The Spin 

Dispatches from the clubs

♦ In one particularly poignant segment of Bravo's 1998 documentary Naked Nashville, the filmmakers simultaneously shadow up-and-coming hat act Keith Harling and old-school honky-tonker Dale Watson. Harling has the tour bus, the stylist and MCA's mammoth marketing department at his disposal; Watson has a beat-up car and a buttload of soul. Where Harling is today is anyone's guess, but Dale Watson is still driving himself across the country, playing clubs, honky-tonks and, last Friday night, the outdoor stage at Opry Plaza. Though he's best savored over the clinking bottles of a smoky roadhouse, he still showed why he's the finest country act around. Yeah, yeah, we know, country music is back, Joe Nichols blah-blah-blah Keith Urban yada-yada-yada. Next to Watson, they all look like they're playing make-believe. With his understated charisma, self-deprecating humor, smooth guitar pickin' and smoky baritone, he had more than a few women in the crowd regretting their vows. (It doesn't hurt that he looks like a cross between James Dean and a 40-ish Merle Haggard.) Best of all, he still knows the value of a good trucking song. Check him out Thursday night, when he gives a reprise at Radio Cafe; you may realize you do like country music after all—you just hadn't heard any in years. Spotted double-clutching down Opry Mills Drive: Western wear diva Katy K, chicken-pickin' phenom Johnny Hiland, country singer Stacie Collins and Legendary Shack Shakers bull fiddler Mark Robertson.

♦ Adrienne Young took a deep breath as Tim O'Brien began playing the melody of "It's All the Same," a song from her new album, The Art of Virtue, which she celebrated with a sold-out record-release party July 7 at Station Inn. The song gently chastises war and strife in the name of religion and suggests we all worship the same God, no matter what we call him. With the London bombings that morning, the timing couldn't have been more relevant. "One foot in front of another," Young quietly started, the audience quiet and reverent, "is hard as hell these days." By time she got to the second stanza, she couldn't hold back her emotion as she fought to get through her lyrics. "One truth over another, my pride your misery," she struggled to sing. "Wrought this land from the land of a brother, in the name of liberty." Young seemed to get her strength after the second chorus, and when she stepped forward for the final verse, she had indignation and resolve in her tone. "One war after another, blind to history / Those to come, will they forgive us? / For this waste of life and energy." If 7/7 begged for a hymn that evening, Young provided it. She also premiered her new band, an outstanding young group of pickers capable of tenderness and hootenanny fire, and revealed how her music has grown in depth and variety.

♦ Last Friday night at David Mead's Mercy Lounge show, the operative word was "lush" (the adjective, not the noun, which also might have been applicable). Mead hypnotized the crowd with his ethereal arrangements, angelic voice and an arsenal of fetching melodies, embellished by a dream-pop all-star team: producer Brad Jones on bass, Brother Henry's David Henry on cello and mandolin, drummer Paul Deakin of Mavericks fame, and keyboardist John Deaderick, who's toured with Patty Griffin and the Dixie Chicks. The sumptuous aural feast would have made George Martin proud. And for those who feel the ukulele's been getting short shrift since Tiny Tim died, fear not: Mead busted out the little bugger for a couple tunes. On the scene were Guster's Joe Pisapia, Jason White, Swan Diver Bill DeMain, keyboardist/engineer Jason Lehning and the rest of Nashville's Rat Pack.

♦ If you're an internationally acclaimed three-piece Welsh rock band who still haven't made it big in the States, you've got to do two things: first, you must choose a complementary opener who wows us with your underappreciated taste, and second, you must leave us confounded at why you're playing the Exit/In when you fill stadiums overseas. The Stereophonics show Friday night did neither of those things. Locals Westover warmed up the crowd with a brief set of what began as moody, atmospheric garage rock, but quickly devolved into sentimental balladeering. Things took a turn for the worse when, on the final number (an epic monstrosity boasting the over-repeated chorus "You're not the same"), the heavily perspiring singer leaped into the crowd, locked eyes with an unsuspecting audience member and emoted all over her. At least Stereophonics had all the ingredients of a great live rock band: chugging, relentless riffs, ear-splitting volume, sneering attitude. They delivered a revved-up, white-hot dose of material off their last four albums, but focused mainly on the fifth, Language. Sex. Violence. Other? Unfortunately, the "other" in this case is unfulfilled promise—their songs are poised to erupt into a satisfying chorus, but there's no inescapable melody that you can't get out of your head, and as such Stereophonics are just a stadium-sized hook short of greatness.

News you can use

Ever since The Pink Spiders moved to Hollywood, we've been privy to a gaggle of unverifiable tales of celebrity run-ins, collaborations and schmoozefests with everyone from Snoop Dogg to Macy Gray. We usually dismiss it as good old-fashioned rock talk, but this time it's confirmed: singer Matt Friction has penned three songs for pseudo-rock pop-tart Ashlee Simpson that will soon be pitched to her for consideration by the president of Geffen Records. Frankly, Simpson could use the edge, and if she approximated Friction's whiskey-ragged vocals, she wouldn't even have to lip synch.

Shows this week

Bobby Herald, the beloved co-proprietor (with wife Dianne) of the equally beloved Bobby's Idle Hour, has been undergoing treatment for cancer, and on top of the physical and emotional toll of such an ordeal, there's the added financial burden. The legendary Music Row watering hole will be hosting a benefit for Bobby this Saturday, featuring auction items, food and lots of music. If you haven't been to the new Bobby's (1026 16th Ave. S., just down the street from the old one), now's the time. The show starts at 1 p.m.; call Jonathan Long at 336-4304 for information.

When Charles Dungey died in 2003, Nashville's jazz community was stunned—when he was on the bandstand, it seemed the groove would go on forever. To honor his legacy, Music City's finest jazz players will assemble at 4:30 Sunday afternoon for a concert and silent auction at The Essence Room, 1511 Jefferson St. Admission is $10, and proceeds go to the Charles Dungey Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Nashville Jazz Workshop. On the bill are Beegie Adair, Rahsaan Barber, Jeff Coffin, Bruce and Sandra Dudley, Moe Denham, Annie Sellick, Chester Thompson, Jim Ferguson and a whole lot more. Fittingly, the event begins with a performance featuring Dungey scholarship recipients. It's a rare opportunity for Nashvillians to catch this much jazz talent in a single night, and given the occasion, it's likely to be an electrifying show.

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