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Rock Picks: Black Mountain, PJ Harvey and John Parish, Alice Russell, Starfucker

Alice Russell: Yet more proof that the British Isles are a seething hotbed of soul
Digby Oldridge

FRIDAY, MARCH 20

Paul Wall, Aplus Certified at the Knitting Factory

Down South it’s too damn hot and humid to move most days between May and November, so they slow down the cars, the vibe and the lifestyle. They even slow the records to a narcotic crawl — a technique developed by DJ Screw in the ’90s. Paul Wall didn’t invent the cough syrup–induced flow born in Houston’s Southpark and Third Ward neighborhoods, but he took the signature chopped-and-screwed style to the national stage, and brought much notoriety back to Houston in 2005. Since most H-town artists are ruthlessly independent of major labels and don’t much tour outside the region, there’s no other way to hear Hugetown’s woozy-ass sound in L.A. unless you catch Paul Wall. With his Johnny Dang grill, tattoo sleeves and 32-ounce big gulp (drank inside), Wall is always a remarkable showman. Tonight he’s debuting tracks off his new album, Fast Life, like the strangely techno-tinged “Girl Is on Fire.” Come early for Altadena’s Aplus Certified (Ce-Jay and Aliyy), who’ve been breaking out of the Eastside scene with infectious hooks and raw beats. (Wendy Gilmartin)

 

Four Tet, Jon Hopkins at the Echo

Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden is as responsible as anyone for establishing the folktronica sound — think skittering laptop beats overlaid with atmospheric acoustic noodling — that briefly dominated electronic music during the early part of this decade. (If you’re looking for classics of the subgenre, start with Four Tet’s 2001 Pause, which kind of sounds like an Aphex Twin remix of Solid Air by John Martyn.) His contribution secure, Hebden has since moved away somewhat from the folktronica thing, collaborating live and in the studio with jazz drummer Steve Reid and going in a synthier direction on last year’s Ringer EP. Live laptop stuff is never the most exciting thing to behold, but Hebden is better than most at creating an immersive sound world worth getting lost in. London-based opener Jon Hopkins got a leg up on his airy-electronica peers last year when Coldplay used a portion of his track “Light Through the Veins” on Viva La Vida; Domino is set to release Hopkins’ new album, Insides, on May 5. (Mikael Wood)

 

Also playing Friday:

THE ADICTS, THE DICKIES at the Key Club; A-TRAK, SINDEN, COUNT at Avalon; TUCK & PATTI at the Catalina Bar & Grill; RAKIM AND KEN-Y at Club Nokia; THE CORAL SEA, THE SPIRES, KARIN TATOYAN, AVI BUFFALO at Spaceland; JON BRION AND FRIENDS at Largo at the Coronet; WILL BERNARD FEAT. JOHN MEDESKI at the Roxy.

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 21

Alice Russell at the Troubadour

Way back in the day, a term such as “British soul singer” struck some as a bit of an oxymoron. But things change, and in this case it was probably around the time that Welsh coal miner’s son Tom Jones began humpin’ American stages and proving that “soul” had more to do with incentive and personal experience than the color of the skin that . well, enough of that old lecture. We now have, straight outta Brighton, the great Alice Russell to illustrate again that the British Isles are a seething hotbed of true soul sensations. Purveying her superfunky retro kinda thing, Russell brings the grit and grain to a slew of instant classics on her newish Pot of Gold set on Six Degrees. The album showcases Russell’s apparent ease in a variety of sassy belters, which portray a young singer obviously enamored of Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan, sure, but whose sound is dominated by au courant stylistic ingredients whose breeding source is most likely hers alone. It’s a forward-into-the-past aesthetic that her Brit male counterpart, the ace cool James Hunter, adopts as well to such authentically gritty effect. (John Payne)

 

Black Mountain, The Sadies at the Echoplex

With their lonely high-northern lamentations and their knotty bluegrass pluckin’, the Sadies are indeed some kind of country outfit (alt or otherwise), but they also like to trip out into stranger, Morricone-esque territory. They’re a country band from another country (Canada) that’s worked with simpatico No(w) Depression types like Neko Case, the Mekons’ Jon Langford and Blue Rodeo, but they’re also freaky enough to have backed the regally sleazy R&B icon Andre Williams on his 1999 CD, Red Dirt. Led by guitarist brothers Dallas Good and Travis Good, the Toronto group lay down some persuasive retro country settings behind X’s John Doe on their new Yep Roc covers CD, Country Club, roaming rootlessly like an unfaithful lover between the warring camps of Nashville and Bakersfield. But the deft way the Sadies collaborate with other folks shouldn’t obscure their own music, such as the sublime collision of spectral echoes that resonate at the end of “The Trial,” from their 2007 CD, New Seasons. They’re touring with Vancouver’s Black Mountain, whose relatively heavy songs vary from Black Sabbath psychedelic storminess to hazier “healing” rambles. (Falling James)

 

 

Also playing Saturday:

WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo at the Coronet; MONICA MANCINI at Royce Hall; WE ARE THE FURY at the Knitting Factory; TUCK & PATTI at the Catalina Bar & Grill; BLUE OCTOBER, OURS, STARS OF TRACK AND FIELD at Club Nokia; THE ADICTS, BILLY BONES, THE SPOOKIES at the Key Club.

 

SUNDAY, MARCH 22

Playing Sunday

DROOG, DAMIAN LAZARUS, CLIVE HENRY, JAMIE JONES, LEE FOSS at the Standard (downtown); VOODOO ORGANIST at Spaceland; TUCK & PATTI at the Catalina Bar & Grill; FACTORY RECORDS NIGHT WITH PART TIME PUNKS at the Echo.

 

MONDAY, MARCH 23

PJ Harvey and John Parish, Howe Gelb at El Rey

There aren’t enough mournful waltzes about California, for sure, and certainly not enough by PJ Harvey, whose new collaboration with guitarist John Parish, A Woman a Man Walked By, features the gorgeous, floating one-two-three ballad of lost love, “Leaving California.” In a sentiment most of us have uttered at one time or another, she confesses, “I don’t know why I’d stay/I think it’s time to leave.” Critical superlatives at this point are meaningless when it comes to one of rock’s great vocalists/songwriters/instrumentalists/charismatics, but it wouldn’t feel right not telling you that A Woman a Man Walked By is Polly Jean Harvey at the peak of her powers, a rich, velvet-upholstered 10-song creation featuring humming church-organ ballads (“April”); defiant, emasculating indictments (the title track features the amazing lines: “He had chicken liver balls/he had chicken liver spleen/he had chicken liver heart/made of chicken liver parts/lily-livered little parts/lily-livered little parts”); a mandolin dream-ditty riddle about a soldier’s sorrow, “The Soldier”; and seven other equally thrilling and complicated songs. Bonus for this El Rey show: Opener Howe Gelb, best known as the king of Giant Sand, is a longtime collaborator with both Harvey and Parish; the combination, either merely on the bill or, hopefully, in some sort of onstage get-together, bodes well for a great night of music. (Randall Roberts)

 

Also playing Monday:

DARK MEAT, LONG LEGGED WOMAN, IN RETROGRADE at the Smell; NICO STAI, THE TEMPER TRAP, OH LAND, ROSIE AND THE GOLDBUG at Spaceland.

 

TUESDAY, MARCH 24

An Horse at the Echoplex

Despite being saddled with an awkwardly bland name, the Australian duo An Horse come up with some appealing twists to the indie-rock formula on their new full-length CD, Rearrange Beds. Drummer Damon Cox chops up singer-guitarist Kate Cooper’s confessional love songs like “Camp Out” with rattling tempos and an effectively simple drive. “I can live through this/I can live through worse,” she sings, trying to put on a brave front. “So play it back in verse/My hips won’t give anything away ... I’m surprised how we fit together.” Cooper’s guitar strumming ranges from jangly pop to a more surging intensity, which provides a coolly angular contrast to her yearning, lovelorn vocals. Tegan & Sara more or less discovered An Horse at a record store in Australia and brought them along on a U.S. tour last year. That was all it took to raise domestic expectations for Rearrange Beds, which fulfills the embryonic promise of their 2008 debut CD, Not Really Scared. (Falling James)

 

T-Model Ford at the Echo

A man who didn’t really get his start in music until he was in his 70s, T-Model Ford has nonetheless poured a life full of hard living and hard knocks — including serving time for murder — into his songs. Now in his 80s, the Mississippi singer-guitarist plays a raw, stripped-down combination of rural roadhouse stomps and Chicago electric blues, accompanied onstage only by his drummer, Spam. His version of the blues on “Come Back Home” (from his second album, 1998’s You Better Keep Still) is much closer to the primal earthiness of Howlin’ Wolf than the slick superficiality of Robert Cray, and he’s inspired garage-rock bands like the Neckbones, who did a riotous cover of “Nobody Gets Me Down.” Despite his minimalist, no-nonsense approach, Ford has occasionally messed with expectations — much like Fat Possum label mates Paul Jones and R.L. Burnside — by throwing psychedelic hip-hop accents into remixes of songs like “Pop Pop Pop.” But most of the time, it all comes down to the gruff observations of this “Wood Cuttin’ Man,” and the way T-Model’s jumpy riffs flop and wriggle underneath the basic thwack of Spam’s drums. Also at Alex’s Bar, Wed. (Falling James)

 

Also playing Tuesday:

SPINTO BAND, MAPS & ATLASES at Spaceland; DESTRUCTION, MANTIC RITUAL, KRISLIN, TAKING OVER at the Key Club.

 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25

Marnie Stern, Starfucker at the Echo

New York guitarist Marnie Stern’s technique would be dazzling all by itself, as she casts out casually dexterous, intricately threaded finger-tapping solos, but her songs also have a crazed, arty inventiveness that takes her proficiency to another level. The barrage of hammer-ons on “Steely” has a heavy-metal power, but there’s also a delightful prog-punk eccentricity to the supercaffeinated sugar rush of layered vocals throughout her new Kill Rock Stars album, This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That. As the title might suggest, the nonstop assault of Stern’s ideas — whether expressed on the frets or through her words — can sometimes be wearying to mere mortals, but it can also be richly rewarding if you take the time to slow them down and pry them apart, as if you were deciphering the language of dolphins. This is the kind of music Kaki King might make if she were more into hard rock, or that Eddie Van Halen would come up with if he only had a brain. The Portland band Starfucker set the night up with colorful indie-pop songs like “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second” and such breezy new-wavey interludes as “Myke Ptyson,” from their recent self-titled CD. (Falling James)

 

 

Also playing Wednesday:

TRICKY, WE ARE THE WORLD at the Henry Fonda Theater; BRANFORD MARSALIS at the Catalina Bar & Grill; TYGA, STUNNA MAN 2800 at the Roxy; NO KIDS, PARENTHETICAL GIRLS, BLACK GOLD at Spaceland.

 

THURSDAY, MARCH 26

Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks, Van Dyke Parks, the Ditty Bops at El Rey Theatre

Talk about a rugged all-American individual. Dan Hicks has plowed deep furrows through some of the most fertile pop-music territory known to man, and during it all has maintained both his own distinct, light yet emphatic touch and a pace that’s always kept him more than a few steps ahead of his colleagues. The Arkansas-born musician was already pounding out the big beat in high school, and by ’65 was playing drums for Frisco proto-psych adventurers The Charlatans, a noble if short-lived combo among the earliest California bands to probe the lysergic state. Morphing shortly thereafter into Tin Pan Alley–fixated sensations Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks, he developed a frosty-cool mix of utterly relaxed hep, excelling in jazz-tinged original flights and affectionate, slightly spindled versions of old-timey pop classics. It’s a course he’s ably continued, and joined here by bubblegum alchemist Van Dyke Parks and the deft, daft Ditty Bops, Hicks is certain to uphold his offbeat tradition with characteristic sizzle. (Jonny Whiteside)

 

Also playing Thursday:

RHETT MILLER at Largo at the Coronet; CRAIG OWENS (CHIODOS) at the Knitting Factory; PRE, PAST LIVES, THE MAE SHI, FOOT VILLAGE at the Smell; THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES at the Echoplex; ILLINOIS, KEENAN BELL at the Echo; EARLY MAN, RED FANG at Spaceland; THE BACON BROTHERS at the Hard Rock Cafe; GREAT NORTHERN, THE JAKES, LEMON SUN at the Roxy.


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