Rock Picks: The Kooks, Super Furry Animals, Willie Nelson and more 

For the week of Feb. 7-14

Wednesday, Feb 6 2008


Debora Francis

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click to flip through (6) DEBORA FRANCIS - Complicated rhymer Jennifer O'Connor
  • Debora Francis
  • Complicated rhymer Jennifer O'Connor

Complicated rhymer Jennifer O'Connor

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The Kooks' rolling-thunder revue

Wild Don Lewis

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Damion Romero tries to defuse the bomb.


The Gourds at Safari Sam's

With one foot in the frat house and the other in the barn house, the Gourds have carved out a name for themselves over the past decade with their comic cosmic Americana. Think NRBQ cross-pollinated with the Sir Douglas Quintet. These scruffy Austinites, led by dual front men Jimmy Smith and Kevin "Shinyribs" Russell, have charmed audiences from Bonnaroo to Bumbershoot with such irreverent originals as "I Ate the Haggis" and "Hooky Junk", but they probably are best known for their wonderful hick-hop jam of Snoop Dog's "Gin and Juice". Last year's terrific Noble Creatures, however, shows them nicely polishing up their sound. The opening cut, "How Will You Shine?," for example, boasts soulful horns. While they still deliver their wild, gonzo tales (witness the album closer, "Spivey"), they also dig deeper emotionally on "Steeple Full of Swallows" and "Promenade" — two gorgeous (or maybe "Gourd-geous") ballads that rival the best of the Band. (Michael Berick)

HoneyHoney at the Roxy

HoneyHoney are a duo from Venice who used to go by the name Zanzibar Lewis. Suzanne Santo sings with an old-timey, rootsy affectation as partner Ben Jaffe lazily plucks an acoustic guitar behind her. "Glory Box" is an intriguing slice of folk-rock as she pines longingly for love. "Give me a reason to be a woman," she wails invitingly, stretching out her lonely pleas with jazzy phrasing. In attempting to evoke classic Americana on the woe-is-me ballad "Homeless Heart," Santo risks coming off as jivey with her mannered down-home delivery when she coos, "The slow morning crawl is making Mama's head spin," but she's rescued by Jaffe's rich slide-guitar wallowing and, ultimately, her own passion. She's more affecting on the spare, languid tune "Bouncing Ball," blending her winsome crooning into Jaffe's nonflashy chord changes. HoneyHoney are scheduled to open for Rocco DeLuca at this showcase for bands on Ironworks Music, the label run by actor Kiefer Sutherland. (Falling James)

Also playing Thursday:

CECI BASTIDA, FREE MORAL AGENTS at the Bordello; THE LILYS at the Echo; COLBIE CAILLAT at House of Blues; YAKBALLZ at the Knitting Factory; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; ENTRANCE BAND, TWEAK BIRD at Silverlake Lounge; DANNY B. HARVEY at Taix; THE KOOKS at the Troubadour.





Jennifer O'Connor at the Troubadour

If you're headed to the Troubadour tonight to see Old 97's singer Rhett Miller, make sure to catch the opening set by Brooklyn singer-guitarist Jennifer O'Connor. Her 2006 CD, Over the Mountain, Across the Valley and Back to the Stars (Matador), is a well-crafted assortment of folk-pop songs centered on love and romantic disappointment. Acoustic-guitar-driven tunes such as "Tonight We Ride" and "I'll Bring You Home" evoke the uplifting rush of true love, while the spare setting of the ballad "I Was So Wrong" and the poignantly aching simple melody of "Today" coolly echo the emptiness of heartbreak and loneliness. Although she was backed by just a drummer when she played the Silverlake Lounge in April, she rocks it up a little on Over the Mountain with full-band arrangements on "Perfect Match" and "Complicated Rhyme." Best of all is the fuzzed-out travelogue "Exeter, Rhode Island," which is brightened by backing vocals by Spoon's Britt Daniel and powered by an insidiously catchy marching guitar riff that jauntily accompanies her as she drives "through every end of the state today" on her way home to rejoin her lover. She could be describing her own music when she sings, "The radio plays a power pop song/it keeps me company like a friend." (Falling James)

The Kooks at the Echo

Konk, the sophomore album from England's Kooks, won't be in stores until the middle of April, but they're touching down in the States for a string of small-venue shows in New York and L.A. in an attempt to build some coastal-capital buzz ahead of the CD's release (and perhaps in recognition of the irrelevance of release dates in the Internet age). Inside In/Inside Out, the band's 2006 debut, actually sounds better now than it did two years ago, when it arrived on a wave of new-Britpop hype; beneath the vintage shades and scenester sneers, these guys are big-hearted boys from the same planet as the early Beatles. Proof that maturity needn't kill a thrill, Konk has tunes galore, plus jumpy skiffle-band beats tightened by several seasons spent on the road. Preview its considerable charms tonight. (Mikael Wood)

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