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Rock Picks: Seun Kuti, Thievery Corporation, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss 

Also, Death Cab for Cutie, Ingrid Michaelson and more

Tuesday, Jun 17 2008
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THURSDAY, JUNE 19

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click to flip through (5) Romantic gambler Janiva Magness
  • Romantic gambler Janiva Magness
 

Romantic gambler Janiva Magness

Youri Lenquette

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Seun Kuti: Fire dancer

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Robert Plant & Alison Krauss go 'round the roses.

 Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter at the Echo

Jesse Sykes is a good witch. The Seattle singer is one of this country’s leading practitioners of hypnotic balladry, and she casts dreamy spells that are gently and subtly entrancing. Whereas Cat Power has a touch more soul and R&B in her similarly lulling music, Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter infuse their songs with more of countrified lilt while evoking the pastoral sweep and distinctively shadowy sylvan loneliness of the Pacific Northwest. Her solemn vocals and a coyote-howl harmonica light up the stark landscape of “Eisenhower Moon,” from her 2006 CD, Like, Love, Lust & the Open Halls of the Soul (Barsuk), while “Spectral Beings” lives up to its title with shivery harmonies and former Whiskeytown guitarist Phil Wandscher’s austere plucking. Not everything is so mellow, and bassist Bill Herzog and drummer Eric Eagle give the occasional uptempo tune like “You Might Walk Away” a bit of a Crazy Horse push. Still, we’ll be at the Echo just so we can close our eyes and drift away to billowing melodies like “How Will We Know?” (Falling James)

Hayes Carll, Old 97’s at Crash Mansion

It seems like Texas has more singer-songwriters than the other 49 states combined — but it also produces some damn talented ones. Houston-born Hayes Carll is a rising star following in the tradition of such sharp-tongued storytellers as Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Robert Earl Keen and Guy Clark. Carll populates his Lost Highway debut, Trouble in Mind (which follows several critically praised, little-heard indie releases), with a colorful cast of characters. There’s Kate, “who’s as pretty as a plate,” and the guy whose girl dumped him for Jesus (“And that’s not fair/She says that’s he’s perfect/How can I compare?”), as well as the “barefoot shrimper with a pistol up his sleeve” and “an old lion tamer parked behind the bar.” Following his impressive Stagecoach set, Carll brings his rascally roadhouse music back to the Southland as he opens for the Texas-bred Old 97’s, whose new disc, Blame It on Gravity, soars with the band’s distinctive toe-tapping twang pop. (Michael Berick)

Nico Vega at the Viper Room

With just vocals, guitar and drums, Nico Vega transmit an orchestra’s worth of sultry, sometimes surly sentiment. The trio marry tenuously related sonic elements — adventurous, occasionally frantic garage grooves; alternately arpeggiated and dissonantly ominous guitar; Aja Volkman’s smoky-Siouxsie-vs.- sweet-&-sour-Björk vocals — with thinking-hipster’s rock (imagine the Like, only with actual problems). Onstage, it’s all about the wide-eyed, wackily fashionable Volkman stomping, strutting and sweating in defiance of her svelte, catwalk-ready aura. This perpetual buzz band (who are yet to even release an album — their debut’s due in October) flirt with melody rather than beat us over the head with hooks, seemingly tiring of each idea before the listener’s even fully grasped it. Admirable, but Nico Vega’s structural perversity is both their best mate and worst enemy: It keeps us coming back for more and earns muso cred points, but ultimately stems the seemingly inevitable mass-adulation tide. (Paul Rogers)

Martha Wainwright at the Troubadour

Although both of them have inspired a recent flood of media commentary and popular opinion, Emily Gould (the ex-Gawker blogger who recently shit all over The New York Times Magazine about her challenges as an expositress) and Carrie Bradshaw (with her emotion binge-and-purge buddies in the Sex and the City movie) aren’t really all that provocative, intellectually or otherwise. Sex and relationship tales à la Gould and Bradshaw tend toward the banal. Refreshingly distinct from this paradigm is the smoky, sexy mythology of badass singer-songwriters working without the smug Upper East Side–ness. Martha Wainwright (the sister of Rufus, and the daughter of Loudon III and Kate McGarrigle) has recently released a cool, dirty record called I Know You’re Married but I Have Feelings Too. Wainwright plays it seedy and tragic (or, maybe, just plays it for real) and works the salty, half-zipped femme-fatale angle like any sidelined sister would. (Kate Carraway)

 Also playing Thursday:

DUFFY at El Rey Theatre; MARC COHN, SAM PHILLIPS at the Canyon; SEA WOLF, PATRICK PARK at the Echoplex; MEIKO at the Hotel Café; CECI BASTIDA at the Knitting Factory; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR, GLEN PHILLIPS at Largo; ADAM MARSLAND’S CHAOS BAND at Mr. T’s Bowl; THE ALMOST, EMERY, ENVY ON THE COAST at the Roxy; LETICIA CASTANEDA, G.E. STINSON & HANS FJELLESTAD, NOT IN THE HOUSE at Steve Allen Theater; VERY BE CAREFUL, SACCHARINE TRUST at Cafe Mariposa.

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