Suzan-Lori Parks is on an amazing roll. Two years ago, she won a “genius” grant from the MacArthur Foundation; last year, she was the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama (for Topdog/ Underdog); and now she’s just published her first novel, which is making reviewers search their thesauruses for any superlative not already shopworn by reviews of her plays. In this darkly comic road novel, 16-year-old Billy Beede, pregnant and penniless and abandoned by her ne’er-do-well lover, heads across Texas to find her mother’s grave and dig up the “treasure” rumored to be buried with her (one diamond ring and a pearl necklace) so that she can pay for an abortion. As with Topdog/Underdog (a modern retelling of the Cain and Abel story) and her newest play Fucking A (a reimagining of The Scarlet Letter), Parks’ novel takes its inspiration from classic literature: Getting Mother’s Body is her own version of As I Lay Dying. Like Faulkner, Parks is interested in both cultural and personal history, in the way a mother’s death affects the rest of her clan. Also like Faulkner, she tells her tale in alternating voices, nailing the pathos and the confusion and the black humor of Faulkner’s hardscrabble characters. But this story’s all her own, nonetheless. If anything, it’s the ultimate anti-Faulkner: joyfully African American, unabashedly female and powerfully redemptive. Parks reads from and signs her new book, 6 p.m. July 21 at Davis-Kidd Booksellers.
This week’s picks by Todd Anderson, Martin Brady, Doug Brumley, Jonathan Flax, Bill Friskics-Warren, Paul Griffith, Heather Johnson, Bill Levine, Mark Mays, Michael McCall, Steve Morley, Saby Reyes-Kulkarni, Margaret Renkl, Jim Ridley, Joshua H. Rothkopf, Jason Shawhan, Jack Silverman, William Tyler, Jon Weisberger, Angela Wibking and Ron Wynn.
Black Eyed Peas Since 2000, when their LP Bridging the Gap smartly merged rap lyrics with trip-hop, funk and jungle influences, Black Eyed Peas have been one of hip-hop’s more sophisticated and eclectic units. Their latest, Elephunk, has raised eyebrows due to the presence of ringers like Justin Timberlake and a pronounced pop strain, even though the disc also includes Afro-Latin and rock elements and doesn’t disregard the sociopolitical concerns that have long been part of the group’s music. They appear with Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise, Mieka Pauley and ace area rapper Count Bass D. Dancin’ in the District
Norah Jones The jazz community remains divided over whether this multi-Grammy winner represents the future for improvising vocalists or whether she’s merely another mislabeled pop singer. What makes the discussion so interesting is that Jones herself has never claimed to be a jazz singer; her style owes as much to folk, pop and soft rock as it does to that of swingers or shouters. In any case, she’s a gifted interpreter of everything from honky-tonk to blues, something that has made her smash debut, Come Away With Me, so intriguing. Jackson Hall, TPAC
Mikey Dread DJ, producer and performer Michael Campbell, a.k.a. Mikey Dread, is best known for his influence on late ’70s punk rock, notably his work with The Clash. More importantly, his freewheeling ’70s radio show “Dread at the Controls” was instrumental in breaking down the economic and racial barriers that kept Jamaican music off the airwaves. (See the story on p. 37.) Slow Bar
Gino Robair w/Brady Sharp/ Craig Nutt Percussionist Robair honed his skills with English improviser Eddie Prevost and went on to work with a diverse group of outsiders, from free jazz giant Anthony Braxton to turntablist Otomo Yoshihide. For his Nashville appearance, he will be joined by local improv guitarist Sharp. Sharing the bill is Nutt, a local improviser who came out of Tuscaloosa, Ala.’s Dadaist underground in the ’70s, a scene that also spawned alt-rock absurdist Fred Lane. Guido’s
Byron Berline A certified fiddle legend who played with Bill Monroe, toured with the Flying Burrito Brothers, recorded with the Rolling Stones and mentored a young Vince Gill, Berline makes only occasional, not-to-be-missed visits to Nashville. He appears with longtime friend and colleague Roland White and his excellent band. The Station Inn
Starflyer 59 Since their 1994 beginnings as a compelling shoegazer band after the fashion of My Bloody Valentine, this California group have pared down the guitar tracks and frontman Jason Martin has turned up his hushed vocals to make his bummed-out rock more accessible yet just as striking. Exit/In
onelinedrawing Who needs a band when you’ve got R2D2 as backup? Emo refugee and all-around eccentric Jonah Sonz Matranga plays stripped-down acoustic guitar, sings and lets “Are Too” handle the rest (drum beats, samples, etc., both live and in the studio). Admirably, Matranga also espouses a sliding-scale CD-purchase policy. The Muse
Interactive Discussion With Eddy Arnold Arnold’s moniker, “The Tennessee Plowboy,” is a little misleading. More crooner than hillbilly singer, Arnold, as much as anyone, was responsible for country music’s postwar popular acceptability. He appeared on the Billboard charts during seven different decades, the instantly recognizable “Make the World Go Away” being among his record number of charted singles. Since Arnold’s retirement from performing in 1999, he’s receiving the attention he deserves. This dialogue-driven event will also feature live video footage of Arnold performing his hits and stories about his life and career. Ford Theater, Country Music Hall of Fame
Paul Burch & The W.P.A. Ball Club Burch’s modern country music has grown increasingly diverse on recent albums, and his growing knowledge of how to use portable recording gear has added an increased level of sophistication to his music. But at heart he’s still a honky-tonker who found his voice singing over the din of first drunks and last calls, and he’s at his best live. Family Wash
Lesser Birds Of Paradise With alt-country continuing to evolve into different strains, the Lesser Birds play what could be described as “coffeehouse country with a dash of indie rock.” The Chicago quartet craft low-key, moody pieces that are sparse and lilting yet playful at the same time. The End
The Cushion Theory For those who prefer their heaviness on the lighter side, the stop-start staccato chug of The Cushion Theory rolls by like the band is still in a post-catharsis afterglow. They’re at their best when they suggest the tempest and hold back, an effect that’s nicely subverted by their joyously out-of-tune vocals. Springwater
Muriel Anderson’s All-Star Guitar Night feat. Les Paul & His Trio This event promises no fewer than 15 signature guitarists spanning every significant genre of the past half-century. Pioneers like bluesman Hubert Sumlin (best known for his work with Howlin’ Wolf), surf guitarist Nokie Edwards of The Ventures and Steve Morse of the Dixie Dregs will share the stage with later generations of stylists, all the way down to 13-year-old prodigy Chelsea Constable. The evening will feature an auction and online raffle, with proceeds going to support music education. Ryman Auditorium
Laura Cantrell Cantrell’s countrypolitan sound is perfect for the Opry Plaza summer concert series: The Nashville-born, New York City-based singer’s latest, When the Roses Bloom Again, combines rural authenticity with a big-city worldview. Ruthie & The Wranglers complete the bill. Grand Ole Opry Plaza
The gossip This trio from Olympia, Wash., are gaining props for their live shows and their new album, Movement, which throbs with danceable punk. The band’s emerging star is lead singer Beth Ditto, who possesses a raw, throaty voice that’s part evangelical gospel singer and part sex-starved blues mama. The End
The Cotton Kings/Daniel Salazar The third installment of Cannon County’s summer concert series focusing on Southern music features The Cotton Kings, an acoustic duo who employ guitars, ukulele, string bass, snare drum and household appliances to reanimate everything from ragtime and blues to gospel and folk songs. Also on the bill is Salazar, a gifted Mexican American singer, guitarist and interpreter of traditional Latin material who will perform a set of historical material under the banner “Canciones y Corridos.” For info, call (615) 563-ARTS. Dillon Park, Woodbury
Serenatta Romantic Latin Ensemble This ensemble testify to the vitality of music as a living, breathing link in the chain of rituals that make up life in Latin culturesnot by being academic about it, but by imploring you to sing and dance to the multitude of styles they present. El Inca
Tom Shinness Even if Nashville had a market for live New Age music, local guitarist Shinness would still land a hair outside the boundary lines. Utilizing a customized harp and electronic effects, he offers meditative explorations that suggest touches of Indian raga and psychedelia. Davis-Kidd Booksellers
Sister Hazel Chasing Daylight, the latest album by this Gainesville, Fla., quintet, marks their return to an indie label, yet delivers the same buoyant rock anthems and smooth, acoustic-leaning ballads that made them AAA all-stars. James Robertson Theater, Municipal Auditorium
Disco D At age 18, this Michigan phenom was one of the pioneers of the electronic-dance subgenre known as “ghetto tech,” which amounts to raunchy rapping over rubbery house beats. NV
A Conversation With Les Paul There isn’t space to cite all the achievements of this incredible guitarist, inventor and recording guru, which include introducing the first eight-track tape recorder and building the first solid-body electric guitar. Paul’s musical friends and associates have included Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery and Chet Atkins, and his early ’50s recordings with Mary Ford are established standards. A day after appearing at the Ryman as part of Muriel Anderson’s All-Star Guitar Night (see above), Paul talk about his career. Ford Theater, Country Music Hall of Fame
Bernard Purdie Purdie’s stylistically expansive drumming has graced some 4,000 recordingsby artists ranging from Aretha Franklin to Miles Davis to Steely Dan. He’s maybe best known as a pacesetter in acid jazz, but Purdie’s done it all, including, rumor has it, overdubs on early Beatles records. He brings a combo to this 8 p.m. NAMM showcase, where he’ll play selections from a new CD, Purdie Good Cookin’, as well as a set with the rootsy duo Betty Dylan. 3rd & Lindsley
Celeste Krenz Back when country music embraced smart singer-songwriters like Mary Chapin Carpenter and Rosanne Cash, a sensitive performer like Krenz might have been welcomed by Music Row. These days, she’s part of America’s acoustic underground, her compassionate lyrics and eclectic folk-pop sought out at listening rooms and folk festivals. A longtime Denver favorite who recently has resided in Nashville, Krenz will have a new album in August on Blix Street Records, home of Irish singer Mary Black and the late Eva Cassidy, two artists who share her musical aesthetic. Bongo After Hours
Paul Oakenfold A fixture on the dance music scene since the raveolution’s “second summer of love,” Oakenfold is known for his marathon DJ sets, his production and remixes (The Shamen’s “Move Any Mountain” and U2’s “Even Better Than the Real Thing,” to name two of the more enduring), and the stellar releases of his Perfecto label. He comes to town to move bodies and open minds, with acclaimed DJ Sandra Collins opening. James Robertson Theater, Municipal Auditorium
Molly Thomas The violinist of choice for singer-songwriters like Matthew Ryan and Will Kimbrough, Thomas was recently mentioned in a London Times Sunday magazine piece on the Nashville music scene as an example of our city’s embarrassment of riches, many of which go criminally unnoticed. Thomas is also a gifted guitarist, pianist and songwriter, with a warm vocal style that’s something of a cross between those of Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Raitt. (Thomas also appears Tuesday at Guido’s.) 5 Spot
Dave Pomeroy’s NAMM-Ville Unlimited Besides his formidable bass skills and session credits, Pomeroy has been a tireless booster of the local music scene. His NAMM show features the Dennis Burnside Trio, the Jamie Hartford Band, buzz bassist Adam Nitti, Kevin Whalum and Pomeroy’s All-Bass Ensemble. The real coup, though, is Bob Babbitt, the legendary Motown bassist who has recorded with everyone from Marvin Gaye to Stanley Turrentine to Alice Cooper. Blue Sky Court
Danni Leigh Tagged with only some justice as a female Dwight Yoakam, Leigh recently moved to Texas, where fans are more attuned to her rowdy brand of honky-tonk. They’re not the only ones, though, and she returns to Nashville for a pair of Opry appearances, with this free show sandwiched in. Grand Ole Opry Plaza
Jeff Coffin Mu’tet Whether working with Bela Fleck or on his own projects (the most experimental of which being his Mu’tet), Coffin is an aggressive, adventurous saxophonist. The Mu’tet’s personnel for this post-NAMM “blowout” includes many of the area’s more daring players, among them trumpeter Rod McGaha and bassist Roger Spencer. Café 123
Sorry About Dresden Jangly guitars and an even-tempered voice lead Sorry About Dresden’s songs through bouncy changes, the overall effect being reminiscent of the jaded college punk of the 1980s. In an era of glossy pop and sappy navel-gazing, it’s refreshing to hear a band so cheerfully miserable. Red Rose Coffee House
Bongzilla/Grand Ulena Bongzilla crawled up from the same stoner sludge that begat bands like Sleep and The Melvins. Also on the bill are Grand Ulena, practitioners of bombastic slop-prog that’s undeniable in its fury and punishing in its volume. Lopan and Bells for Aida round out the evening. Guido’s
Rick Holmstrom Those wondering if it’s possible to do anything new with the blues should try Holmstrom’s recent release Hydraulic Blues, on which he applies production techniques typically associated with electronic music to traditional and contemporary blues numbers. It may be a bit over-the-top, but it’s far from the usual reworked fodder. 3rd & Lindsley
The Pinehill Haints These acoustic revelers from Alabama employ batty anachronisms like washtub bass, saw and washboard; they could easily have performed their current set, a mix of barnburners and waltzy ballads, prior to World War II. Yet they avoid the novelty tag with thoughtful songwriting and a deadpan sincerity, as well as an indie-rock sloppiness that allows them to fit as comfortably in a dive bar as in an Appalachian holler. Ole Mossy Face and Michael Acree & The Church Street Sound open. Springwater
Marion James CD Release Party Nashville’s “Queen of the Blues” had a Top 10 hit in the ’50s for Excello, “That’s My Man,” on which she was backed by a group that included Billy Cox on bass and Johnny Jones on guitar. She recorded and performed steadily until the mid-’80s, with her husband Jimmy Stuart serving as her bandleader. (Stuart also worked as a horn arranger for the likes of Junior Parker and Bobby “Blue” Bland.) After taking a lengthy break from touring to work as a police officer, Jameswhose strengths include excellent phrasing, nonstop energy and a gift for singing about heartache without sounding bitterlaunched a comeback in the early ’90s. Essence, her new disc, mixes exuberant dance tunes with sizzling slow pieces like her fabulous reworking of Latimore’s “Let’s Straighten It Out.” Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar
Fat Worm Of Error/7 Year Rabbit Cycle As the Bay Area band Deerhoof garner the best reviews of their 10-year career for their Apple O’ CD, check out these two groups featuring former members. 7 Year Rabbit Cycle are from Knoxville, while Fat Worm of Error wear funny hats and make a clanging improvisational clatter. Springwater
Ben Folds/Fleming & John Relocated back to Nashvillehe spent a stint here in the early ’90sFolds has already had a busy career since dissolving his acclaimed trio in 2000. The pianist-vocalist followed his solo LP Rockin’ the Suburbs with Ben Folds Live, a mini-album with Ben Kweller and Ben Lee called The Bens and numerous soundtrack appearances. Ever prolific, Folds plans three EP releases this year, the first of which includes a mix of lost gems and assistance from collaborator John Painter of the smart pop duo Fleming & John. MIA since their Uptown Mix gig in 2001, Fleming & John will reprise their familiar role as Folds’ opening act and will likely make guest appearances during the headlining set. Uptown Mix
The High Strung Like The Kinks in a New York garage, The High Strung match their upbeat songwriting with a flair for trebly guitars and loud cymbals. Their extensive back catalog also helps them sustain their disheveled pop energy. Slow Bar
Noise Ratchet Brandishing sharp, hard guitar riffs and providing each song with dramatic peaks and valleys, this emo band defy the notion that intensely personal rock needs to sound awkward. The End
American Menu Up and coming playwright Don Wilson Glenn’s first major work, American Menu is currently being produced off-off-Broadway and just recently concluded a major West Coast reading at the Rubicon Theatre Company. Based in part on Glenn’s mother’s lifeand part of a projected trilogythe drama concerns five black women who work in the kitchen of an otherwise “all-whites” diner in Texas in 1964. Amidst drudgery and isolation, the women laugh, rage and dream of a time when life will offer them equality and better choices for personal fulfillment. Under the direction of Barry Scott, Tennessee State University’s Summer Stock Theatre Program will present the Nashville premiere of this thought-provoking play, July 17-27 in the TSU Performing Arts Center.
Boy Gets Girl Rebecca Gilman’s attention-grabbing play about the perils of dating in the big city is a serious piece of theater. Vali Forrister directs an Actors Bridge cast featuring Francie Murphey and Clay Steakley. The production opens July 18 at the Darkhorse Theater and runs through Aug. 2. For reservations, call 341-0300. See the story on p. 54.
My Fair Lady Sometimes lost in the shadow of Rodgers & Hammerstein, the duo of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe often proved to be creators on an equal footing. Certainly My Fair Lady exemplifies their high craftsmanship. Unlike R&H, who made a habit of turning half-baked stories into musical masterworks, L&L here tackled the genius of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and proved that sometimes it’s all right to mess with the classics. The book and lyrics are witty, and the score is simply sublime, with tuneful and sophisticated numbers. Martha Wilkinson directs Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre’s big summer production, and it should be worth the price of admission just to hear Nancy Allen as Eliza Doolittle sing “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly.” Joseph Collins plays the cantankerous Henry Higgins. Presented July 22-Sept. 6 on the Barn Mainstage.
Jerry Seinfeld Everyone’s favorite standup-turned-sitcom star seems content presently with hitting the big-time concert halls. Advance demand for this TPAC appearance was so great that a second show has been added. If you missed Seinfeld last time around in Nashville, here’s another chance to see him. The two July 19 Jackson Hall shows are at 7 and 9:30 p.m.
Frist Center for the Visual Arts Long before formally trained artists delved into abstraction, and long before using found objects became a deliberate aesthetic choice, American women were experimenting with colorful, intricate geometric patterns using recycled textiles. They weren’t trying to create art, though; they were creating quilts to keep their families warm. But the artistic impulse also compelled them to make these utilitarian objects beautiful as well. The African American quilting tradition is as rich as that of white America, and this new exhibit boasts examples created just after the Civil War alongside contemporary quilts that take the craft in new directions.
10th Annual Glow Show Ready, set, glow. It’s been 10 years since untitled, Nashville’s open-membership artist collective, staged its first glow-in-the-dark and black-light art show. In celebration of that anniversary, this year’s July 18 event at Cummins Station also features prizes, luminous face painting, music and performance art. Also in honor of a glowing decade of art, 10 percent of all proceeds will benefit Art & Soul Youth Encouragement Services.
Hanging Around Eclectic Arts and Framing Nashville photographer Steven Long debuts new black-and-white, sepia-toned and color images at this Music Row gallery. Most recently, Long has been exploring low-light photography, manipulating light and color to produce surreal images of people, buildings and outdoor scenery. Join the artist for the opening reception, 5:30-8:30 p.m. July 17.
Belmont Mansion The mansion is celebrating its 150th birthday this year, and part of the yearlong celebration includes a display of the kind of clothing the mansion’s original owners Joseph and Adelicia Acklen might have worn back in the mid-1800s, when the Italian-style villa served as the couple’s elegant summer home. On July 25-27, visitors can see the hoopskirts and crinolines for just $5 or take in the exhibit and tour the home for $8. For info, call 460-5459.
Marsha Moyer Moyer didn’t break any new ground with her first novel, The Second Coming of Lucy Hatch, in which a devastated young widow finds new love and newfound joy. Likewise, her recent sequel, The Last of the Honky-Tonk Angels, continues down this comfortably predictable path: New love’s long-lost daughter turns up, wreaking havoc with newfound joy. It’s Moyer’s character-driven, readable prose and firm grasp of quirky small-town Texas life, however, that validate her devoted fan-base. Those looking for a romantic summer pager-turner need look no further. Moyer reads and signs her new work at Davis-Kidd Booksellers, 6 p.m. July 23.
Swimming Pool Before François Ozon’s mystery-thriller succumbs to its final-act basic instincts, it works up some well-ratcheted psychosexual tension between its two leads. Charlotte Rampling (also marvelous in Ozon’s Under the Sand) is a brittle English crime novelist, escaping to her publisher’s secluded Provençal retreat ostensibly to write her way out of a rut. Just as she’s getting started, paradise is crashed by Ludivine Sagnier, the publisher’s teenage French daughter and a frequently topless force of nature. The movie really could have been just about this relationship, carried to its logical ends, and while it isthe old pro and the young ingenue expertly playing off each other’s typeit’s fairly riveting. The movie opens Friday at Green Hills.
Only the Strong Survive If not for electrifying performance footage of the likes of Sam Moore, the late Rufus Thomas and former Supreme Mary Wilson, this shallow, frustrating, sloppily organized soul-music documentary by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker (Down From the Mountain) would be a washout. But subjects as vital as Thomas and Wilson Pickett are as captivating offstage as on, making this a must for fans. It opens for a week’s run at the Belcourt; see the review in our Movie Guide on p. 60.
The Sea Maybe I’m a sick bastard, but this pitch-black comedy of familial hostility made me laugh harder than almost anything I’ve seen this summer, save for Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and Down With Love. The setting is an Icelandic town, where the aging patriarch gathers his snarling kids for one last dishing of dirt. The movie could serve as a straight-faced parody of Dogme 95’s assaultive soap operasexcept it’s shot on blessed celluloid and looks gorgeous. It shows for a few more days at the Belcourt.
Bad Boys II You’ve got the stars of Independence Day and Black Knight, the director of Pearl Harbor, and a writing team whose credits range from Bull Durham to Alf and the cult porn flick Café Flesh. Here’s hoping the movie, which opens Friday, wrings every smidgen of weirdness from this combo. Also opening this week: Mandy Moore and Allison Janney in How to Deal, and Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English.
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…