ll dispense enough happy hits to slake the thirst of the house before he has to reach back for ol’ Jose Cuervo. (tracybyrd.musiccitynetworks.com) Wildhorse Saloon —WERNER TRIESCHMANNPETER CASE On Peter Case’s website, the singer-songwriter vents a little frustration at critics who still refer to him as the man who lead The Plimsouls, the Los Angeles new wave band who scored a hit with “A Million Miles Away” (thanks in part to its appearance on the Valley Girl soundtrack). Case has a point: before The Plimsouls, he lead The Nerves, who recorded “Hanging on a Telephone,” a song Blondie would make a hit. His post-Plimsouls career is now over 20 years old, and filled with a host of interesting projects, including nine solo albums. (The brooding 1989 release The Man With the Blue Post-Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar is one to seek out.) Case also put together a tribute album to Mississippi John Hurt. He probably shouldn’t be so prickly about The Plimsouls, but, then again, you can’t blame him for wanting more focus on the rest of his intriguing life and work. (petercase.com) The Basement —WERNER TRIESCHMANN
THE GINN SISTERS OK, it’s pretty much a given that sisters Tiffani and Brit Ginn have the ol’ Everly Brothers genetic-harmonies thing going on. So what else sets this Austin twosome apart from the Americana competition? Plenty. Tiffani sings lead with a bluesy smolder reminiscent of the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines, supplies the rhythmic backbone on guitar and writes most of the duo’s instantly memorable songs. Meanwhile, Brit adds the musical coloring that keeps those songs full of surprises, especially when she demonstrates the kind of powerful flute playing that may well redeem what seemed like the last hopelessly unhip instrument. Their sophomore album, Blood Oranges, only hints at the onstage charisma and knockabout charm that will surely be on display as they make a return appearance at Douglas Corner’s “Americana Tonight” show. (theginnsisters.com) Douglas Corner —CHRIS NEAL
BILLY JOEL It’s a no-brainer that Billy Joel has an obvious appeal to the geriatric crowd. After all, here’s a guy who has penned his fair share of ballads, with songs such as “New York State of Mind” and “Piano Man” providing fodder for many a lounge crooner’s repertoire. But anyone who has seen him in concert knows that Joel’s equally prone to rock. This shouldn’t be surprising considering that Joel got started with ’60s rock outfit The Hassels and eventually created the psychedelic heavy-metal duo Attila. So don’t even try to pigeonhole this 40-year industry veteran, because his trick bag runs deep. And given his ample catalog—boasting nearly three dozen Top Ten hits—he has plenty of harder-hitting material to tap into. Among other distinctions, he just became the only artist asked to sing the national anthem a second time at the Super Bowl. Talk about a big shot. Gaylord Entertainment Center —LEE ZIMMERMAN
BLUEBIRD CAFE AT THE BALLET II Nashville Ballet’s third major program of the season was inspired by the company’s previous success of mixing dance with songwriting. This time, it’s the songwriting associated with one of the city’s famed music venues. Jonell Mosser and Gary Nicholson are the headlining performers whose work ties the essential themes together, but other important musical contributors from the genres of jazz, gospel and classical will be on hand to underscore the choreography of ballet artistic director Paul Vasterling, Sarah Slipper and others. Performances are Feb. 16-18 at TPAC’s Polk Theater. For tickets, phone 255-ARTS (2787). —MARTIN BRADYWHIRLING DERVISHES OF RUMI The life and work of Islamic religious master and mystic Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273) forms the inspiration for this colorfully costumed dance extravaganza. The mesmerizing spinning style of the dervishes signals the rejection of worldly diversion and the attainment of spiritual rebirth and oneness with the divine. The performers are accompanied by live Sufi music, which features reed flutes (ney), lutes (oud), lyres (kanun), percussion (kudum) and a chorus of voices that also intone Rumi’s poetry. This traveling troupe, appearing under the co-sponsorship of Nashville’s Society of Universal Dialogue and the Atlanta-based Istanbul Center for Culture and Dialogue, is in the middle of a tour through the U.S. Southeast. There’s one performance only, at TPAC’s Polk Theater, on Feb. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Phone WHIRLING DERVISHES OF RUMI The life and work of Islamic religious master and mystic Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273) forms the inspiration for this colorfully costumed dance extravaganza. The mesmerizing spinning style of the dervishes signals the rejection of worldly diversion and the attainment of spiritual rebirth and oneness with the divine. The performers are accompanied by live Sufi music, which features reed flutes (ney), lutes (oud), lyres (kanun), percussion (kudum) and a chorus of voices that also intone Rumi’s poetry. This traveling troupe, appearing under the co-sponsorship of Nashville’s Society of Universal Dialogue and the Atlanta-based Istanbul Center for Culture and Dialogue, is in the middle of a tour through the U.S. Southeast. There’s one performance only, at TPAC’s Polk Theater, on Feb. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Phone 255-ARTS (2787). —MARTIN BRADY
NASHVILLE SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL WINTER TEEN FEST NSF teaching artist Jon Royal has gathered together an ensemble of ambitious teenagers to present their version of one of the Bard’s classic tragedies. Julius Caesar: The High School Experience transports the play to a mythical high school in a multicultural world without adults. The famous script is not adapted; the original Shakespeare language is in place, though cuts have been made to compress the action into a manageable two-hour performance. Royal’s company comprises young adults from area-wide public and private schools as well as homeschoolers. The show is presented at the Darkhorse Theater Feb. 15-17 at 7 p.m. For reservations, call 255-2273. —MARTIN BRADY
CINDY REHM, “INTERIOR” For the last couple of years, MTSU faculty member Rehm has been a strong voice for contemporary aesthetic practice in the local art scene. Her interests in performance art, video, feminism and presentation alternatives come out both in her own work and in what her students produce. This show highlights Rehm’s video art, which combines performance and symbolic elements and takes on ideas like female identity, the body, sexuality and myth. The show opens on Feb. 21 at MTSU’s Todd Gallery, and there will be a reception for the artist at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 23. This show has a fairly short run, closing on March 2. —DAVID MADDOX
50 YEARS OF JANUS FILMS: WEEK SEVEN Nearing the end of its run, the Belcourt’s two-month salute to arthouse titan Janus Films shows no sign of slowing, either in terms of attendance (which just passed the 3,000 mark) or strength. The next seven days are among the strongest of the entire event, following the bloody Valentine of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s erotic witch-hunt drama Day of Wrath (ending Feb. 14) with classics from the French New Wave to the Japanese vanguard:
• The 400 Blows / “Antoine et Colette” (Feb. 16-18) After years of reading the “cinéma de papa” the riot act in Cahiers du Cinema, François Truffaut made an international sensation with his 1959 first feature, which introduced his cinematic alter ego Antoine Doniel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) in a semi-autobiographical account of Truffaut’s own adolescent hell-raising. The film is paired with Truffaut’s half-hour segment from the 1962 anthology film Love at Twenty, which catches up with Antoine as a lovesick teen. Lynn Ramey, Vanderbilt Film Studies affiliate and associate professor of French, will introduce the 7:30 screening Feb. 16.
• The Hidden Fortress (Feb. 16, 19 and 21) A swashbuckling yarn about a princess making a daring escape across enemy lines, told through the eyes of two comically chattering sidekicks—sound familiar? It should: Akira Kurosawa’s comic 1958 samurai adventure was an acknowledged inspiration for Star Wars (and a terrific late-film action scene pitting the princess’s outnumbered defenders against an army of adversaries prefigures the climactic battle sequence in Attack of the Clones).
• Beauty and the Beast (Feb. 18-21) Jean Cocteau’s haunting 1946 telling situates the fairy tale in a surrealist black-and-white wonderland of a castle, in which magic gloves transport lovers through walls and human candelabra light the corridors. Novelist/screenwriter Steven Womack introduces the 7:30 p.m. screening Sunday, Feb. 18.
• Wild Strawberries (Feb. 19-21) One of Ingmar Bergman’s warmest and most luminous films, anchored by the great silent-film director Victor Sjöström as an elderly professor who revisits his failings and romantic disappointments during a road trip en route to accept an award. See belcourt.org for show times; and find more information in our Movie Listings on p. 66. —JIM RIDLEY
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH Former Vice President Al Gore’s Oscar-nominated doc on global warming gets a convenient screening 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, at The Forum, Room 210 of TSU’s Floyd Payne Student Center. Sponsored by the environmental concern Gateway 2 Heritage and shown on DVD, the screening is free and open to the public, with a follow-up discussion scheduled for Feb. 22 in Room 319 of the student center. For more information, call 341-2844. —JIM RIDLEY
SARAH DUNANT Beautiful courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini and her servant, a dwarf named Bucino, escape the 1527 pillage of Rome with no possessions, a few swallowed jewels and Fiammetta’s beauty destroyed. They flee to Venice, where they are determined to regain the life they knew in Rome. Through the cunning of Bucino and the aid of a blind healer named La Draga, Fiammetta soon becomes one of Venice’s most desired—and endangered—courtesans. Recently published in paperback, In the Company of the Courtesan (Random House, 385 pp., $13.95) is an intriguing story in which Venice is as much a character as are the people who inhabit it. Bucino is a compelling narrator; the dwarf is obsessively loyal to his mistress, but being on the inside of the courtesan business (and make no mistake, for both Bucino and Fiammetta, it is a business), he never romanticizes what happens behind the doors of their house: “It is my job to meet all new customers before they see her and to settle their bills. In this way, I hope to sift out imposters or troublemakers. The worst are the men who use their fists as well as their pricks. Of course, no courtesan earns her living without some punches or bruises. That is a given.” This story of two outsiders—one breathtakingly beautiful, the other ugly and misshapen—is hard to put down. Sarah Dunant will read at Davis-Kidd Booksellers at 6 p.m. on Feb. 21. —FAYE JONES
I was all like "how do you get the phone number for TMZ?!?!" you can't…
I think it's weird when speculation is wedged into an otherwise straightforward biography. I love…
I always read your column BEFORE I watch the show anymore. It's better that way.
What's the other review you read?
This was the worse review I've ever read. Maybe you should quit this career path…