Pick of the Week 

“The Wrong Question Asker: New Works by Wayne White” Opening Friday, Jan. 30

“The Wrong Question Asker: New Works by Wayne White” Opening Friday, Jan. 30

White’s exhibit at Cheekwood is for all those who love clever mockery in and about art. At age 19, the artist was uprooted from his hometown of Chattanooga by the pull of New York. There, he spent the next 10 years working as a cartoonist for publications such as the Village Voice and Rolling Stone before advancing to designing sets for Pee Wee’s Playhouse and music videos for “Big Time” recording artists such as Peter Gabriel. This steady immersion into the entertainment industry seems to have prejudiced White’s stance on authenticity, which conceptually forefronts his absurd and sardonic ready-mades. His work in this show appropriates mass-produced lithographs that reek with old-time nostalgia. The wholesome woodsy scenes depicting back-road livin’ are sure to tap into the collective subconscious of Southern audiences. He alters each piece by painting three-dimensional texts into the landscapes, which visually read as colloquial hillbilly versions of California’s famous “HOLLYWOOD” sign. White employs phrases such as “THE WRONG QUESTION ASKER” and “NASCAR TIT SHIRT” to mix up the visual messages and provoke the viewer into questioning differences between high- and lowbrow art and culture. The show is up Jan. 30-Feb. 29, with a free public reception 6-8 p.m. Friday, held in tandem with the opening of “The Sight of Music.” (See Art picks, below.)

—Julie Roberts


Thursday, 29th

Todd Snider & The Nervous Wrecks Snider shouldered his way onto the scene 10 years ago with Songs From the Daily Planet, and though he’s sometimes taken on other sounds, he’s still best as a wise-ass troubadour whose rambling songs prick the pretentious while tipping his wicked wit to heroes and outlaws. He cracks a lot of jokes, both musically and verbally, and he can stop you in your tracks with a song so humane it’ll stick in your mind like a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph. As revealed on his recent solo album, Todd Snider Live: Near Truths and Hotel Rooms, the East Nashvillian can be talkative, and there’s no predicting which way his mind or songs will take him. He has a blast onstage, and his crowds tend to have as much fun as he does. For this show, he’s returning with his band, the Nervous Wrecks, so expect a little muscle between the singer’s extemporaneous lip. Belcourt Theatre

—Michael McCall

The Coal Men Prodigious early on (he signed with Acuff-Rose publishing at the age of 20), Dave Coleman has the kind of breezy guitar chops and rich vocal warble of the best, and most believable, Americana artists. His band, The Coal Men, make for a similarly convincing combo, avoiding many of the self-parody traps of the genre and keeping Coleman’s wistful, kitsch-free lyrics in the foreground. Even ballads that could be too cute, such as “Kansas City Misery,” are delivered straight-faced and with the conviction of a veteran outfit. This week, the trio will be releasing Nowhere’s Too Far, their second album. Produced by Bob Delevante, the record features guest appearances by Carter Wood, Richard Ferreira, Duane Jarvis and Joy Lynn White. 12th &Porter

—Jonathan Flax

Friday, 30th

Roy Ayers Fusion fans, turntablists and Nashville clubgoers of the mid-’90s will recognize Ayers as a jazz-funk visionary—and as the guy who wrote that song Johny Jackson played each week at closing time. Ayers began his career as a journeyman vibraphonist with Lionel Hampton and later gained notoriety as a composer and bandleader. In the ’70s, the fusion decade, he formed a band called Ubiquity, where his compositions utilized an organic style of sampling, incorporating Latin and African rhythms and disco beats into groove-oriented jazz. During these years, Ayers hit the charts with the hallucinogenic “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” the ultimate chill-out tune with its hazy Rhodes riff. Ayers spent the ’80s establishing a fan base abroad, preparing the way for his rediscovery by the crate-diggers and progenitors of the acid jazz movement of the ’90s. Though his tracks may be some of the most over-sampled in hip-hop, his influence is more clearly heard in down-tempo electronica and UK outfits like Massive Attack and Soul II Soul. Tennessee Performing Arts Center

—Mark Mays

Chris Whitley Seeing Whitley live can be a bit disconcerting, especially with his near-violent approach to his instruments of choice, banjo and resonator guitar. He can be erratic, seemingly possessed, menacing, bored—sometimes all during the same show. Still, when he finds his comfort zone onstage, he rides it for all it’s worth, and the effect can be transcendent. Vocally, his blues roots show through even his most experimental tunes. (See 2001’s electronica-inclined Rocket House, with its occasional fits of pained falsetto and a mostly prosaic cadence.) He’s also undeniably prolific, having completed three albums, Hotel Vast Horizon, Weed and War Crime Blues, in the last 10 months. Such an outpouring is unsurprising from an artist who projects the image of a spiritual conduit onstage. 3rd & Lindsley

—Jonathan Flax

Saturday, 31st

Rickie Lee Jones Turning 50 this year, Jones has evolved considerably since her 1979 debut as everyone’s favorite beat poet kid-sister. A few constants have remained since the broken bridges of “Chuck E’s in Love”: her frail voice, like curious girlish innocence balanced on the brink of dereliction, and her slurred delivery, a perfect match for Dr. John’s hoodoo on a boozy 1989 remake of “Makin’ Whoopee.” More often, though, she evokes life in borderline dives, down the dark backstreets of urban drifterdom and across hobo hideouts, à la Tom Waits, a former lover. Through the years, Jones, the best long-term contender for the anti-diva title, has repeatedly renewed her following despite erratic material, personal problems and the warped packaging of her uncategorizable style. Oddly enough, she’s been at her best either in an unplugged setting, when the fragility of her “naked songs” stands alone, or when backed by latter-day versions of jump bands, as she campily swings and plays off equally quirky horn voicings. Last year’s Evening of My Best Day, her first completely self-written album in six years, surprises with its combination of political protest, confessional nuance and compassion for people living on the margins. She plays a sold-out show in town this week. Belcourt Theatre

—Bill Levine

Bad Boy Bill Bad Boy Bill has made a name for himself by taking the DJ arsenal of cutting, scratching and fast-mixing and applying it to big-room house music. His aesthetic reach has been apparent since his 1998 remix of Kool Moe Dee’s “I Go to Work,” and his recent DVD, Behind the Decks, has been nominated for Best Music DVD by the Dancestar Awards. (Think the UK’s Mercury Prize, except for dance music.) He’s also up for Best U.S. DJ, but the keys to Bad Boy Bill are variety and energy. How can anyone not love a mixer who can turn out Paula Abdul (“Crazy Cool”) and Eric B. & Rakim (“I Know You Got Soul”) with equal measures of aggressive and effective beats? There’s nothing that a dance music fan can compare Bad Boy Bill’s style of spinning/live remixing to; his frenetic animation (tweaking knobs, sliding faders, working grooves) fits more with the live traits of scratch DJs and turntablists than with typical house DJs and their minimalist approach. Nevertheless, by providing plenty of room for the aesthetics of house and scratch DJing to cross-pollinate, Bad Boy Bill has ensured that Chicago remains vital in the continuing evolution of popular dance music. He performs on a bill featuring Chicago’s Steve Smooth, Daryl Lovebomb, Scott Nelsen and Chip B. For more info, visit www.ultimo-events.com. Exit/In

—Jason Shawhan

Wednesday, 4th

Billy Joe Shaver With a biography and a documentary on his life in the works—the latter directed by Robert Duvall’s longtime partner Luciana Pedraza—Shaver is enjoying an ongoing renaissance that finds him finally getting some of the attention he’s long deserved. The good news comes after a difficult personal stretch that included a heart attack and the deaths of his son, wife and mother. But Shaver is as tough as he is sensitive, which is apparent in his stage shows and in every word he’s written. As he approaches his 65th birthday this year, he’s as animated and as full of spit and vinegar as ever. You could say that they don’t make them like Shaver anymore, but truth is, this real-life honky-tonk hero has always been a one-of-a-kind performer. If you haven’t seen him and you love Texas roadhouse music with a rockin’ blues streak, then by all means, do yourself a favor. 12th & Porter

—Michael McCall

R.B. Morris/Dan Tyler As a poet and playwright as well as a songwriter and singer, Morris owns a beat-inspired fascination for movement, visceral experience, self-examination and the spiritual meaning of life. He delivers his songs with an animated sense of the connection between words and rhythm, and he tends to associate with musicians who can follow his tendency to improvise when the mood strikes him. His three albums, the last of which came out in 2001, amply display his adventurous yet perceptive songs, but it’s live that Morris truly distinguishes himself. Adding to the evening will be a rare live performance by singer-songwriter Dan Tyler, a Nashville attorney whose songs have been recorded by everyone from Dr. Hook and Johnny Taylor to LeAnn Rimes and Keith Whitley. Tyler’s songs, as found on his 2003 album I Hope, have grown increasingly philosophical over the years, and the best are personal in ways that no singer could translate as well as the man who wrote them. Bluebird Cafe

—Michael McCall



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