Rock Picks: Ray Davies, Beth Orton, Justice 

Plus other March 27-April 3 shows

Wednesday, Mar 26 2008


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click to flip through (7) Everybody's a dreamer: Ray Davies
  • Everybody's a dreamer: Ray Davies

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Everybody's a dreamer: Ray Davies

Darryl Smith

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The Afrobeat goes on: Najite

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Straight outta Buckersfield: Terry Hanson

Russian Circles, Red Sparowes at the Echo

Chicago’s Russian Circles purvey a kind of nü arena rock that takes all that “tasty” ’70s twin-lead-guitar huffapuffa (clean in one channel, riffarama-mama woolly mammoth in the other) and then stretches stuff out, way out, into long-ass tales from the creepy crypt that go through innumerable changes in direction and tone, telling a kind of story, you know. well, they do some wicked jams, bro (seriously), as their upcoming full-length, Station (on Suicide Squeeze), will no doubt tell you; along with super-drummer Dave Turncrantz and guitarist Mike Sullivan, bassist Brian Cook of These Arms Are Snakes and the massive Botch helped out. Meanwhile, L.A.’s own Red Sparowes, featuring that interesting ax man from Isis named Cliff Myer, make an ambient-metallic haze/horsewhipping; their superb Every Red Heart Shines Toward the Red Sun (Neurot) was produced by Fucking Champ Tim Green, a trademark of high quality. (John Payne)

 Also playing Thursday:

COLD WAR KIDS at Samueli Theater, Costa Mesa; DANIEL LANOIS at the Vista (see Music feature); CHAPIN SISTERS at Amoeba Music, 7 p.m.; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; FREE MORAL AGENTS at Silverlake Lounge; THE DATSUNS, THE BINGES at Spaceland.


Too Short at House of Blues

It’s hard to take aging rappers seriously, especially those who made a name off street life only to hit mainstream success and coast for the remainder of their careers. But Too Short’s different. The Oakland-based MC has never been about gang connections or the size of his guns. Nope, Shorty the Pimp’s smooth flow concentrates on women, hustling and hustling women. The pimp/hip-hop overlap seems contrived when spit from the mouths of many of his peers, but Too Short’s simple vernacular makes him the Charles Bukowski of the rap world. He might not use big words or rhyme real fast, but lines such as “I live my life just how I please/Satisfy one person I know, that’s me/Work hard for the things I achieve in life/And never rap fake when I’m on the mike,” from the title track off his classic Life Is ... Too Short, say more in a slowly delivered verse than most do in an entire album. (Ryan Ritchie)

Luciano at Crash Mansion

It’s hard to think of Luciano as old school, when not that long ago he was heralded as one of the primary torchbearers carrying on the conscious-music tradition of roots reggae’s greatest generation. But the prolific singer has become a role model for a fresh breed of Rasta revivalists who offer a righteously rocking alternative to the baser instincts of Jamaican dancehall. Luciano’s latest, Jah Is My Navigator, proves that the man with the smoky baritone can still chant the sufferer’s song with as much soulful sweet indignation as the young upstarts sermonizing in the tent. Peter Tosh’s “I’m the Toughest” and Bob Marley’s “Jah Live” receive endearing makeovers, while “Sweet Jamaica” pleas for an end to the gun violence plaguing his island homeland, and “Wise Up the Youth” ministers to the juvenile population. As the Dean Fraser–produced riddims resound, Luciano’s gospel-tinged voice touches deep the universal yearning for justice and spiritual redemption. (Tom Cheyney)

Beth Orton at El Rey Theatre

Zeitgeist-y British techno, a since-sunk ship, left some surprising artists in its wake, chief among them a strangely voiced folk troubadour. Beth Orton, a wunderkind of genre-splicing, has always been something of a rare bird: She broke out in the mid-’90s with Trailer Park, a desolately beautiful “folktronica” album (frequently marked as the ideal come-down accompaniment) featuring her uncommon vocal style and a deft sense of songwriting. She has since pursued a more traditional pop sound while maintaining a happy distance from anything predictable. Her most recent effort, Comfort of Strangers, is the weightiest of her records. Like Annie Lennox (a past collaborator) and Kate Bush, Orton finds grace in a framework of otherworldly awkwardness. Likewise in her professional efforts: Orton is among the few mainstream artists who seems consistently devoted to reasonable production and promotional methods, focusing on environmental sustainability that doesn’t involve Vanity Fair covers. (Kate Carraway)

Also playing Friday:

RED MAIDS, LIZ PAPPADEMAS at Pehrspace; OLLIN at Eastside Luv; LEON MOBLEY & DA LION at the Mint; IMAAD WASIF & THE TWO PART BEAST at the Smell; THE SIXTH CHAMBER at Spaceland.

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