This inventive electronic pop outfit from London defied classification in the '90s alternative scene with a series of loungy and experimental albums. Emperor Tomato Ketchup, a mid-career LP, is perhaps the best of these, replete with cheerily redundant beats, slow-building beds of sound, winsome vocals (often in French) and well-timed bits of distorted guitar. The often busy, sometimes fussy result nods to the early analog synth groups of the '70s and '80s (particularly the German ones), yet retains its unique pop-inclined amalgam. Stereolab have often stretched this formula, however, incorporating strings, horns and lengthy instrumental workouts to their now decade-plus body of work. Moogs are in evidence on their latest record, Margerine Eclipse, while singer Laetitia Sadier seems to be in fine, if melancholy, form. Sadly missing are the keyboards and backing vocals of core member Mary Hansen, who died in a bicycle accident in London in 2002. The band embark on this U.S. tour with a seven-piece lineup, which reportedly includes arrangements with two drummers and a set list consisting of some of their most hypnotic and challenging work to date. Mercy Lounge
Erin McKeown As a solo folk performer, McKeown learned how to hold an audience. But her imagination and dramatic flair didn't keep her satisfied with simple acoustic arrangements for long. (Witness the quaintly racy "La Petite Mort" on 2000's saucy Distillation.) Just when anything referencing cosmopolitans seemed painfully clichéd, McKeown turned up the pop sparkle with Grand, the opening two tracks of which are dizzy bliss; the songs shimmer with bells, banjo and lots of cymbals and snare. "It was cinematic," she sings, and was it ever: Her characters court attentionthe camera zooms in on fickle kisses, a lonely gay boy and a Weimar dancer/escape artist. Call it folk, pop or cabaret, but McKeown knows what she's after: "I begin where Garland died," she declares. Although she prefers working with a band nowadays, her guitar chops, languorous delivery and charisma make her a good solo bet. Martin Sexton follows. Exit/In
Noise Wrestlemania Mr. Natural (a.k.a. John Sharp) is one of Nashville's strongest experimental musicians. He shapes soundnoise, if you willpulling it out of homemade instruments, which include his vaguely steel-guitar-like "plank" and sound sources as distant from a recognizable instrument as pickups attached to a plastic houseplant. A range of density marks his sound-making, which can go from a subtle buzz or tone that sneaks into the ambient noise of the room to deafening cacophony. He seems to be playing out more often lately, and he's on this bill that pits local acts against a band from one of the capital cities of experimental music. The headliner is Philadelphia's Newton, the house band of the busy Breathmint CDR label, whose releases include recordings by Cock E.S.P. and Frode Gjerstad. This lineup would be incomplete without Nashville's Taiwan Deth, and Jackson, Tenn., gets in on the action with an appearance by Catheter Stretch. Springwater
David Allan Coe A country Outlaw and self-proclaimed "Rhinestone Cowboy," Coe has been a workhorse on the road for years. He'll play anywhere he's welcomedhole-in-the-wall joints, frat parties, as well as the more established venuessuggesting that he's still passionate about his craft and isn't letting age get the better of him. Coe's been known to let his ego outshine his music at times, but the reality is that his songwriting and delivery stack up with country music's best of the '70s and '80s. Known by most for anthems like "You Never Even Called Me By My Name" and "Tennessee Whiskey," he also consistently takes showmanship to a new level. Coe's quite capable of showing up late to his own performances, shooting bourbon after each number and ranting and raving through medleys, so no doubt his mystique will be intact when he returns to town this week. Exit/In
Buzz Cason As singer, songwriter, producer and publisher, Nashville music legend Cason remains one of the primary links between the city's country, rock and R&B histories. His nearly five-decade career includes backing Brenda Lee with his early local rock band the Casuals, co-writing the oft-covered pop/R&B standards "Everlasting Love" and "Soldier of Love" and founding a successful publishing partnership with songwriter Bobby Russell ("Little Green Apples"). Cason hosts a signing of his new book, Living the Rock 'n' Roll Dream: The Adventures of Buzz Cason, 7 p.m. at the Belcourt, along with a concert featuring many of his friends and collaborators. See the article on p. 66.
Kate Markowitz Markowitz is an established vocalist who's toured and recorded with marquee names like Billy Joel, k.d. lang, Randy Newman and her present boss James Taylor, with whom she's gigged for 13 years. What is perhaps most impressive about Map of the World, her debut for Nashville-based Compass Records, is its seeming lack of a conscious effort to impress. The disc is refreshingly free of over-eager chorus hooks or dig-me vocal acrobatics, instead featuring a breathy, uncomplicated delivery that belies the singer's lengthy résumé. With rhythmically rich arrangements and a wide range of musical influences (thanks to her father, a TV/film composer), Markowitz's subtle yet assured pop puts a left-handed spin on the classic West Coast sound. Her CD is also evidence of the growing Nashville-L.A. nexus, combining local A-listers like Pat Buchanan, Andrea Zonn and Alison Prestwood, who produced the record, with SoCal session stalwarts like Russ Kunkel and Dan Dugmore. 3rd & Lindsley
Steve Winwood Despite his skills as a guitarist and multi-keyboardist, the Hammond B-3 organ is Winwood's forte. Indeed, from his horn-like entrance on The Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin' " to the discordant growl that climaxes Traffic's "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys," it's Winwood's signature instrument despite its absence from the '80s pop that landed him in the mainstream spotlight. Lately, he has reasserted himself as one of rock's preeminent organists, focusing almost exclusively on the B-3 on tour and even handling bass chores on its foot pedals. On his latest album, About Time, Winwood has cannily managed to return to his roots while remaining inventive as well as relevant to an audience craving hands-on musicianship and spontaneity. Along with Brazilian guitarist Jose Neto, whose rock-influenced style brings to mind Carlos Santana and Duane Allman, Winwood has forged a Latin-rock hybrid more aggressively multicultural than any of his previous dabblings with musical fusion. If his show last year at River Stages is any indication, he'll be offering new material mixed with a retrospective of his four-decade career. Ryman Auditorium
Jazz at the Workshop As another year of jazz schooling lets out, it's the season to bring veteran teachers, local performers and students together for special clinics and capstone performances. The Jazz Workshop's all-day event will once again augment its savvy faculty of Nashville talent with three visiting artists and educators. Saxophonist Jamey Aebersold, who's written over 100 "Play-A-Long" books on how to improvise, is arguably one of the most influential jazz educators of all time. Pianist Mark Levine will share his wealth of Latin music and composing strategies. The one guest who should remind everyone of jazz's potential to communicate with audiences is drummer Roy McCurdy, who played in Cannonball Adderley's Quintet from 1965-1975, during the height of its popularity. There may never be another breakout jazz single like 1967's live version of Joe Zawinul's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," which McCurdy played on. More impressive than such rare moments, though, is how he's swung with and beyond the Adderley group's spirit of gospel, soul and funk in supple beats that have backed nearly everyone who's mattered in jazz for the past 40 years. His clinic on "The Function of a Drummer: From a Combo to a Vocalist," will tell of what he's learned keeping the pulse behind Sarah Vaughan, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock and a host of other luminaries far too extensive to name. The evening's show at the Belcourt will rotate between "progressive" and "urban" rhythm sections, both on their own and behind a number of guest singers and horns. Various clinics from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Workshop, 1312 Adams St. Call 242-5299 for more information. Concert at 8 p.m., Belcourt Theatre
Yonder Mountain String Band The young Colorado quartet openly encourage the description "jamgrass" for the music they create. Combining the propulsive dynamics of bluegrass with the loose improvisations of jam bands, Yonder Mountain join peers like Leftover Salmon and String Cheese Incident in bringing a decidedly tie-dyed bent to the often buttoned-down world of string-band music. Yet unlike some jam bands, YMSB don't mistake self-indulgence for artistic adventurousness. Most of their songs have a crisp drive, while their harmonies are tight; they understand the potency of concise interplay as well as off-the-cuff invention. They could use a stronger lead voice, but their songwriting continues to improve, and they've developed strong rapport with audiences, thanks in part to their willingness to address marijuana and other alternative concepts while staying in touch with their traditional roots. The Trap
Kyle Tullis Tribute Concert When highly regarded bass player Kyle Tullis died earlier this year at age 55, Nashville lost a beloved member of its musical communitybut more importantly, three children lost a father. That's why high-profile artists Steve Wariner, Lorrie Morgan, Bryan White, Jon Randall, Shawn Jones and others are banding together at this benefit concert for the Tullis children. "Kyle was one of those guys you loved after being around him five minutes," says Wariner, in whose band Tullis played for more than 10 years. "He was well-versed in all kinds of music, solid as a rock, loved what he was doing and always had a big ol' grin." The show starts at 8 p.m., and you'll rarely if ever get another chance to see a lineup like this in an intimate venue for $20. Mercy Lounge
Six Organs Of Admittance Fine psychedelia from Ben Chasny of Comets on Fire. Where that band engages in punk thrashing, Chasny's solo project emphasizes acoustic guitars and songs with structured melodies and undistorted vocals. On many of them, guitars, percussion and vocals move forward together in the chugging manner of Sufi devotional music. When feedback-steeped electric guitars come in, they do so in the service of something hypnotic rather than bombastic. Both the band and this project have signed to major independent labels: Six Organs to Drag City and Comets on Fire to Sub Pop. Springwater
Alisa Weilerstein w/Nashville Symphony Orchestra A virtuoso cellist and rising classical star, Weilerstein made her debut with the famous Cleveland Orchestra at the age of 13. Now 21, she comes to Nashville and teams up with the NSO for Prokofiev's "Sinfonia Concertante," a melodic work laced liberally with wistful nostalgiaa perfect vehicle for Weilerstein's passionate lyrical style. Awarded the Avery Fisher Career Grant by the age of 18 (perhaps the most important honor that can be bestowed on a classical musician), comparisons to the mercurial Jacqueline du Pré are easy to come by. Dvorák's much-loved and heart-on-sleeve-wearing "Symphony No. 8 in G Major," in which the composer pays homage to Vysoká, his home village in Bohemia, shares the bill. Before the performance, composer and Blair Professor Michael Rose will provide insights into Dvorák's symphony and its unabashed nationalistic rhetoric (free to ticket-holders, 7-7:30 p.m.). John Adams' orchestral fanfare "Tromba Lontana"a nocturnal cityscape that subverts the listener's expectation of what a fanfare should becompletes the program. Guest conductor Jahja Ling, who recently was appointed musical director of the San Diego Symphony, oversees all with typical flair and aplomb. 8 p.m. April 23 & 24 at Jackson Hall, Tennessee Performing Arts Center
ENCCA Open House/National Symphony Orchestra The East Nashville Center for Creative Arts celebrates the move to its new facility at 203 North 11th St. (which is becoming an East Nashville educational, cultural and artistic hub of sorts) by opening its doors to the public April 24-26. This is the first time the ENCCA has occupied its own space and this auspicious occasion merits the presence of some special guests, including the National (not Nashville) Symphony Orchestra from Washington, D.C., who will be presenting a workshop entitled "Fiddlin' Around" on Monday in the Caldwell Chapel of the nearby Woodland Presbyterian Church. There will be frequent tours of the four new private teaching studios, music library, computer lab and multipurpose room with its panoramic views of the Five Points area and the downtown skyline. Staff will also be present to discuss ENCCA educational programs, such as the broad-access Young Artist Project, which offers tuition assistance for youngsters aged 5 and up who are interested in receiving professional instruction in classical strings and piano. For open house times and event information, contact center director Chris Donohue at 228-9955.
Madea's Class Reunion: The Class That Had No Class Actor/writer/ director Tyler Perry is the brains behind this urban comedy phenomenon, which is just one entry in a string of the author's humorous, earthy plays revolving around the African American experience. Perry has had huge success marketing videos of his scripts through the Internet, whereupon he has followed up with live regional performances that gather large crowds who alreadyand apparently quite gleefullyknow what the shouting is all about. (Check out www.tylerperry.com for a closer look.) Tickets for the April 23-25 gig at Municipal Auditorium are available through Ticketmaster at 255-ARTS.
Magdalene Actress Allison Metcalf Allen, songwriter Alex Harvey ("Delta Dawn," "Reuben James") and pianist/composer Mimi Johnston are the co-creators of this original musical based on the biblical tale of the prostitute who becomes one of Christ's most fervent followers. The sponsoring company, Plumbline Theatre, will present the show April 23-24 at 7:45 p.m. at Grace Chapel, a Williamson County congregation that enthusiastically embraces the arts and whose membership draws significantly from the local community of music artists and businesspersons. Besides Allen and Harvey, the production co-stars Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Michele Pillar Carlton and singer-actress Amanda Omartian. A portion of the show's proceeds will benefit Magdalene House, Nashville's residency program for women trying to rebuild shattered lives. For information, call 591-5091 or visit www.gracechapel.net.
My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra This musical revue of songs made famous by Ol' Blue Eyes was conceived a few years ago by Tennessee Repertory Theatre honchos David Grapes and Todd Olson. The setup is middle-brow all the way, with the connecting links of dialogue having about as much punch as the patter on a PBS rerun of The Lawrence Welk Show. Nevertheless, the 50-some tunes are great ones, and this show has experienced wide success nationwide with the appropriate audiences. Nashville theater veteran Brenda Sparks directs a cast of four in the Cumberland County Playhouse presentation. Musical director Ron Murphy leads the supper-club-style combo. Opens April 22 for a healthy run through June 6. For tickets, call (931) 484-5000.
Julia Reed A maven of Southern culture, Reed is a contributing editor at Newsweek and regularly writes for the The New York Times, among other publications. Her recently published Queen of the Turtle Derby and Other Southern Phenomena is a collection of essays that rejoice in the uniqueness of Southern life, from its politics and religion to its food and fashion. Reed discusses & signs her book at 6 p.m. April 26 at Davis-Kidd Booksellers, 4007 Hillsboro Road. 385-2645. See review in Books.
Paul V. Griffith
Brian Mansfield As Nashville correspondent for USA Today, Mansfield may be America's most widely read country-music criticas well as a tenacious and unapologetic champion of straight-up commercial country. His new book Ring of Fire: A Tribute to Johnny Cash celebrates the memory of a fierce iconoclast who challenged Music Row's mainstream as often as he defined its farthest edge. Alongside Les Leverett's photographs, Mansfield gathers tributes to Cash's many facets as artist, activist and human being, from sources such as Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and his former son-in-law Rodney Crowell. Mansfield will discuss and sign the book 6 p.m. Tuesday at Davis-Kidd.
2004 Nashville Film Festival Nashville's annual showcase for local, regional, independent and foreign film kicks off its 35th year with appearances by producer Christine Vachon, actor/directors Joe Morton and Rick Schroder, actor Patrick Swayze, singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver, actor-singer Mark Collie, and documentarians Bruce Sinofsky and Jehane Noujaim, among many more. The week-long festival starts Monday at Regal's Green Hills megaplex; our coverage begins on p. 20. Additional information about the festival's many panels and workshops can be found at www.nashvillefilmfestival.org.
Crimson Gold One of the year's best movies. Jafar Panahi's chilling, darkly comic film goes backward to show what led a resentful Iranian pizza man to steal for his fiancée the kind of expensive jewelry he sees on his customers. Abbas Kiarostami wrote the cutting script, perhaps in ironic response to critics who say he only shows his homeland in poverty. The movie opens Friday at the Belcourt; see the review in Cover Story.
Chiller Cinema Spookshow Aw-oooo! Children of the night, arise from your wintry tombs for this throwback to the spook shows of yore, hosted by Channel 19 horror host Dr. Gangrene. On screen will be a classic Hammer horror movie in bloodcurdling 16 mmbut the scares don't stop there. Actual monsters will leap off the screen and lead a bloody rampage through the audience! Those who survive will get prizes such as Dawn of the Dead posters, T-shirts and more. The terror begins 8 p.m. Saturday at the Bongo Java After Hours Theatre. For more information, call 385-1188. And remember, tickets are (you guessed it) $6.66.
Man on Fire Denzel Washington stars as a hired gun who makes it personal when kidnappers steal a little girl (Dakota Fanning) who has awakened his sense of obligation. Christopher Walken and Marc Anthony co-star in this Brian Helgeland-scripted thriller, directed by Tony Scott (True Romance). It opens Friday at area theaters.
Ghost in the Shell Mamoru Oshii's 1995 cyberpunk fantasya baffling but visually exciting take on a sci-fi touchstone, the transference of identity and artificial consciousnessremains one of the few anime titles to reach a wider audience in the U.S. It begins what the Belcourt hopes will be a monthly anime night (though not if it doesn't draw any more people than the recent Tokyo Godfathers). The film screens 7 and 9 p.m. Sunday.
Greendale Neil Young served as writer and director, adapting for the screen his despairing song cycle about a small-town family caught in the early 21st century's political maelstrom. The actors all lip-synch to Young's songs. Also scheduled to open Friday at Green Hills: the Paul Bettany-Willem Dafoe medieval mystery The Reckoning and the well-reviewed Afghani drama Osama.
13 Going on 30 We liked this movie about a kid who mysteriously turns into an adultor at least we did when it was called Big. However, it stars Jennifer Garner, so we will see it even if it means tongue-crawling across an emery board the size of Nebraska. It opens Friday, along with Clifford's Really Big Movie.
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