Rock Picks: Stevie Wonder, Lucinda Williams, The Frames
FRIDAY, AUGUST 31 Old Time Relijun at the Smell With a name lifted from a Captain Beefheart song, Old Time Relijun try perhaps a little too hard to be “weird,” but their new CD, Catharsis in Crisis (K Records), still has some wonderfully strange interludes. The album opens with sour and bluesy sitar-like guitar sounds before giving way to an ominously rumbling saxophone as Arrington de Dionyso wails and rants cryptically about the “uplifting breath of creation.” “The Tightest Cage” lurches with a jazz-punk squawk that evokes middle-era Saccharine Trust, while “The Circular Ruins” bashes and crashes with a sub-Beefheart groove. “Dig Down Deeper” falls into a dark vortex lit up with moaning No Wave sax and guitar harmonics for a shadowy mood that somewhat evokes Nick Cave and another Beefheart acolyte, Tom Waits. The Olympia, Washington, trio scratch up a lulling trance on the instrumental “Garden of Pomegranates,” where a hypnotic bass line sets up some coolly dangerous sax squalling. It’s one of the few places on the album where de Dionyso’s arty affections merge into something more melodically intriguing. (Falling James)
Sean Kingston at the Key Club Without a doubt, 17-year-old Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girls” gets my vote for song of the summer. An appealingly absurd account of the Jamaican-American singer’s enduring girl trouble set atop a liberal sample of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me,” the tune sounds every bit as fresh and as youthful as great warm-weather pop should; credit producer J.R. Rotem for the track’s bubbly groove, but give it up to Kingston for having the chutzpah to boast about being sent to jail for committing his first crime at the ripe old age of 9. Kingston’s self-titled debut has a few other highlights, including “Me Love,” which swipes a similarly large chunk of Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer Mak’er,” and “Dry Your Eyes,” whose Fisher-Price keyboards evoke fond memories of squeaky-clean kiddie-R&B hits of yore. (ABC’s “Iesha,” anyone?) But the thing also sports a good deal of filler. Pray that Kingston tires quickly tonight. (Mikael Wood) Also playing Friday: HACIENDA BROTHERS at Blue Cafe; MAT KEARNEY at House of Blues; QUETZAL at Levitt Pavilion, MacArthur Park, 7:30 p.m.; NINJA ACADEMY, 8-BIT, THE MORMONS at Mr. T’s Bowl; FITTER, AZTLAN UNDERGROUND at the Scene; WILLOUGHBY, ELECTROCUTE, BRAM at El Cid. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1 Brian Jonestown Massacre at the Echoplex Kicking off a substantive West Coast tour, reasonably passionate multi-instrumentalist éminence grise Anton Newcombe rides again just days after his 40th birthday with new tracks from a forthcoming, almost finished, as-yet-untitled album recorded in Iceland. It’s the band’s first release since the We Are the Radio EP in 2005 and stretches back to the halcyon days of aural broadsides issued throughout the ’90s in a seemingly effortlessly stream on Bomp and the Committee to Keep Music Evil. Never mind the onstage infighting, never mind that their music is apparently a modern take on ’60s psychedelic rock as acid-washed as whiny ’90s denim — fractious, iconoclastic and perfectionist, Newcombe offers a singular vision of rock music as a curative experience wrapped inside a sterling mumble and marinated in jangling jingles. Or, as Jim Jones himself put it, “Let the night roar with us.” Also Sun. (David Cotner) Sid & Billy King at 1160 Lounge The hypersexual mutant war cry that heralded rockabilly’s mid-1950s breakout is so often attributed solely to Elvis Presley that it’s easy to forget just how many straight country acts, from Hank Williams Sr. to the Maddox Brothers & Rose, were already recording it; Dallas-based siblings Sid and Billy King, with their yen for raunchy R&B and crazed hillbilly boogie, were two more natural-born proponents. As the swing combo the Western Melody Makers, they’d been cutting records for Starday since ’54, and when the tide turned two years later, they slipped into the insurgent style with such well-lubricated ferocity that the big-time imprint Columbia inked ’em, resulting in a slew of icily gone discs — “Sag, Drag & Fall,” “Booger Red” — that still ably jolt the thrillometer. Sure, now they’re redneck 70-somethings, but the mad twosome are very likely to shake this shack right into the ground. Starts at 4 p.m. The Ramada Hollywood, 1160 N. Vermont Ave. (323) 315-1845. (Jonny Whiteside) Long Beach Blues Festival at Cal State Long Beach With so many mediocre musicians clotting the airwaves these days, critics are often delighted when a performer shows even the barest hint of potential and can croak out something resembling a unique melody. So what should we make of this latest edition of the Long Beach Blues Festival, which boasts a heavy-duty lineup of legends who’ve not only written dozens of certifiably classic tunes but can still deliver them with full-bodied power and a sense of soulful drama? Saturday’s bill features guitar hero Buddy Guy, who always dazzles with his stinging, sweet-&-sour solos; the funky, swampy, seedy gumbo of New Orleans shaman/showman Dr. John; the open-hearted eclecticism of blues archaeologist Taj Mahal & the Phantom Blues Band; and awesome Chicago belter Koko Taylor, who was discovered and championed by the great Willie Dixon. She’s best known for volcanic blasts like Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle,” but she also showed a sensitive approach on the R&B ballads on 1972’s Basic Soul. Sunday’s showdown includes Crescent City diva Irma Thomas (“Ruler of My Heart,” “Time Is on My Side”) and the irrepressible Little Richard, who can still thrill with those vocal trills. Starts at 10:30 a.m. Also Sun. (Falling James)
Brandi Shearer at Amoeba Music Feeling burned by the near-pathological show-canceling of soul-belter Amy Winehouse? Then the singer you should get to know well is Brandi Shearer. Not only can Shearer stand up for lengths of time without wobbling, she has a heaven-sent, heart-shuddering vocal style that, like ol’ Wino, makes her sound worldly and seasoned well beyond her young years. Shearer’s just-out record, Close to Dark, was produced by Larry Klein (producer and ex-husband of Joni Mitchell, but you knew that) and will definitely appeal to fans of sultry ballads, with an emphasis on swooning melodies. When she delivers the line “My eyes flew open in the middle of the night” over and over, there’s even a ferocity that hints that Brandi Shearer may just be a tad crazy — just as we Winehouse fans like our singers. Starts at 2 p.m. Also at Tangier, 9 p.m. (Libby Molyneaux)
Also playing Saturday: T.I., CIARA, T-PAIN at Gibson Amphitheatre; BEYONCÉ at Honda Center; LEO NOCENTELLI, CAFÉ R&B at the Mint; COCKWIND, ANCHORS FOR ARCHITECTS at Pehrspace; FATSON JETSON, VELOURIA at the Scene; MINUS 5, JOHNATHAN RICE at Spaceland; CAROLYN EDWARDS, VOCO, LISTING SHIP at Taix; BRANDI SHEARER, RACHAEL CANTU at Tangier; MEDUSA, AUDIBLE MAINFRAME at Temple Bar; LOVE ME NOTS, WOOLLY BANDITS, VOODUO at Spike’s Bar & Billiards. SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 2 Wanda Jackson at the Knitting Factory The king is dead, but the queen of rockabilly (and sometimes country) is alive and, as she says, still kickin’. Wanda Jackson’s place in musical history is already secure as one of the first and most feisty female rockabilly singers, with such classics as “Let’s Have a Party,” “Right or Wrong” and “Fujiyama Mama” (which was surprisingly popular in Japan despite, or perhaps because of, its references to Hiroshima and Nagasaki). One of the Oklahoma singer’s most haunting early tunes, “Funnel of Love,” wasn’t even a hit, but it blended Jackson’s feverishly romantic vocals with Roy Clark’s sublime guitar licks and still sounds timeless today. She could easily rest on her laurels, but she’s been fairly prolific in recent years, releasing a loving tribute to her old touring partner Elvis Presley, 2006’s I Remember Elvis, as well as recording an excellent live album, 2003’s Live and Still Kickin’, and a fine comeback studio CD, 2003’s Heart Trouble, where she was joined by the Cramps, Rosie Flores, Dave Alvin, Elvis Costello and other guest stars. The queen just got back from a show in Paris, where she sang with Little Richard and Tina Turner, two folks who recognize royalty when they see it. (Falling James) Also playing Sunday: T.I., CIARA, T-PAIN at Gibson Amphitheatre; BEYONCÉ at Staples Center; EDDIE SPAGHETTI, DEADBOLT, DEAD ROCK WEST, LONESOME SPURS, MAT KEARNEY, AUGUSTANA, ZEKE at Bergamot Station, noon; KORN, EVANESCENCE at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 2 p.m.; M.D.C. at the Airliner; BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE at the Echoplex; YELLOWMAN at Malibu Inn; LEE HAZLEWOOD TRIBUTE with MIKE STINSON, CHARLIE WADHAMS at Tangier; PEACHFUZZ, ROLLING BLACKOUTS at Palmer Room. MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3
Gram Rabbit at Spaceland They’ve gone from strange to stranger, those Joshua Tree denizens known as Gram Rabbit. On their third album, RadioAngel and the RobotBeat, out November 17, they come out spitting, with lead singer and co-songwriter Jesika von Rabbit coming off like Grace Jones with a bunny fetish on the fed-up-with-technology electro-ditty “American Hookers.” Considering they go to sleep every night under a sky filled with more stars than the rest of us can only dream of, it’s not surprising their lyrics express a great deal of concern for “the world gone wrong.” They also come from a place with fewer teeth per capita than the rest of the state, hence references to priests smoking crystal meth and pit bulls. Even weirder is “The Rest of Us Sleep,” which sounds like video-game effects. My pick hit is “Fancy Dancy,” with what may be the best line of the summer: “Any way you slice it, it’s still bologna.” They even wrote a song about Landers, called “Landers,” which is some blips and plucks and pounds and maybe some voices. Bonus: Most of the new tunes are excellent for doing “The Robot.” (Libby Molyneaux) Also playing Monday: MARTIN KLINGMAN at the Bordello; ANAVAN at Pehrspace; MINOR CANON, SATISFACTION, THE PRIX at Viper Room.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4
Playing Tuesday: THE SHEERS, SUKI EWERS at the Bordello; SUBHUMANS, PELIGRO SOCIAL, CECI BASTIDA at Knitting Factory; CLIPSE, LUCKY.I.AM at the Roxy; HEALTH CLUB at the Scene; KENNEDY, EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS at Silverlake Lounge; LAST VEGAS at Viper Room. WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5
Stevie Wonder at the Greek Theatre Stevie Wonder had a pretty cool mom. Whereas most parents might grudgingly allow their kids with rock-star ambitions to practice occasionally in the garage, Lula Mae Hardaway fully supported her son’s dreams — and even co-wrote some of his earliest songs. And these weren’t just throwaway B-sides; she collaborated on such classics as “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours,” “I Was Made to Love Her” and “I Don’t Know Why” (which was covered by the Rolling Stones and more recently by the Brand New Heavies). After his beloved mother died last year, it inspired Wonder to get back on the road after a long absence. Although he performs locally at the annual Toys for Tots benefit, this tour is an all-too-rare chance to see him stretch out and play at least some of the many hits from his considerable body of work, including the mighty “Superstition,” with its insidiously sneaky, snaky bent-back riff; the still-compelling “Living for the City,” where he neatly summarized America’s racial and class divides in just a few poetic lines; the sophisticated arrangements of his Ellington tribute, “Sir Duke”; the sunny bounce of “Master Blaster (Jamming)”; and — geez — are we already out of space? Well, you get the idea. (Falling James) Lucinda Williams at El Rey Theatre The iconoclastic alt-country icon Lucinda Williams seems to be feeling slightly nostalgic as she approaches the 20th anniversary of her landmark eponymous album. But instead of slapping together an “Essential Lucinda Williams” best-of or even an elaborate multidisc retrospective, she’s attempting something more ambitious: performing five of her studio albums in their entirety — something like a live box set. She’ll kick off her five-night stand with 2003’s World Without Tears, and then travel backward in time with each subsequent show — from Essence to her breakthrough, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, and then Sweet Old World before returning to the beginning with 1988’s Lucinda Williams. (Well, her near-beginning — she’s avoiding her two early Smithsonian/Folkways albums.) This quintet of concerts provides a marvelous opportunity to journey back again to Williams’ Americana, stretching from “the melting snow of Minneapolis” to “down the Louisiana highway across Lake Pontchartrain.” Also Thurs., Sept. 6, & Sat.-Mon., Sept. 8-10. (Michael Berick)
B.B. King, Robert Randolph & the Family Band at the Hollywood Bowl The thrill will never be gone as long as B.B. King can still wring such wonderfully piercing vibrations from his famous (and practically sentient) guitar, Lucille. Considering that he’s 81 years old and has already performed a series of farewell shows in Europe, we’re lucky to get a chance to see him again — and luckier still that he’s in good voice and has such nimble hands. The Mississippi-born blues man, who got his start on Memphis’ Beale Street, has never let his status as living legend get in the way of his fertile musical career, inspiring and jamming with countless blues, rock and jazz guitarists. Even during the course of his deepest, darkest, loneliest blues laments, he always maintains a courtly, gentlemanly presence, beaming with warmth and good humor. Guitar fanatics should get a kick out of Robert Randolph, the New Jersey steel-guitar whiz whose hands move up and down his instrument’s neck more smoothly and dexterously than a con man playing a shell game. The Family Band pump up a lively mix of gospel, soul and rock that’s taken to the next level by Randolph’s positively psychedelic array of swoops and glides along the spine of his “sacred steel” guitar. (Falling James) Also playing Wednesday: BEN KWELLER at the Echo; KITTIE at the Key Club; SUBHUMANS, M.D.C. at Knitting Factory; JOE FRANK at Largo; THE MONOLATORS at Silverlake Lounge; VAN HUNT at Temple Bar. THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6
Eleni Mandell, The Frames at the Henry Fonda Theater Eleni Mandell has sung a little bit of everything, showing her down-home cowgirl persona on 2003’s Country for True Lovers and revealing her inner late-night chanteuse on her jazz-inflected 2004 EP, Maybe, Yes. Her new CD, Miracle of Five, contains such trademark idyllic ballads as the delicately rendered “Salt Truck” and more rocking tunes like the intriguing and exotically mesmerizing tale of her missing better half, “My Twin.” Regardless of the genre she dabbles in, all of Mandell’s recordings are distinguished by breathily beguiling vocals and a faintly bohemian attitude that separates her from most mainstream pop singers. She’s an ideal mood-setter for Irish headliners the Frames, whose best songs support Glen Hansard’s soft vocal mumblings (which sound perhaps a bit too much like Cat Stevens) with austere washes of piano and violin. The title track of the Frames’ latest CD, The Cost, swims slowly with restlessly turning guitar chords, while “Falling Slowly” lives up to its title with gentle piano accents. While much of this morose wallowing isn’t always as captivating as Hansard’s recent side project, the Swell Season, there are some moments of quiet grandeur. (Falling James) Also playing Thursday: COMMON at the Wiltern; LUCINDA WILLIAMS at El Rey Theatre; GOO GOO DOLLS at Greek Theatre; SECRETARY BIRD, BEN KWELLER at the Echo, 6:30 p.m.; KATHRYN WILLIAMS at Hotel Café; SOULIVE at House of Blues; PUNK BUNNY, HAWNAY TROOF at Knitting Factory; BANGKOK FIVE, THE BINGES at Malibu Inn; DOLLYROTS, KILLOLA at Safari Sam’s; JOHN VANDERSLICE, BODIES OF WATER at Troubadour.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.