Often pegged with crude labels like “mopecore” and “depressing,” Kozelek’s captivating catalog of recordingsboth as frontman for San Francisco’s Red House Painters and as a solo artisthas resonated with listeners sympathetic to the singer-songwriter’s direct approach. Lately, he has been focusing on his new band, Sun Kil Moon, whose album from late 2003, Ghosts of the Great Highway, was one of the year’s best. While the songwriting is a bit more ambiguous than his previous work, Kozelek’s obsession with nostalgia rings a familiar and mournful note. As if turning the pages of a scrapbook, he reflects upon distant figures, as well as those more dear. The mood meanders between hope and despair throughout the 10 tracks, while nature and the supernatural frequent the vivid imagery. As is typical with Kozelek, such material finds a suitable matchand many Nick Drake and Neil Young comparisonsin largely acoustic arrangements that incorporate bass, strings, drums and percussion alongside his strong suit: haunting vocal and guitar melodies. Standing in contrast to the elegant majority are two raw, electrified cuts. One of these, the album standout “Salvador Sanchez,” brings gooseflesh with a wash of distorted guitar and Kozelek’s tenor in an elegy for tragic young prizefighters. The final track, “Poncho Villa,” is a beautiful acoustic version of “Salvador Sanchez” that sacrifices power but not intensityan indication that Kozelek’s current solo acoustic tour, which reportedly taps old and new material alike, won’t suffer from a lack of passion. Exit/In
Cumberland Heights presents Michael McDonald w/Ashford & Simpson and John Hiatt This year, Hiatt’s annual benefit for Cumberland Heights, a local alcohol and drug treatment center, is all about soul. Headlining is Nashville resident Michael McDonald, the former Doobie Brother, who has an album of slick, husky-voiced remakes of Motown favorites, including “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” The soul influence in McDonald’s gritty voice has always been evident, and his take on these classics pushes them toward a middle-of-the-road sound that replaces youthful emotion with an adult perspective. In the night’s biggest treat, the husband-and-wife songwriting team of Ashford & Simpson will perform, no doubt joining McDonald on two of the duo’s compositions, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.” Hopefully, the couple also will present other classics, including “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand” and “I’m Every Woman.” Of course, Hiatt’s always owned R&B influences as a singer and a writer, as shown in the open-hearted ballads “Feels Like Rain” and “Have a Little Faith in Me,” as well as in the greasy rockers “Memphis in the Meantime” and “Ridin’ With the King.” He’ll likely steal the show, as he usually does. Ryman Auditorium
Blueridge Those equally impatient with modern, country-flavored bluegrass and literal-minded re-creations of the music’s early days would do well to check out Virginia’s Blueridge, in town to celebrate the release of their latest CD, Side By Side, on Sugar Hill. It’s not that the group can’t do polished contemporary bluegrasswith influential mandolinist Alan Bibey and former Nashville fiddler Alan Johnson on board, how could they not? But lead singer Junior Sisk owns one of the lonesomest voices in the music today, bass player and tenor singer Eddie Biggerstaff complements his mournful leads, and their repertoire stays firmly in the three-chord groove. The result is a sound in which modern touches enliven, rather than overwhelm, traditional elements. Banjo newcomer Joey Cox had some big shoes to fill when he replaced the legendary Terry Baucom last fall, but his youthful energy and mastery have given the group the last piece they needed to put together a jewel of an albumand a dynamic stage show to match. The Station Inn
Rodney Crowell Crowell is currently enjoying what most onetime mainstream players never get a shot at: a meaningful second act. After a run in the ’80s that positioned him as one of country’s biggest stars, Crowell seemed to all but disappear during the Garth-and-Shania-dominated ’90s. But here in the new century, Crowell has released back-to-back albums that may well go down as the best of his life. True, he’s not back on the radio, but that slight surely must be softened by the satisfaction he gets from making such unabashedly personal music. It’s the examined life Crowell’s most interested in these days, and his insights are mostly too complex and messy to capture in a radio-friendly aphorism or chorus anyway. That’s why in one moment on last year’s Fate’s Right Hand he can rejoice that he’s capable of “Still Learning How to Fly”“I’ve got a past like a broken wing, but you ain’t seen anything”while in the next he’s resigning himself to being happily “Earthbound.” His band, the Rodney Crowell Quintet, features Will Kimbrough, Denny Bixby, Rey Landry and Marcia Ramirez. 3rd & Lindsley
Mosquitos If anything distinguishes “indie rock” from punk or art-rock or any of its offbeat pop forebears, the distinction has to do with music buffs getting a chance to create the sound of their record-collecting fantasies. Chris Root formed the genteel world-pop trio Mosquitos as a way of working through his Sergio Mendes obsession, and the 15 tracks on the band’s eponymous debut work as a minimalist, budget-sized version of bossa nova, with all the skittering rhythms, breathy vocals and sparkling guitar touches properly arranged. Mosquitos display some of the forced cutesiness and homage-addled limitations of other indie fetishists, but Root clearly has a deep personal affection for this sort of musical mood-settingthe kind that evokes beachside walks and cocktails at dusk, especially with the supple voice of Juju Stulbach accenting Root’s nerdy monotone. Exit/In
Antigone Rising No less an authority than Joan Jett herself pointed to this NYC quintet as “carrying on the feral spirit of The Runaways.” Though it’s a pity audiences still focus so much on whether their rock is delivered in male or female form, the undue attention is almost worth it for how offhandedly Antigone’s members handle it. Humorous, self-effacing and down-to-earth, these women seem to go through the rituals of being in a rock bandinterviews, meeting other bands, back-and-forth audience banterwith the same awe as if they were, well, still in awe of being in a rock band. Never in danger of taking themselves too seriously, Antigone Rising play a loose brand of melodic, guitar-driven rock that strikes a fine balance between impassioned delivery and buoyant fun. Not since Joey Ramone have such thick accents been such a pleasure to behold. Mercy Lounge
Degas and the Little Dancer The Nashville Ballet continues its annual series of performances for children with this program concerning a young girl, Marie van Goethen, whose family’s financial hardships spell the end of her dreams to become a famous dancer. Instead, she achieves immortality when she becomes the chief model for impressionist painter Edgar Degas’ famous artworks focusing on ballerinas. The dance scenario here is based on Laurence Anholt’s nonfiction book of the same name. A 2 p.m. Jan. 25 performance at Belmont University’s Massey Auditorium will be followed up by a reprise performance 10 a.m. Feb. 7 at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. Admission is free for both events. For more information, phone 297-2966.
Oklahoma! This touring version of the first (and possibly the finest) musical collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein is based on the recent British Royal National Theatre production that was directed by Trevor Nunn and featured choreography by the very gifted Susan Stroman. The cast members aren’t exactly household names, but the charactersCurly, Laurey, Ado Annie, Jud Fry, etc.are theatrical icons who’ll be singing staples of the Broadway songbook, including “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top,” “I Cain’t Say No” and the great title anthem, among many others. Presented Jan. 27-Feb. 1 at TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall. For tickets, phone 255-ARTS.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? One of the great dramas of the 1960s, Edward Albee’s award-winning study of a pair of college professors and their wives puts a harrowing spin on how a few cordial late-evening cocktails can turn into an ugly session of psychological brutality. With his lead characters George and Martha, played here by Mark Cabus and Pam Wild, Albee practically invented the classic love-hate relationship. Meanwhile, the visiting younger couple, played by Grant Goodman and Misty Lewis, get an up-close-and-personal view of the fortunes of long-term marriage. Mike Nichols directed Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the well-known 1966 film version. (In a related news item, Uta Hagen, who created the role of Martha on Broadway, just recently passed away at age 84.) Here, David Grapes directs the cast in Tennessee Repertory Theatre’s Off-Broadway Series production, which opens Jan. 27 and runs through Feb. 7 at TPAC’s Johnson Theater. For tickets, phone 255-ARTS.
Last Comic Standing Nashville’s Zanies Comedy Showplace is one of only six comedy clubs nationwide to be hosting the semifinals for NBC’s Last Comic Standing competition. See 12 contestants compete for their shot at stardom, 8 p.m. Jan. 27; the doors open at 7 p.m., and admission is complimentary to the first 250 audience members. Comedians interested in auditioning are invited to an open call that same day, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bring your best three minutes of material. (There are no advance sign-ups.) Phone the Last Comic Standing Hotline for further information at (818) 526-2331 or visit www.NBC.com/. The number at Zanies is 269-0221.
Trevor Mikula/Cadeau Gallery Located at 2700 Belmont Blvd., the relatively new Cadeau Gallery continues its series of solo shows this weekend, giving painter Trevor Mikula the spotlight. Hailing from Spring Hill, Tenn., Mikula acquired his education from Nashville State Technical Institute in visual communications, with specific interest in graphic design. He notes that growing up in a television-free home forced his imagination into constant activation that absorbed books and produced art. He has consistently shown his work for the past four years in local venues (including donating much work to charities), which has assisted him in obtaining an aroused and inquiring audience. The clear attraction of his paintings is centered in the candied textures and colors of his impasto still-lifes. His seeming enjoyment in the palette knife’s hard-angled depiction of sumptuous, rounded objects is the visual equivalent of the “bull let loose in a china shop.” This awkward juxtaposition results in humorous images with puerile titles such as “Jumping Orange” and “Two Tomato.” Although his work doesn’t offer up much innovation in form or content, it does make one grin at the artist’s comic characterizations, right down to his signature. Mikula has created a large portfolio for this show, which opens Saturday, Jan. 24, with a reception from 7-9 p.m. Call 385-5055 for more information.
“Detail”/Zeitgeist Gallery If you’re looking for a great art happening this weekend, check out “Detail,” opening at Zeitgeist 6-8 p.m. this Saturday. The exhibit consists of a small group of artists chosen specifically to help launch the gallery’s 10th anniversary. Those showing include Todd McDaniel, Carl Gombert, Tim Hussey, Chris Scarborough and Ward Shumaker. Help Zeitgeist celebrate this milestone by enjoying some impressive food and talent. The show runs through Feb. 21; call 256-4805 for more...details.
Eddy Arnold Eddy Arnold always loved smooth. Coming of age during the Depression, he passed his days sweating through his shirt and wearing calluses on his hands as a real-life Tennessee Plowboy. For rejuvenation, such work demanded something less burdensome, so the young Arnold spent what spare time he had thrilling to the easygoing radio performances of the era’s newly crooning pop stars. He mail-ordered his favorite records, by Bing Crosby and Gene Austin often as not, for future study at 78 rotations per minute. To his immense good fortune, Arnold left farm work to make a living in music just as the country audience generally was busy moving from country to town and from field to factoryand finding that this new life was in many respects no less physically taxing and soul-wearying than the old one. Arnold’s gifts as a vocalistall relaxed melodies, soft edges and buttery blueswere an ideal antidote for one more week of toil. The trick to his success was to invest hits like “Bouquet of Roses” and “Make the World Go Away” with emotion that was deeply felt and relaxed. From his days as a lead singer for Pee Wee King’s Golden West Cowboys in the 1940s to the Nashville Sound hits that landed him a spot on Johnny Carson’s couch in the ’60s and ’70s, Arnold’s career has mirrored the shifting lives and interests of his fans. At this edition of the Blair Conversations Series, he’ll tell us how he did it, and without letting anyone see him sweat. The event takes place 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24, in the Blair School’s Ingram Hall.
Battle Royale Yes, you read that correctly: The biggest cult sensation of the past decadea movie that’s likely too controversial ever to get U.S. distributionwill be shown publicly in Nashville for the first time Saturday night, projected on DVD at the Belcourt. A giddy, black-humored mix of satire and exploitation, part Lord of the Flies and part Death Race 2000, the late Kinji Fukasaku’s sci-fi thriller transports a group of Japanese schoolchildren to a remote island, where the government pushes the concept of zero tolerance to grotesque extremes. Come to the 9:15 p.m. show of Kill Bill Vol. 1which features Battle Royale’s Chiaki Kuriyama as schoolgirl assassin Go Go Yubariand stay for BR at 11:30, courtesy of the forward-thinking sickos at Nashville Cinema Underground. Kill Bill Vol. 1 is this week’s entry in the Belcourt’s monthlong Critics’ Picks series spotlighting films from the Scene critics’ Top 10 movies of 2003. Surprises are planned for both Saturday-night shows this weekend. Call 846-3150 for more information.
The Godfather/The Godfather Part II Sarratt kicks off a pleasing semester of second-run fare with a surefire blockbuster: a double feature of Francis Ford Coppola’s Mafia saga, with a break in between for an Italian meal in the student center’s lobby. Leave the guns, take the cannolis and go to the mattresses Sunday afternoon starting at 3 p.m. For more information, and a peek at other titles coming soon, pick up a schedule at Sarratt’s main desk on the Vanderbilt campus.
Films by John Cohen A founder of the New Lost City Ramblers, John Cohen has been a force in folk music for more than four decades. He’s also renowned as a photographer, having witnessed the births of Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and the Greenwich Village folk scene, as well as the glory years of the Beats. Yet his work as a filmmaker fuses the many strands of his career. Three of his films, 1963’s “The High Lonesome Sound,” 1970’s “The End of an Old Song” and 1981’s “Sara and Maybelle: The Carter Family,” launch the Country Music Hall of Fame’s new monthly screening series 2 p.m. Sunday at the Ford Theater. Admission is free with museum admission. For more information, call 416-2001.
Khakee In what sounds like a Bollywood retooling of Clint Eastwood’s The Gauntlet, a run-down police officer joins a transport team delivering a deadly terrorist to justice, only to encounter traps and danger every step of the way. Naturally, this is a musical. It screens 3 p.m. Sunday at the Belcourt, in Hindi with English subtitles.
Monster You’d think Charlize Theron was the first actor in history to use makeup for a role, reading the reviews of her latex-enhanced turn as executed serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Judge for yourself when writer-director Patty Jenkins’ biopic opens Friday at Green Hills. See the review on p. 70.
Anything but Love Isabel Rose co-wrote and stars in this affectionate salute to Technicolor musicals of the 1950s, playing a nightclub singer torn between her straight-arrow flame (Cameron Bancroft, a name that sounds more like a character than an actor) and her brooding piano teacher (Andrew McCarthy). The musical comedy starts Friday at Green Hills.
The Butterfly Effect The space-time continuum gets punk’d as psych student Ashton Kutcher figures out how to travel back into his memoriesa process that causes terrible side effects when he starts trying to right past wrongs. Final Destination 2 scribes Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber make their directorial debut with this startlingly sick horror yarn; it opens Friday, along with Topher Grace and Kate Bosworth in Win a Date With Tad Hamilton.
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