Though we now acknowledge Nappy Roots as one of the “conscious” crews of Southern hip-hop, it wasn’t always so. Before they signed their major label deal, the Western Kentucky undergrads made two underground recordings that sounded like Goodie Mob tribute albums. That said, their second, No Comb, No Brush, No Fade, No Perm, contained tracks that hinted at their lyrical skill and at the exaggerated, cornpone delivery that would become a signature. With their first album on Atlantic, they established a persona as ballers on a budget that created immediate fan identification. The music became more diverse, more melodic and, with Pops Staples-like guitar on the hit “Po’ Folks,” more Southern, not simply “Dirty South.” The evolution continued on Wooden Leather, with help from David Banner and Raphael Saadiq, the former adding gravitas and edge, the latter adding neo-soul elegance. No longer “po’,” Nappy Roots detail their Horatio Alger success story like a funky Tony Robbins and comment on concerns outside their home state. “The whole damn world is country,” they observed during their international tour, suggesting that people everywhere are unified in struggle. Yet considering the group’s worldwide success, the statement just as easily could be a boast about their influence. After all, after reminding us in “Lac Dogs and Hogs” that “Kentucky’s on the map now,” they ask, “Who you think done gave directions?”
“Imagine No Handguns” Just as the desire for safer streets cuts across races, parties and demographics, the lineup for this yearly handgun-reform benefit brings together pop and country artists, singer-songwriters and instrumentalists, punks and funk-rockers and bluegrass. If anything in this fragmented musical culture could corral such a diverse assortment, it’s the catalog of the late John Lennon, whose classics, obscurities and covers are lovingly rendered every year at this event by more than a dozen musical guests and a stellar house band. Now in its ninth year, “Imagine No Handguns” includes performances by Allison Moorer, the Early Evening, Old Crow Medicine Show, Baby Stout, Stroller, Duane Jarvis, Fugitive Glue, Bob Delevante and Lost Sideshow. (Last-minute additions and surprises are a given.) To top it off, event founder John Sieger will join a house band of fellow Beatlemaniacs featuring Bill Lloyd, Steve Allen, Garry Tallent, Steve Ebe and John Deaderick. Proceeds go to the nonpartisan Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C. Exit/In
Wayne Newton There’s not much to be said about Newton that wasn’t said in Tim Carvell’s sparkling reportage in a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, a magazine known more for news and pithy reviews than the thoughtful cultural probing of Carvell’s story. Once considered a novelty act with a pudgy face and a high voice, Newton migrated to Vegas early in his career and there perfected the glitzy, fast-paced, “no audience member left behind” act that became the city’s theatrical stock-in-tradeits gift to theme parks nationwide and to the city of Branson, Mo. Yet just because Newton’s show is slickly packaged and middlebrow doesn’t mean it’s insincere. As the new chairman of the USO Celebrity Circle (a post previously held by the late Bob Hope), he takes his patriotism as seriously as his entertaining; his brand of artificially induced uplift is, nonetheless, uplifting. Ryman Auditorium
Monday, 8th-Tuesday, 9th
Kenny Neal The son of Baton Rouge bluesman Raful Neal, Kenny Neal got his first harmonica from Slim Harpo and, as a teenager, left home to play bass with Buddy Guy. His solo material is rooted in the heavy-eyed swamps of the Louisiana southland and avoids the Guy/Stevie Ray-inspired histrionics that make many of his blues contemporaries irrelevant; neither is he as tidied-up and awards-show-ready as, say, Keb’ Mo’. Rather, Neal’s groove-centric arrangements and ripened vocals avoid the clichés, ratchet down the intensity and put the emphasis back on the song. His recent work with harmonica player Billy Branch mixes front porch wisdom with urban polish; the pair have a new CD, Simple Truths, scheduled for release in January. Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar
Mark Germino & The Grenade Angels With his history of fronting guitar-based rock groups, and considering his new band’s name, this well-armed protest singer seems to be emerging from self-imposed exile with some force behind him. In the past, the dedicated wordsmithhe was a published poet before he wrote songstended to keep his politics personal. His subjects included a music-loving deejay at odds with corporate radio, a rock fan who burned down Graceland because it turned Elvis’ complexities into a one-dimensional product, and a hardworking trucker who crisscrosses some arms smugglers. Germino’s words roll in furious, playful rushes, and he picks comrades who know when to give him room and when to stomp all over him. Bluebird Cafe
Jeff Black This Nashvillian’s approach to songwriting is similar to a preacher’s approach to sermons: His moody songs are serious, and although sometimes leavened with wit, they focus on the ways we live, what we draw on for strength and how the light of love and faith can guide us. As he sings in a new number, “The Lord respects me when I’m working hard, but he loves me when I sing.” Despite songs wrapped in soul and revelation, don’t mistake Black for a gospel singer. He relates too well with drunks and the dispossessed to come off as overly reverent. He’ll be performing with his band every Tuesday in December. Cafe 123.
Poison The Well/The Bronx Since they formed in 1997, Poison the Well have staked a position at the top of the emo food chain. Multiple international tours and a new deal with Atlantic Records were certainly more than these recent high school grads dreamed of back when they were bashing it out on the local hardcore scene of Jupiter, Fla. Six years later, they show no sign of slowing down, particularly with the release of their third album, You Come Before You, a dark, moody expansion of Poison the Well’s unmistakable blend of metallic hardcore and haunting melody. They’ll be supported by busted-lip and bloody-knuckle purists The Bronx, who hail from, well, L.A. This group’s bare-bones approach to rowdy rock ’n’ roll is exemplified on their self-titled LP, most of which was recorded live by Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke and adheres to the three-take rule of music production. The result is a frenzied brand of chaos that offers a glimpse at the mayhem the band are capable of onstage. Blue Sky Court
Alias The chamber group Alias opened its season last Sunday in Blair’s Turner Hall. Most of the program will be repeated Sunday at The Factory at Franklin. Especially memorable this past weekend were the clarinet/marimba duet by Lee Levine and Chris Norton, the horn/marimba duet by Norton and his wife Leslie, and the Debussy sonata for violin and piano by Zeneba Bowers and Leah Bowles. Each of these will be played again in Franklin. Also on this weekend’s bill are Alias member Matt Walker performing his own Irish-inflected “Brewhaha” for solo cello, and a performance of Beethoven’s Op. 18, No. 4. For tickets, call 298-1108, ext. 105.
The Mini-Nutcracker This much-beloved annual event brings together parents, children, teachers, volunteers and artistic professionals, all of whom contribute to the onstage and behind-the-scenes efforts as the Centennial Youth Ballet performs Tchaikovsky’s revered holiday dance piece. The four performances are in Harpeth Hall’s Davis Auditorium, Dec. 5-7, and the price of a ticket ($10) includes a reception during intermission. The Mini-Nutcracker is sponsored by the Metro Board of Parks and Recreation and the Friends of Metro Dance; for information and reservations, phone 862-8439.
Amahl & The Night Visitors More than 50 years ago, this opera by Gian Carlo Menotti was broadcast as a network television special, whereupon it instantly became a uniquely treasured Christmastime classic. Talented folks at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music are reviving the sensitive tale of a young crippled lad who receives a visit from the Magi, who are on the journey in search of the Christ Child. The performers, under the direction of Gayle Shay, include members of the Blair Opera Theatre and Blair faculty, and the production is receiving full-scale treatment. Recommended highly for families looking for something a little differentand a little more highbrowin their holiday outings. The opera will be presented twice, 8 p.m. Dec. 5 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 6, at the Blair School’s Ingram Hall.
A Southern Christmas Sampler Robertson County Players are bringing music-makers and storytellers into the Grand Salon of Belmont Mansion for a revived and slightly retooled version of the highly regarded Mockingbird Theatre’s annual holiday celebration. Among the local performers regaling audiences with heartwarming seasonal tales are Mary Tanner Bailey, Richard Daniel, Brenda Sparks and Erin and Sam Whited. Guitarist Roger Hudson also makes an appearance. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 10, 12 and 18-23. For tickets, call 545-1724.
Jason Lahr, Angela Messina and Derek Schartung/ Fugitive Art Center Last month, the Fugitive showed work by Krista Hoefle, an artist teaching at St. Mary’s College in Indiana. This month, the gallery brings in Lahr, another artist from St. Mary’s, who uses appropriated images and texts to create narratives about boyhood, masculinity and identity. Many of the images in his show, “Riding With Pike,” come from old Boy Scout handbooks, which gives them an archaic character and maybe a tone of creepinessit will be interesting to see how the pieces come across. Messina and Schartung are fixtures on Nashville’s underground music scene, the core of unmentionable-in-the-Tennessean groups New Faggot Cunts and Tan as Fuck, as well as the more socially acceptable Taiwan Death and others. In parallel to their music activity, they both work in visual art and graphics. They’ll bring all of this together in “Uncontrollable Self Amusing Monster Spasm,” an installation in the hallway space at the Fugitive that will combine sound and visual elements. The show opens 7-9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, with a guest DJ and a performance by Angela and Derek.
Tasteful holiday shopping With the passing of Thanksgiving, the Christmas shopping season is in full swing, and several local galleries can be counted on to offer good browsing and buying opportunities. In East Nashville, both Plowhaus (at 213 S. 17th St.) and Art & Invention Gallery (at 1106 Woodland St.) are opening holiday shows with Saturday-evening receptions. And in Hillsboro Village, TAG Art Gallery follows up last weekend’s Holiday Open House with “Loose Interpretations,” a three-day show of new paintings by Steve Keene, Dec. 4-6. Keene is especially known for his musical/pop-cultural references, including his many reproductions of album coversbut this time around, he’s tackling The OldMasters. (He is, after all, a painter.) Keene is also known for his dedication to keeping art affordable: His works at TAG are priced between $5 and $20. There’ll be an opening reception Thursday evening, Dec. 4, from 6-9 p.m.
David Daniel The historical mythology of the South brims with the purposeful drowning of small towns and villages. Sometimes such obliteration occurs in the name of progress, as in Robert Penn Warren’s aptly titled Flood, which concerns the TVA and its massive dam projects. At other times, the watery destruction occurs when politics meets natural catastrophe, as John M. Barry details in Rising Tide, the story of the great 1927 Mississippi River deluge. The watery line between the saved and the damned, so to speak, is often drawn by the humanly powerful, and the voices of those uprooted and scattered through the resulting diaspora become quickly submerged. David Daniel’s first book, Seven Star Bird, refuses to accept that submerging; the volume chronicles, in many voices and in many stories, the 1970 flooding of Friendship, Texas, a small town that had been home to generations of Protestant Czech farmers who’d fled repression and economic discrimination in 19th century Moravia. Daniel, a Tennessee native and longtime poetry editor of Ploughshares, steeps a Southern sense of gone-ness with Hericlitean and Virgilian classicism, resulting in perfectly crafted poems that call upon our deepest sense of communal grief through restraint and elegiac brevity. Danielwho’s also a songwriter and musicianwill read and perform at Rhino Books, 3 p.m. Dec. 6, along with fellow poet-musician Tom House. Later on, around 4:30, they’ll be joined by Warren Denney, Tomi Lunsford, Bob Bradley, Kathy Brady and others for a “throwdown” featuring readings, music and a slide show.
Civil Rights Room open house It’s fitting that the Main Library on Church Street has a room dedicated to chronicling the history of the civil rights movement in Nashville: Many of the struggles took place on that very stretch of Church Street, as local students and activists worked to integrate downtown lunch counters and businesses. This Saturday morning from 9 to 11 a.m., the library hosts an open-house for its newly enhanced Civil Rights Room, which includes photographs, documentary films and a timeline of events illustrated via a “symbolic” lunch counter. The presentation will include several dignitaries, including Mayor Bill Purcell and Justice Adolpho A. Birch, the first African-American chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court. An official dedication program featuring several key figures from the Nashville movement is scheduled for Feb. 15, which will mark the 44th anniversary of the first organized local sit-ins.
The Weather Underground Sam Green and Bill Siegel assembled this riveting documentary about the Weathermen, the 1960s antiwar activists who fought America’s involvement in Vietnam with bombs, not foodand whose legacy remains controversial and divisive even after three decades. The film opens Friday at the Belcourt; a panel discussion moderated by Vanderbilt management and sociology professor (and Scene contributor) Bruce Barry will follow the 7 p.m. show Dec. 11. More information can be found at www.belcourt.org. See Joshua Rothkopf’s review on p. 61.
8mm Silent Night Screenings of silent films in Nashville are so rare, and so contrary to the mainstream, that they virtually constitute an act of resistance to megaplex fare. Thus a silent-film series fits squarely within the punk-influenced ethos of the grass-roots art gallery Rule of Thirds, which has drawn substantial crowds for films almost a century old. The gallery revives its film series 8 p.m. Sunday with 8 mm screenings of cinemagician Georges Méliès’ trompe l’oeil shorts, including the legendary “A Trip to the Moon”the first moving picture ever shown in Nashville, exactly 100 years ago. The Méliès shorts are followed by the first local public showing in my lifetime of Siegfried, the first half of Fritz Lang’s epic 1924 film version of Die Nibelungen. Rule of Thirds is located at 1507 Bernard Ave., up the hill from Bongo Java across Belmont. For more information, call 298-3515.
Kal Ho Naa Ho The most enthusiastic movie audiences in Nashville can be found at the Belcourt’s monthly screenings of Hindi films, where villains are hissed and heroes cheered with an intensity usually reserved for World Cup soccer. More than 150 people showed up for last month’s unsubtitled Koi Mil Gaya, and it was easily the liveliest movie screening I’ve seen all year. This month’s subtitled feature, only released overseas a month ago, concerns an Indian community in New York that gets a boost of romance and energy from a newcomer, played by Shah Rukh Khan. It screens at noon and 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
Party Monster Macaulay Culkin stars as Michael Alig, the drug-addled kingpin of the ’80s-’90s Manhattan club scene who murdered his drug-dealer roommate Angel Melendez. Also starring Chloë Sevigny, Seth Green and Marilyn Manson, the film opens Friday at Green Hills, along with the gay indie comedy Mambo Italiano.
The Last Samurai A disillusioned, dissolute Indian fighterplayed, as you guessed, by Tom Cruisehas his sense of honor reawakened by a supposedly savage enemy: a Japanese samurai rebel (Ken Watanabe). Edward Zwick (Glory) directed and co-wrote this large-scale action-adventure, which opens Friday. Also opening: Jessica Alba as Honey.
Beyond Right and Wrong Dixie Gamble’s short film, an attack on the inhumanity of executing the mentally ill, centers this evening of music, art and activism 7 p.m. Thursday at the Belcourt. Featured speakers include Father Joseph Breen, Rev. Will Campbell, David Hinton, Rev. John McLean, Rev. Becca Stevens and Rev. Mary Katherine Morn; John Jorgenson and friends will provide the music. For more info, call 364-5295.
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