Pick of the Week 

Our Stories ♦ January 17 & 24

Our Stories ♦ January 17 & 24

Modern dance, martial arts and Chinese opera come together in this promising theatrical production, which unites diverse elements of the Nashville artistic and ethnic communities. With support from Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music and the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, among others, the Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville (CAAN) offers a triptych of dramatic performances expressing the immigrant experience, the importance of family ties and the legend and lore found in ancient Chinese folktales. “New Lives” features the music of Fred Ho and the poetry of Janice Mirkitani; “Gentle Strength” features the live performance of composer Carlos E. Gonzalez; and “The Magic Fan” features performers in Chinese opera “face painting” creating surreal images of magical fables. Other featured dancers, choreographers, martial artists and design talents include Diane Kimbrough, Bruce Linville, Harriet Wu and Jen-Jen Lin. The two performances take place at Ingram Hall on the Vandy campus, 7 p.m. Jan. 17 and 2 p.m. Jan. 24. For further information, phone 463-7471.

—Martin Brady

Music

Thursday, 15th

Mary Gauthier One of Gauthier’s choruses cites “cheater, liars, outlaws and fallen angels,” an apt description of the characters who populate her songs. She doesn’t romanticize those who live outside society, though. Instead, she shows how most are trying to climb out of some personal hell in search of grace—or at least a fair break. Gauthier’s most recent albums—2002’s Filth & Fire and 1999’s Drag Queens in Limousines—render drunks, addicts and those who are homeless or spiritually lost with the kind of detail that gets her compared to novelists as well as to forebears like Guy Clark and Lucinda Williams. A native of Thibodeaux, La.—a Cajun mill town she evocatively depicts in “Sugar Cane”—Gauthier has been on the road in one way or another since she was 15. In recent years, her career has led her from Boston to Nashville and Austin. Her songs are dark but humane, her voice unsentimental and uncompromising, her arrangements austere and sublime, and she presents them with quiet, sure-handed power. Bluebird Cafe

—Michael McCall

Friday, 16th

Wayne “The Train” Hancock With the raw, aggressive delivery of a rock ’n’ roller, this Texas yodeler and honky-tonker drifts across the boundaries of traditional country, rockabilly and Western swing—all without a drummer. Lavishly praised as a “modern-day Hank Williams,” Hancock deftly balances his traditionalism with a drive to keep country music evolving. He also insists on lyrics that reflect his life experiences. Sobriety is one of them, so some of his material focuses on “doing something with your life,” as he put it to Synthesis magazine. Unhappy songs, he also said, make him want to get drunk. Thankfully, there’s been enough heartache in his life to keep your glass full, if that’s your thing. The 5 Spot

—Saby Reyes-Kulkarni

Saturday, 17th

George Jones & Rhonda Vincent on the Grand Ole Opry Country Music Hall of Famer George Jones drops by the Opry for an appearance this weekend. Though he’s best known as a honky-tonk balladeer, Jones has been singing and recording gospel throughout his career. With the recent deaths of gospel greats Vestal Goodman and Jake Hess still on the minds of many—and, of course, the fact that his most recent album was titled The Gospel Collection—the odds are better than even that the Possum will soar and swoop through at least one sacred number. Rhonda Vincent, too, may have reason to sing a gospel song or two when she takes the stage. The IBMA’s reigning Female Vocalist of the Year spent New Year’s Eve in a hospital, undergoing emergency pancreas surgery. Still, the indefatigable Vincent is already up and at ’em, and fans who want to see how quickly sensational young singer-guitarist Josh Williams is being integrated into her band ought not to miss the show. The Opry lineup also includes Craig Morgan, who despite a fine voice and some solid material has yet to break through at country radio, as well as one-hit (so far) newcomer Jimmy Wayne. Rounding out the show is a strong bill of cast members, including Ricky Skaggs, Riders in the Sky and Billy Walker. Ryman Auditorium

—Jon Weisberger

Corndawg We can say, without fear of correction, that Virginia-based Corndawg is the only country singer on the planet whose day gig is roadie for a goth band (darkwave faves Bella Morte). No doubt that’s how he’s honed his craft winning over crowds of head-scratching hipsters, whom he usually encourages to sing along by show’s end. Reviews suggest he’s the Andy Kaufman of honky-tonk, but even so, some enterprising Music Row song scout should check out his catalog—especially the love ballad “Tyrone.” Tell me you wouldn’t pay cash money to hear Vince Gill sing, “I’m begging please for you to come home and stay all night / ’Cause if you don’t, I’m gonna get my truck, my guns and all my wire and I’m gonna hog-tie you bitch and drag you home.” He performs on an amazing bill of Nashville iconoclasts with Dave Cloud’s Gospel of Power, The Cherry Blossoms, Rockville Manikin and Cortney Tidwell, whose plaintive recent recordings are worth seeking out. Springwater

—Jim Ridley

Rebecca Sayre As a singer with the local swing band Badabing Badaboom, Sayre could snap with sass or slink with elegance. Now on her own, she delves deeper into the tasteful side of cabaret jazz, showing off her sparkling, fluid touch with a warm tone and a straight-ahead approach to lyrics in front of a lightly swinging combo. Her recent solo debut, This Is Always, concentrates on romantic chestnuts by the likes of Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. The record benefits from an outstanding band led by producer Pat Bergeson on guitar and with guest spots by pianist Beegie Adair and saxophonists Jeff Coffin and Denis Solee. For this performance, Sayre will be supported by Adair on piano, Jerry Navarro on bass and Chris Brown on drums. F. Scott’s

—Michael McCall

Sunday, 18th

The Thrills It’s flattering when a band from the U.K. cites American music as its primary influence—as opposed to, say, The Jesus & Mary Chain or Young Marble Giants (or nothing, which is a commonly arrogant Britpop assertion). Recent Americana-friendly Europeans have been rare enough to be overrated when they emerge—see Gomez and Minibar—and a case of “once bitten, twice shy” may be behind the cautious optimism that’s greeted Dublin’s The Thrills, whose debut album So Much for the City consciously fuses Neil Young, The Beach Boys and The Byrds. The majestic opener “Santa Cruz (You’re Not That Far)” sounds almost too perfect, with its tempo changes, harmonica solos, piano-banjo duets and organ-backed, harmony-enhanced choruses—it’s like an especially sweet distillation of late-’60s Los Angeles, cleaned up for the MP3 age. When The Thrills follow that up with “Big Sur” (which quotes The Monkees TV theme) and “Don’t Steal Our Sun” (with its trotting pace and melancholy-but-upbeat “ooo-ah-ooo”s), the natural response is either to resist skeptically or to grin and enjoy the band’s sincere evocation of a sound derived from the spirit of freedom and opportunity. (The latter is more fun.) 3rd & Lindsley; also playing an in-store during the day at Tower Records-West End

—Noel Murray

Tuesday, 20th

JACKD This fiery soul-jazz-groove aggregation evolved from The All Rectangle, a project that bassist Alana Rocklin (who’s now touring with Jeff Coffin) and keyboardist-programmer Brad Bowden developed in Chicago to explore ambient grooves, electronics and improvisation—something they did with more substance and edge than many of their peers. JACKD features fabulous players, including organ stalwart Johnny Neel, whose credits are too numerous to mention, and saxophonist Chris West of the Guy Smiley Blues Exchange. But it’s the rhythm section—Rocklin and drummer Derico Watson—that really drives bus. A recent Nashville transplant who’s been touring with bassist Victor Wooten, Watson is equal parts Dennis Chambers and Clyde Stubblefield, and his impressive combination of chops, deep pocket and impeccable time provides the essential ingredient to jazz-jam accessibility: The soloists can go from here to Mars as long as the groove is happening. B.B. King’s

—Jack Silverman

Dawn Kinnard A brief item in the current issue of Paste magazine reports that this gifted 25-year-old singer-songwriter from Pennsylvania bristles when people remark that she sounds like Lucinda Williams. Few musicians appreciate being compared to their peers, but in this case, Kinnard’s umbrage seems a tad disingenuous, especially given that her languorous, aggrieved alto sounds as if it’s modeled after Lucinda’s, right down to its improbably Southern inflections. And what’s wrong with sounding like Williams anyway, especially when—unlike alt-country it-girl of the moment Kathleen Edwards—the emotional tremors Kinnard sings and writes about sound more lived than imagined? Best of all, Kinnard’s dissonant, ambient remake of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” sounds like nothing in this world—which is to say, she does have a style of her own. Radio Cafe

—Bill Friskics-Warren

Wednesday, 21st

Kitt Lough One of the city’s most popular cabaret singers, Lough spices her vocals with a sultry slyness—a once common style rarely heard among today’s art-forward jazz crowd. This cheeky playfulness befits Lough’s smoky voice and subtle persona; she has such a superb sense of what works for her that she never crosses over into parody. Nor does her theatrical touch limit her expressiveness. As she demonstrates on her recent solo debut, Orange Colored View, Lough takes adventurous risks with her voice that pay off. Similarly, her arrangements are full of fresh ideas—from the Spanish guitar on “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” to the horn charts on “Lover Man”—that add flare to familiar standards. Nashville’s jazz scene suddenly is overflowing with fine female vocalists, and Lough belongs at the forefront. F. Scott’s

—Michael McCall

Theater

David Copperfield: An Intimate Evening of Grand Illusion If this magical performance by the world-renowned illusionist even achieves half of its promises, then Nashvillians are in for a treat. Copperfield’s current tour revolves around the theme of wish fulfillment, and to that end, the nonpareil prestidigitationist reunites loved ones, predicts winning lottery numbers and transports audience members to parts unknown. There are other daring and entertaining tricks too, as Copperfield confronts a lethal African scorpion, shrinks himself to shoebox size and floats through solid steel. It’s fun to be fooled, of course, but it’s even more fun to be astonished, and the two shows on Jan. 19 at TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall should draw willing audiences.

—Martin Brady

Treasure Island In the age of Pirates of the Caribbean and Master and Commander, Nashville Children’s Theatre launches its own seaworthy vessel in this new production based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure classic. NCT artistic director Scot Copeland is responsible for the adaptation of the beloved tale, and he also directs the action, which includes shipboard drama, a sought-after treasure map, colorful camaraderie and youthful courage. Matt Mellon plays the young hero Jim Hawkins, and Ross Brooks takes on the juicy role of the irascible buccaneer Long John Silver. Opens Jan. 20 at NCT’s Hill Theatre, running through Jan. 31. For tickets, phone 254-9103.

—Martin Brady

Comedy

MAC 2 NiTe Paul Bellos and Ideaprov’s comedy ensemble Fists of Funk team up with standup comedian Chad Riden for a performance at the Madison Art Center (MAC), Jan. 17 at 8 p.m. As the MAC attempts to expand its monthly entertainment offerings—theater, dance, music, etc.—this partnership with Ideaprov is designed to raise funds for a 200-seat theater to meet a variety of community programming needs. This engagement features a 7 p.m. dinner, included in the $15 ticket price. Reservations can be made at 868-8000. For more information on Ideaprov, contact Bellos at paul@ideaprov.com.

—Martin Brady

Art

Kara Spoonhour/Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery Each year, Vanderbilt selects one of its graduating seniors for the Hamblet award, which provides a stipend for travel and study and a show at the Vandy Fine Arts Gallery. This year’s winner is Kara Spoonhour, whose work from the last year will be on display Jan. 15 through 24, with an opening reception 5-7 p.m. on the 15th. She uses montage techniques to combine historical and news photographs, propaganda posters and satellite images into strong comments on and protests of current political and social issues. Energized by confident, engaging design, the pieces in this show examine and criticize the Bush Administration and the effects of militarism, violence and industrialization. As with any political artwork, it will raise questions for some viewers who feel art should not concern itself so literally with issues of the day, and for those who disagree with the artist’s strongly stated point of view.

—David Maddox

Elisa Cossonnet/The Arts Company This downtown gallery’s new “Salon Saturdays” are “openings with a twist,” says owner/director Anne Brown. What better way to kick off the monthly series than with French artist Elisa Cossonnet, whose childhood was infused with aesthetics by her interior designer mother and architect father? Her “365 Days and Counting” exhibit is a series of colorful small paintings on paper whipped up at the end of each day with whatever materials she’d been using—watercolors, oils, etc. This “visual journal” will be shown with pieces by 20 other gallery artists. Brown says there will be a show later in the year featuring other French artists as part of an exchange program recently established between The Arts Company and a gallery in France. Meanwhile, Cossonnet, who does not speak English, will be on hand at Saturday’s event to talk with visitors through an interpreter. The opening/salon lasts from 2 to 6 p.m.

—MiChelle Jones

Janet Brooks/Plowhaus The affordable, affable Plowhaus hosts “Solo Interlude,” a show of brightly colorful works by Janet Brooks focusing on watercolors. “In my view,” she says in her artist’s statement, “color and light symbolize emotional, sensual and spiritual qualities, while structure and clarity of form represent the intellect, the objective, the physical.” The show opens on Jan. 17, but there won’t be an event until the following Saturday, 7-10 p.m. Jan. 24. Plowhaus is at 213 S. 17th St.

Books

Susan Wittig Albert Tired of departmental infighting, former English professor Susan Wittig Albert quit academia in 1986 and moved to rural Texas, where she took up writing full-time. Since then, she’s authored or co-authored more than 80 books, including the wildly popular China Bayles mysteries, whose protagonist is a former high-octane, Houston-based defense lawyer turned herbalist and amateur sleuth. Set in the fictional town of Pecan Grove, Texas, where left-brained China teams with her right-brained sidekick Ruby to run a lunch spot called Thyme for Tea, each novel explores the properties of a specific spice or herb, cleverly and often humorously folding those qualities into the narrative of a standard whodunit. In the 13th installment, A Dilly of a Death, fans will find Albert in fine form, crafting a scrupulously plotted mystery concerning Pecan Grove’s missing Pickle Queen, the sexy, dangerous and very powerful Phoebe Morgan, who disappears just days before the town’s annual PickleFest. China and Ruby quickly become enmeshed in the case, and it doesn’t take long for bodies and lingerie to start turning up in the strangest places. The novel’s swift pace makes this a page-turner, but Albert’s real strength as a writer reveals itself most when she slows down long enough to describe the Texas landscape or a single flower from one of China’s gardens. The author reads at Davis-Kidd, 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17.

—Pablo Tanguay

Chris Bohjalian/Elizabeth Buchan See this week’s book reviews on p. 52-53 for more on Buchan and Bohjalian, both appearing at Davis-Kidd this week. The former reads from her novel The Good Wife Strikes Back, Jan. 15 at 6 p.m. The latter, currently on tour promoting his new book of essays about life in small-town Vermont, reads 6 p.m. Jan. 19.

Events

Radio Free Nashville Call-Up Meeting Against overwhelming odds, Nashville will have a community radio station, WRFN 98.9-LP, a.k.a. Radio Free Nashville—the recipient of one of the handful of low-power radio licenses the FCC handed out in Tennessee nearly two years ago. Getting the license and bandwidth were the insurmountable obstacles. Now the grassroots station has 16 months to get on the air, which will require modest studio space, equipment and fund-raising. It will also require all the artists, musicians and listeners who have wished and hoped for a genuine community radio station in Nashville to step up to the plate. To volunteer your support and get in on RFN’s ground floor, show up for its organizational meeting 7 p.m. next Wednesday at the Nashville Peace & Justice Center. We repeat: This is not a test. For more info, call 331-4857 or see www.radiofreenashville.org.

—Jim Ridley

Words of Albert Schweitzer and the Music of Bach Conceived by Tennessee Players founder Thurston Moore, this singular amalgam of the power of social conscience and music debuted in Nashville in 1995 and was reprised in 2000 at Vanderbilt’s World Peace Through Reverence for Life symposium. The multimedia presentation simulates a “live documentary” on both the artistic sensibility and the humanitarian work of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Schweitzer, accompanied by Schweitzer’s own recorded renditions of Bach compositions for organ. The program features an appearance by Naomi Tutu, daughter of Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Concert organist Hildegard Holland Cox will provide additional live performances of works by Bach. A Jan. 16 performance at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Old Hickory kicks off a series of six local engagements, all at different church venues, that stretch through Feb. 28. For locations, times and dates, phone 847-7433.

—Martin Brady

Film

American Splendor Since 1975, Cleveland file clerk and freelance intellectual Harvey Pekar has been recording the petty annoyances and moments of clarity that make up his everyday life, enlisting comic book artists to freeze them in panels. Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s big-screen adaptation of those comics employs an assured, casually experimental blend of documentary, animation and naturalist comedy to streamline Pekar’s life into one thematically consistent narrative, incisively capturing his guiding principle that commoners have as much to say as kings. The film’s occasional clunkiness is part of its substantial charm, enhanced also by compelling performances by Paul Giamatti as Pekar and Hope Davis as Joyce Brabner, the woman who learns to love him. Pekar’s great experiment—trying to understand his life by reporting on it—is validated as American Splendor reaches its moving, illuminating finale. The film returns to town Friday as part of the Belcourt’s “Critics’ Picks” series.

—Noel Murray

The Cooler A big-time loser (William H. Macy) has such a reverse Midas touch that a casino owner keeps him around to ruin others’ luck—until the affections of a cocktail waitress (Maria Bello) turn around his losing streak. Odds are that Alec Baldwin may secure an Oscar nod for his sizzling turn as the thuggish casino boss. The romantic drama starts Friday at Green Hills.

—Jim Ridley

Lost in Translation Talk about a Cinderella story: Bill Murray is shaping up as the early favorite for Best Actor as awards season rolls around. He deserves it, too, for his nuanced portrayal of a jet-lagged American movie star staving off loneliness with a photographer’s neglected wife (Scarlet Johannson) in a wildly disorienting neon-flooded Tokyo. Sofia Coppola’s delicate reverie returns to the Belcourt for a short run: If you missed it last fall, catch up with it before nominations are announced later this month.

—Jim Ridley

Torque It’s about time the former Monkee got his own biopic. No, no, this biker action flick pits Ice Cube against the guy framed for his brother’s murder. Expect lots of CGI bikes whizzing toward the camera at supersonic speed. It opens Friday, along with the Ben Stiller-Jennifer Aniston comedy Along Came Polly.

—Jim Ridley

Anything but Love In this fond low-budget tribute to the Technicolor musicals of the 1950s, a lounge singer (Isabel Rose, who co-scripted) must choose between the love of her wealthy high-school beau (Cameron Bancroft) or her wisecracking piano teacher (Andrew McCarthy). Friday at Green Hills.

—Jim Ridley

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