The Darrin James Band at The Basement 

Mule Variation

Mule Variation
Blues-shaded roots rockers the Darrin James Band have spent the past several years playing Brooklyn. Not that you’d guess that from James’s friendly Midwestern accent—he grew up in Michigan. But he did take advantage of the local scene for the band’s new album The Lovely Ugly Truth, stacking the horn section with players who have regular gigs with Antibalas, Beirut, Arcade Fire and TV On the Radio. Lovely Ugly is their second full-length, and James’ admiration of Tom Waits is slightly subtler now than it was on 2006’s Thrones of Gold. A few songwriting concepts on the new album don’t entirely pan out, like “Shallow Grave”—a murder ballad that offers a little too much explanation—and “Love So Sexy”—which alternates between rock-bottom apology and come-on. But the new album’s best song is actually its most Waitsian: “Baby Don’t Bitch,” a shadowed, swaying tune that narrates the relational aftermath of a bungled robbery.
Sat., Oct. 17, 7 p.m., 2009

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