Monday, November 30, 2009

This Week’s “Shows To See” Nov. 30-Dec. 6

Just a quick one this week. I actually have two show previews in the LA Weekly this week: the Ten Out Of Tenn show on Dec. 1 and the J. Tillman
Dec. 2 gig – both at the Troubadour. So those are both shows worth checking out. You can read more starting here:
I also wanted to mention the Vic Chesnutt’s Dec. 1 show at the Echoplex. The eclectic Georgia-based performer has been having a particularly productive time period of late and his newest offering At The Cut is an especially strong disc. The track, “Band Camp,” is simply put - one fantastic song, recounting a long, twisted acquaintance with a girl. Find some way to hear it.
Notable too is Peter Case’s show at McCabe’s on Friday night, although I think it’s sold out. McCabe’s a great place to this Grammy-nominated roots rock troubadour and it’s great that Case is playing again after having heart surgery earlier this year.

Monday, November 23, 2009

“Shows To See” for Nov. 23-29

It’s Thanksgiving Week which seemingly means fewer official work days but just as much work too do. It also is a rather light week for shows but still there are several shows that caught my eye.
I do want to put out the good word on Vicki Emerson, who has a show Monday night the 23rd at Room 23. The New York City-based singer has crafted an impressive disc Long Ride, on which she sounds more like a country girl than a city girl. Nicely walking the line between mainstream and alternative country, Emerson projects a strong, confident musical persona that makes me curious about what she comes up with next.
Another NYC-based act, Elizabeth and the Catapult lands at the House of Blues on Nov. 28. Elizabeth Ziman is a lively vocalist who has an engaging jazzy, poppy sound. The band’s Verve debut (produced by Omaha wunderkind Mike Mogis) boasts a number of memorable tracks including “Momma’s Boy” and the title track “Taller Children.”
In keeping with this week’s female theme, I very much wanted to spotlight the two appearances this weekend from Candye Kane, who performs Saturday night at Cozy’s and Sunday night at Redwood Bar. This is something of a homecoming for Kane, who was born in East L.A. and cut her teeth in L.A.’s roots music scene. Now living in San Diego, Kane has lived a remarkable life, which includes a recent battle with cancer. Onstage she is quite remarkable too. A fun, feisty performer, Kane also knows how to belt out the blues. Her latest disc, the super Super Hero, reveals a fighter’s sense of survival in a vibrant set of rootsy, rockin’ blues, and is just the latest laudable album from Kane.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

This Week’s “Shows To See” - Nov. 15-22 Edition

The recommended shows for this week all fall towards at the week’s end.

On Thursday, the Ruby Friedman Orchestra checks into the Hotel Café. I actually haven’t had the RFO experience yet but they have created quite the buzz in local circles with Ruby touted as quite the singer and frontperson. Come early to see Corb Lund who opens the night at 7. I saw him open a while back for Chuck Mead and the Canadian alt. country star delivered a sparkling set of modern honky tonk music. His latest, Losin’ Lately Gambler came out earlier this fall on New West Records

On Friday night, the “King of Rock & Soul, “ Solomon Burke presides at Club Nokia. Now approaching 70, Burke is not the live performer or singer that he once was, Burke is more than just a living legend – which would be reason enough to see him. During the last decade, his career has experienced an artistic renaissance as he put out a string of acclaimed albums, produced by the likes of Joe Henry and Buddy Miller, that found him putting his indelible vocal stamp on a wide range of material (from Bruce Springsteen to Dolly Parton) - and he’ll hopefully have his throne out on the Nokia stage too.

The weekend McCabe’s hosts a doubleheader of terrific double bills. Friday night the 20th the guitar shop/club welcomes a pair of feisty female singer/songwriters, Erin McKeown. McKeown’s beguiling new album, Hundreds of Lions, finds her expanding her musical territory. While her last effort, Sing You Sinner, found her mining the 20s and 30s, this one explores various pop music style of the 50s and 60s, all conveyed through McKeown’s always expressive vocals. Jill Sobule is best known for the 1995 hit “I Kissed The Girl” – she was there first Katy Perry! However over the years, she has continued putting out sweet and bittersweet music that skirt the lines around folk and pop. She raised funds for her current disc, the Golden State-themed California Years, through appealing to her loyal fans and that earned her press too (although the album is quite worthy of attention too)

On Sunday night the 22nd, it’s a night for those who like their bluegrass with a twist as Crooked Still and King Wilkie take the stage there. Based in the Northeast, Crooked Still comes to L.A. for the first time with this gig but the band has been creating engaging acoustic music for the past several years. Their most recent studio outing, Still Crooked, mixes originals and covers to create a beautiful take on Americana music. King Wilkie started off as a mostly traditionally minded bluegrass group but they have expanded their sound to move into modern musical styles. While keeping some strains of old school bluegrass, they also weave in some laidback country-rock elements, which make them something of a front-porch Jayhawks.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

This Week’s “Shows To See” - Nov. 9-14 Edition

L.A. has seen some very impressive double bills of late. I have written about last week’s Over The Rhine/Katie Herzig pairing. Before that, there was the Blind Pilot/Low Anthem show and Hoot and Hellmouth/William Elliott Whitmore gig.

This week again offers some recommended musical pairings. On Monday night, Chuck Prophet and Jason Isbell share the bill at the Echoplex. Prophet first made a name for himself in the Paisley Underground with Green on Red. While he has become an in-demand guitar slinger/songwriter/producer, Prophet also has put out a series of captivating solo discs this past decade that offer his own unique take on soulful roots rock. Isbell, meanwhile, earned his stripes in the Drive-By Truckers before venturing off on his own a few years back. With his own band, The 400 Unit, Isbell serves up his own inspired Americana rock that is dipped in Dixie without being smothered in the South.

On Wednesday the 11th, Via Tania (Chicago-based Australian expat Tania Bowers) brings her ethereal electro-pop to the Bootleg Theater (she's also plays the Bordello on Tuesday). There’s a bewitching quality to this often spare, typically haunting tunes from her album Moon Sweet Moon, with tracks like “the Beginning,” “How Come” and “Light Years.” Also on the bill is the local alt. a cappella ensemble, Sonos. This inventive vocal outfit modernizes the old fashion a cappella style by covering songs by acts like the Fleet Foxes, Radiohead and Rufus Wainwright. They will provide a lightness to balance out Via Tania’s darker musical hues.

Rufus’ dad Loudon appears at UCLA on Friday matched up with Richard Thompson. Billed as “Loud & Rich,” these two esteemed old folkies not only boast lengthy, and impressive musical resumes, but both men share a deep interest in the history of music. A few years back, Thompson released the disc 1000 Years of Popular Music, which covered tunes spanning 1068 AD to 2000 (the latter being Britney Spears’ “Oops I Did It Again.”). Wainwright, meanwhile, has just released a tribute to country music pioneer, Charlie Poole, whose name isn’t as well known today as it should be. Whether they will be performing their own tunes or others’, it all should make for a night of expert songcraft, witty repartee and nimble guitar picking (particularly by Thompson).

The Treasure of Rupa

I will admit it. I don’t know a lot about World Music. But I do know what I like, and I do like Rupa And The April Fishes.
I have greatly enjoyed their two CDs, Extraordindary Rendition and the recently released, Este Mundo (both on Cumbancha) so I jumped at the chance to finally see them play live, even though it was a late (for me) set.
This won’t be a standard live review. I didn’t take notes or jot down the song titles, and wasn’t I able to stay for the whole set. I went for the fun of it but I was so impressed with what I heard that I wanted to share my enthusiasm for the band.
Rupa and the April Fishes play what I would describe as gypsy music. The type of music that you might hear on the streets of Europe, but it’s also “gypsy” in the sense that it borrows from a whole host of global styles. There is some Parisian jazz, some American funk and a host of other world music styles that I don’t know well enough to name-check.
While this unique global sound is colorful and lively on disc, it is even more so in concert. Rupa is a charming frontwoman – smart, passionate and exuding vivacity. Her band (drums, stand-up bass, cello, accordion and trumpet) shares this joie de vivre. They know their chops but play with just enough sloppiness to keep things fresh and fun live.
Rupa Marya has a fascinating story. Her parents moved to Northern California from India before she was born. However, she also spent her childhood in Southern France, another land where she experienced a sense of “outsider-ness.” She returned to the San Francisco area to study medicine but she never gave up her love of music. Now she is both a doctor and a musician.
True to her multi-national upbringing, Rupa sings in a number of languages – French, Spanish, Hindi, English, just to name four. Not understanding most of the lyrics (unless you know all the languages that she knows) gives the songs a mysterious quality. The joyful music, however, can often hide the lyrics’ more serious content. However, Rupa and her band put across the songs with such expressiveness and enthusiasm that the music shines with an irresistible quality.
At their Mint show, they packed the house and had the typically jaded L.A. crowd whooping it up - clapping, singing and dancing along.
If the NPR set and the jam-band crowd haven’t discovered Rupa And The April Fishes yet than it’s only a matter of time. The band’s boisterous fusion of world rhythms is attractive to both audiences. However, if you don’t align yourself with either camp, you might want to check them out anyway. They are a fine gateway band to world music. Rupa and her talented crew make marvelous “music without borders” that transports you on a one-of-a-kind journey with their exuberant songs.

Monday, November 2, 2009

This Week’s Shows that I Wish I Could Check Out

There are a number of intriguing shows going on between Nov. 3-8 that I will I could get out to see, but maybe you will.
On November 3, Lucero brings their Ramblin’ Roadshow and Memphis Review, which features Jack Oblivian and John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives, to the Echo. Lucero have a wonderful new disc out, 1372 Overton Park, which comes packed with Springsteen-via-the-Replacements ramshackle rockers. If you are a fan of bands like Hold Steady or Marah and aren’t a fan yet of Lucero you should check them out because you’ll be a convert.
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, who comes to Spaceland on Nov. 4, is something of a mystery figure to me. He has generated some buzz back East and I have listened to his disc Summer of Fear. It kinda of reminds of the New York City branch of the late 80s College Rock updated with some current Indie Pop flourishes (for example, the trumpet-powered “The 100th of March,” which nearly tops the 6 minute mark). Summer of Fear is on Saddle Creek – if that steers your opinion one way or the other. I hope to listen to the disc some more and see if I can decipher more of songs, and if it holds up to repeated listens.
The following night, Nov. 5, Will Hoge returns to town with a show at the Hotel Café. The Nashville based rocker would have fit in nicely on the Lucero bill as Hoge delves into gritty yet literate roots rock. Hoge survived a nearly fatal traffic accident a few years and his new album is the all-too-aptly named The Wreckage. While he might not move around as much on stage as he used too, he still produces potent music.
Friday’s fine show is Rupa and the April Fishes. By day, Rupa is a doctor in San Francisco but she hasn’t forsaken music for her career in medicine. The multi-lingual singer guides her band through a colorfully woven style of gypsy-like world music. It’s a festive sound that belies some of the more serious lyrical content and is so invigorating that you forget that she isn’t singing in English – not that that’s important. The group is now out celebrating their new release Este Mundo (on Cumbancha).
The week wraps up with a recommended double bill. Over the weekend, Largo at the Coronet hosts Over The Rhine with Kaite Herzig sharing the bill. OTR is a long-standing band from Cincinnati centered around the couple Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist. They have become known for the haunting, dark-hued songs, although they did lighten up a little on their late full length, 2007’s The Trumpet Child. Nashville-based singer/songwriter Katie Herzig is starting to make a name for herself, and deservedly so. Songs off of her tasty disc Apple Tree have shown up on TV shows and NPR shows (but don’t let that prejudice you). Herzig has a delightful way with a tune (as exemplified on tracks like “Hologram” and “Forevermore”) and it’s her quirky charms which differentiates her from the folk-pop pack.