Mexican-American actress/siren Patricia Vonne (she had roles in Sin City and Spy Kids) has a big, haunting, sometimes anguished, full-throated wail and a potent guitar band behind her. This is her most overtly rock-oriented album, although her gorgeous melodicism and uncommon dedication to social justice remain. Over the past few years she’s been a fierce proponent of the rights of American Indians and Mexican immigrants, and on this one she speaks up for the over two hundred women who’ve been murdered in Juarez, Mexico in the recent past, right off the bat, with the album’s first track, Missing Women. It’s a big guitar anthem that wouldn’t be out of place on the most recent Mary Lee’s Corvette album, and is reprised with lyrics in Spanish at the end of the cd. The album’s second cut, Hot Rod Heart is a fast rockabilly number with baritone sax and layers of guitars, sounding much like Dylan as produced by Daniel Lanois. The following track Battle Scars is a big rock anthem evoking Sam Llanas’ work with the BoDeans, a fiery, jangly rocker whose aching, longing, harmony-driven vocals are nothing short of spine-tingling.
Vonne apparently has a fondness for women bullfighters, as evidenced in Torera, a cross between a Mexican bolero number and an American power ballad. After that, Jett Rink – the one track on the album most reminiscent of her earlier, more country and Tex-Mex inflected material, imagines a scenario on the set of Giant, which happens to be Vonne’s favorite film.
Other standout tracks on the cd include the haunting The Dogs Dance, with its recurrent refrain of “I’m holding on” building into the chorus; La Huerta de San Vicente, a bitter, mostly acoustic tango spiced with spare electric guitar, violin and piano, inspired by Vonne’s first visit to Frederico Garcia Lorca’s home in Spain; and Karolina, a soaring, hopeful ballad rich with multitracked guitar lines like the Church at their late-80s peak.
It could be said (don’t laugh!!!) that Vonne is to the late zeros what Al Stewart was to the 70s. Consider: they both love backbeat rhythm, have a great way with a catchy hook and most importantly, have a sense of history, whether it’s current events, or bringing events from the past to life in a way that makes them relevant to the present day. Unlike Stewart, she can sing. The Austin native is predictably big in her native Texas and is also huge in Europe. Here’s hoping this album will bring her the mass American audience she deserves. Firebird is available at better retailers, online and at shows.
O Albion! Thy fecund shores
Hath ne’er produced such orat’ry
As had the haven of the New
Adhesive, though, to mimicry
Of Lethen waters now he tastes
In state awaits his animus
With gimlet eye, a dram of rye
And p’raps some cannabis
Not that this come as any surprise, but according to the Black Crowes’ website, Maxim Magazine reviewed their most recent album without actually hearing it. This isn’t exactly a new fad among magazine writers: in his anthology, Richard Meltzer admits reviewing a David Bowie album in the early 70s without having heard a single note. One can only wonder what, if anything, Kelefa Sanneh of the New York Times ever listens to (other than R. Kelly, of course).
Rest assured that everything that is reviewed at Lucid Culture has been personally witnessed by the reviewer: if somebody leaves the club for a smoke break, there’s tape rolling, for later listening. By the way, that new R. Kelly DVD – you know, the x-rated one – is really awesome!!!!!
The joke was on the crowd tonight. There was a long line of New Jersey tourists upstairs waiting to pay $60 to get into the larger adjacent B.B. King’s to see a Journey cover band. The whole lot of them, obviously impatient to get out of the cold, could have gotten into the smaller space and seen Bobby Radcliff and they all would have been $60 richer. And would have had a far better time. Saturday night in New York City at a popular, spacious nightclub, and who’s playing the main stage? A Journey cover band. Just think about that for a second.
To steal a phrase from LJ Murphy, in case you don’t know what the blues is, it is the kind of music that has nothing to do with Eric Clapton. In case you don’t know Bobby Radcliff, he’s one of the world’s most exciting blues guitarists. The Washington, DC native, tonight looking something like Chewbacca the Wookie from Star Wars in a three-piece suit, has always had sensational chops, but in recent years he’s really come into his own. B.B. King is the obvious influence, but Radcliff has brought a multitude of other styles into his playing, from Muddy Waters to funk, and they’re all good. Although he still plays an awful lot of notes, like a funkier, more minor-key or jazz-inclined Stevie Ray Vaughan, he’s finally discovered space, making all those scales and riffs and licks actually count for something. Tonight he was accompanied by what seemed to be a pickup rhythm section, the drummer pushing everything along by playing just ahead of the beat. The bass player was using all kinds of unorthodox voicings for what were clearly pretty standard lines. Instead of staying in position and just playing the notes as they went up the scale and up the strings, he’d move further up his A or D strings, sometimes sliding to the notes, actually a very effective device. A closer look revealed why: his G string was missing. For awhile it was hard to resist the temptation to call out from the audience and ask how that happened. On second thought, it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do: losing one’s G string can be traumatic, something that isn’t easily discussed in front of a crowd.
Radcliff alternated originals with covers. To his immense credit, it was sometimes hard to tell which was which. Although his vocals were miked too low in the mix for his audience repartee to be audible to all but those at the tables closest to the stage, he was in a gregarious mood tonight, revealing how Lovesick Blues wasn’t written by Muddy Waters, but was actually a Memphis Minnie tune (blues fans are obsessive like that). Radcliff’s version was uniquely his own, although he added some low vibrato on his E string, mimicking Muddy’s ominous tonalities. His version of Muddy’s Honeybee was rich with vibrato as well.
He did a couple of ominous, hypnotic numbers that evoked Howlin Wolf’s Smokestack Lightning as well as something that sounded like a dead ringer for Otis Rush’s Lonely Man, right down to the fast boogie break on the chorus, but with different lyrics. Radcliff sang with a drawl, but a casually unaffected one, making it clear that he doesn’t take his blues vocal cues from Robert Plant. Guitarwise, he used pretty much every trick in the book: lightning-fast chord-chopping and tremolo-picking, sizzling sixteenth-note runs, long sustained notes and elaborate jazz chords, all with just a touch of natural distortion from his gorgeous Gibson Les Paul. At the end of the set he did an utterly macabre instrumental cover of Memphis, of all songs, and this was as effective as it was bizarre. Don’t let the fact that he’s white scare you away: the guy can flat-out play, as he reaffirmed tonight. He’s back here on March 15 at 8.
Tonight was a triumph for Tandy. It always feels good to see a band take it to the next level. These guys have come a long ways since their days as densely wordy mid-period Wilco soundalikes in the late 90s. Despite having suddenly lost their (and everybody else’s) lead guitarist Drew Glackin at a young age last month, they’ve regrouped and played an absolutely killer set, one gorgeous song after another. Tandy’s most recent material is their best: slow-to-midtempo, contemplative, lyrically-driven, jangly and richly melodic Americana rock with tinges of southwestern gothic at times. Frontman Mike Ferrio began the set on mandolin and harmonica before switching to acoustic guitar. The new guy they had sitting in on Telecaster provided vividly melodic, tastefully terse fills, Skip Ward played a rare gig on electric bass, and drummer Bruce Martin added some very pretty accordion textures while keeping time on the kick on one song.
Ferrio is an excellent lyricist, writing memorable, understated, image-filled narratives of blue-collar life, his vocals casual and laid-back. One of the early songs, seemingly an antiwar number, morphed into a long, crescendoing vamp on the chorus of the Emerson, Lake and Palmer pop hit Lucky Man. Later they did a couple of long, slow, hypnotically summery numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Giant Sand album. The set was somewhat front-loaded – it seemed that they saved the older material for last for the sake of their fans. The Tandy website notes triumphantly that their latest cd is sold out: unsurprising for a band this good. They’re huge in Europe. If Americana or just plain thoughtful, smart, guitar-based rock is your thing, you owe it to yourself to discover Tandy.
A richly melodic, stylistically diverse masterpiece. Serena Jost (pronounced Yost) is a multi-instrumentalist who for quite a while played cello in Rasputina. On this album, her second, she also plays acoustic guitar and keyboards and sings in a truly beautiful, carefully modulated voice. What she does here falls under the nebulous umbrella of art-rock, although her tunes are uncommonly catchy, adding both classical and jazz influences. Jost’s lyrics are deliberately opaque, and like her music, they can be very playful: she clearly delights in paradoxes and contradictions, making her listeners think. This is a terrific ipod album. Here she’s backed by her band including Julian Maile on electric guitar, Brad Albetta (who also produced) on bass and keys, and Colin Brooks and Matt Johnson on drums along with strings and horns in places.
It opens, counterintuitively, with a cover, a stomping yet heartfelt take of Iris DeMent’s sad requiem Our Town: could this be a metaphor for New York? The next cut, Halfway There is a beautifully catchy, artsy pop song whose keys surprisingly end up in the hands of guest banjo player Jim Brunberg about halfway through, who drives it home with very rewarding results. The following cut Vertical World ought to be the hit single, opening all dramatic and coy with a faux-gospel intro:
No I’m not from Georgia, but you are on my mind
I swear I am from Georgia, ‘cause I like it when you take your time
From there it morphs into ridiculously catchy piano pop, on one level seemingly a view of New York through the eyes of an ingénue. But as in the rest of the songs here there are possibly several shades of meaning: taken as sarcasm, it’s a slap in the face of anyone in the permanent-tourist class with their 24/7 party lifestyle and fondness for chainstores like Krispy Kreme. After that, we get the inscrutable I Wait, with a long intro that eventually builds to a cello solo that Jost turns over to Maile, who responds by building something that could be Dick Dale in an unusually pensive moment. The next track, Almost Nothing, a lament, begins with stark classical guitar and features some nice background vocals from Alice Bierhorst and Greta Gertler. Speaking of the unexpected, Maile throws in a completely bombastic, Robin Trower-esque fuzztone guitar solo.
The following song Reasons and Lies reverts to a catchy art-pop feel, with a cello solo from Jost doubletracked with eerily reverberating vocalese. Jost likes to take the same kind of liberties with tempos that she pulls with melody and lyrics, and the next cut Awake in My Dreams gently jolts and prods the listener with echoey vocals and sudden tempo shifts. The next cut Jump is as eerie as it is playful: the production is pure 70s disco, utilizing cheesy period keyboard settings, but the darkness of the melody gives it away: “Down is not so far away,” intones Jost without divulging anything more. With its layers of fluttery acoustic guitars and cello, Falling Down reverts to a chiming pop feel. The album wraps up with In Time, featuring more tricky time changes, and then Stowaway, which perfectly sums up what Jost is all about:
I’m hoping for a shore I can seek
Where dusk and dawn always meet
Challenging, captivating, thought-provoking and very pretty. Time may judge this a classic. Serena Jost and band play the cd release show for Closer Than Far at Joe’s Pub on March 3 at 9:30 PM.
This could be the ultimate autumnal New York album, perfect for grey days with a chill in the air, winter’s hand tugging impatiently on the curtains. The songs on Union Square are gorgeously wistful and intensely poignant. What Linda Thompson was to the 70s and early 80s, Amanda Thorpe is to this era, another British expat steeped in traditional English folk, possessed of one of the most beautifully haunting voices you will ever hear. Thorpe is somewhat more diverse, however: she will give you eerie austerity and resigned melancholy, but she also has a seductive, torchy side with great nuance. This is the first solo release for Thorpe – who also fronts the supremely catchy Bedsit Poets – since her first album, Mass, in 2002, and it was well worth the wait.
By contrast to Mass, a lushly produced, smokily atmospheric effort, this one is remarkably terse and direct. Every note on this album counts. Thorpe is accompanied here by a choice crew of New York luminaries – co-producer Brad Albetta (also of Mary Lee’s Corvette) on bass, Bill Frisell sideman Tony Scherr on guitar and upright bass, Bob Perry on lapsteel and ex-Psychedelic Fur Joe McGinty on keys. The album kicks off with the sarcastic Life Is Great, a lament directed at a pillhead: “Life is great with a hole inside.” Perry adds layers of bluesy lapsteel over Thorpe’s understatedly frustrated vocals. Track two, Won’t You Let Me (a co-write with Phillip Shelley) is pure seduction set to a sweetly soaring Albetta bassline. The next track, River Song is arguably Thorpe’s finest hour as a songwriter, a vivid account of rejection and despair, here recast with something of a Madder Rose-style 90s trip-hop feel. After that, Next to Me makes a good segue, Thorpe holding up a red flag – albeit from a distance – to a would-be suitor.
Burn This House Down, spiced with juicy blues piano from McGinty, has Thorpe bringing the intensity up to redline as she pulls out all the stops and belts:
Though I still love you
The romance is dead
As you burn this house down
Then Scherr launches into a truly nasty slide guitar solo.
Other standout tracks on this album include the marvelously catchy You and Me in a Doorway (also a co-write with Shelley) with its lush bed of guitars and lapsteel; the hypnotic, pastoral Over the Sea (a Wirebirds soundalike); the beautifully melancholy title track, and the absolutely brilliant Show Me a Place. Thorpe’s voice longs for something transcending the ordinariness that she’s held on to with such a steely grip, until now. “As long as there were cigarettes and another glass of wine,” everything was ok. But now she sees “my own black silhouette reflect against the sky:” high time for a change. Perry’s layers of lapsteel punch at the melody like a string quartet. Few other singers in Thorpe’s league ever get to sing material this good; still fewer songwriters in Thorpe’s league can deliver it with as much passion, intensity and subtlety as she does. This ought to appeal to a very wide listenership encompassing the purist Richard & Linda Thompson contingent as well as fans of the current group of A-list chanteuses (Feist, Erica Smith, Rachelle Garniez et al.) and maybe even some of the less adventurous for whom Norah Jones is simply the greatest thing out there.
The debut solo album from ominous Ninth House singer/bassist Mark Sinnis is a remarkably stark, terse collection of mostly acoustic songs including a small handful he’s played with the band. Sinnis proves he’s one of this era’s great Americana song stylists: he can croon with anyone. Vocally, this is an unabashedly romantic album, even given the bitter intensity of many of the songs. Most of them are simply Sinnis’ acoustic guitar and vocals, sometimes sparsely embellished with simple, eerily reverberating electric guitar lines from Brunch of the Living Dead’s Sara Landeau as well as gospel-tinged piano by Ninth House keyboardist Matt Dundas, violin from Susan Mitchell and lapsteel by Lenny Molotov. This is a kinder, gentler Mark Sinnis, a worthy substitute for anyone who misses Nick Cave since he went off to do his hard rock thing with Grinderman.
Sinnis’ dark, rich baritone is a potent instrument, whether roaring over the tumult of Ninth House or delivering with considerably more subtlety as he does here. Johnny Cash is the obvious influence, but there are also tinges of Roy Orbison on the understatedly bitter That’s Why I Won’t Love You, and even Elvis Presley circa His Hand in Mine on the austere ballad The Choice I Found in Fate. Sinnis’ lyrics are crystalline and polished: he doesn’t waste words; his melodies are deceptively simple and run through your head when you least expect them. Some highlights from the nineteen (!) songs on the cd: the haunting Five Days, a bitter look at how the hours are wasted on dayjob drudgery; the Carl Perkins-inflected It Takes Me Home, a long, slow, death-obsessed ride; the rousing Passing Time, a warning to anyone not aware that they should seize the day while it lasts; the Nashville gothic The Room Filled Beyond Your Door, featuring some impressively countrystyle guitar from Ninth House lead player Anti Dave; and a stripped-down version of the anguished Ninth House classic, Put a Stake Right Through It featuring some truly scary playing by Molotov. The production is beautifully uncluttered, obviously influenced by Cash’s Rick Rubin albums. This cd works on so many levels: as singer-songwriter album, as sultry country crooner album (get this for your girlfriend, or someone you would like to be your girlfriend), as well as a fascinating look at an unexpected side of one of today’s finest songwriters. CDs are available in better records stores, online and at shows. Mark Sinnis plays the cd release show for this album at the Slipper Room on March 16 at 10 PM.
Another great month! This city just refuses to die! If you don’t recognize the venue where any of this is happening, click on Venues to your right and scroll down to find it. Daily updates: if you feel like going out tonight and didn’t see something here that you liked the last time you checked in, check back later: just like us, you might be surprised what else is happening.
Every Sunday the Ear-Regulars, led by trumpeter Jon Kellso and (usually) guitarist Matt Munisteri play NYC’s only weekly hot jazz session starting around 8 PM at the Ear Inn on Spring St. Hard to believe, in the city that springboarded the careers of thousands of jazz legends, but true. This is by far the best value in town for marquee-caliber jazz: for the price of a drink and a tip for the band, you can see world-famous players (and brilliant obscure ones) you’d usually have to drop $100 for at some big-ticket room. The material is mostly old-time stuff from the 30s and 40s, but the players (especially Kellso and Munisteri, who have a chemistry that goes back several years) push it into some deliciously unexpected places.
Also every Sunday excellent country twangsters Sean Kershaw & the New Jack Ramblers play Hank’s in Brooklyn around 9:30ish, frequently with special guests or a guest band after the previous event, the weekly rock jam, is over. No cover, with free barbecue and sausage. Definitely your best bet if your stomach is empty and you like this sort of thing
Also on Sundays, there are free, 5:15 PM organ recitals at St. Thomas Church. This is a prestige venue for touring organists from around the world, the sonics are spectacularly good and so is the old Skinner organ
Mondays in March (and pretty much every month, when he’s not on tour), Rev. Vince Anderson and his band play Black Betty in Williamsburg, two sets starting around 10:30 PM. The Rev. is one of the great keyboardists around, equally thrilling on organ or electric piano, an expert at Billy Preston style funk, honkytonk, gospel and blues. He writes very funny, very politically astute, frequently salacious original gospel songs and is one of the great live performers of our time. Moist Paula from Moisturizer is the lead soloist on baritone sax
Also Mondays the Barbes house band, Chicha Libre plays there starting around 10:30. They’ve singlehandedly resurrected an amazing subgenre, chicha, which was popular in the Peruvian Amazon in the late 60s and early 70s. With electric accordion, cuatro, surf guitar and a boisterous rhythm section, their mix of obscure classics and originals is one of the funnest, most danceable things you’ll witness this year. Perhaps not so strangely, they sound a lot like Finnish surf rockers Laika and the Cosmonauts in their most imaginative moments.
Also Thursdays through March 6 the brilliant soul duo Dwight & Nicole play Banjo Jim’s at 9:30, with the possibility of a second set later in the evening. He sings, plays soul guitar and has a deep feel for the blues. She’s a percussionist and one of this generation’s best soul singers, a throwback to the 1960s and a master of subtlety. These two are not wannabes. They are the real deal.
Saturdays in March las Rubias del Norte play Barbes, 10 PM. Fronted by two women with roots in both Americana and classical choral music, the band plays pretty, authentic-sounding, harmony-driven oldtimey romantic songs from all over South America and Mexico.
Sat Feb 23 Hazmat Modine plays an early show at Terra Blues, 7 PM. These rustic psychedelic twin blues-harp driven madmen are huge in Europe and Russia, mixing New Orleans blues, klezmer, gypsy dances and even reggae into an habanero-fueled stew. One of the most exhilarating live bands around.
Also Sat Feb 23,Washington DC blues guitarist Bobby Radcliff plays Lucille’s Bar next to B.B. King’s, 8 PM, free. For a guy who plays a lot of notes, he sure makes them count, like late-period Stevie Ray Vaughan, but with funk rather than Southern rock as his fallback place. Not sure if this is an acoustic or electric show.
Also Sat Feb 23 there’s a memorial concert for Ron Ardito from the Shirts at Freddy’s featuring Brooklyn’s own man in black, John Pinamonti at 9 PM followed by the Shirts and then the always boisterously fun improvisers Plastic Beef – featuring the killer rhythm section from Liza & the WonderWheels – at 11.
Sun Feb 24 fiery Gretsch guitar-driven rockabilly/surf trio Catspaw is at Otto’s, 8 PM, just as fun and subtly amusing as ever, followed by rousing, Stonesy cover band the Blue Shadow Dogs and then recently resurgent Brooklyn surf rockers the Sea Devils.
Also Sun Feb 24 our favorite brand-new band the Lost Crusaders play their debut performance at Magnetic Field starting at 10. It’s a bunch of A-list Brooklyn rockers playing authentic, ecstatic, passionate 1960s style gospel with guitar and keys. These guys’ forthcoming album is amazing. If you like Rev. Vince Anderson you’ll love the Lost Crusaders.
Mon Feb 25 twisted Van Halen cover band Van Hayride – who pride themselves on their covers of “David Lee Roth ONLY” Van Halen – play Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM, the country ham himself, Jack Grace doing his best inebriated David Lee impersonation. They’re also here on Tues 3/11 at 10:30.
Weds Feb 27 superb, song-driven jazz quintet the Flail play Fat Cat 72 Christopher St., 8:30 PM. They excel at everything from bop to torchy blues vamps, but it’s their original tunes that will knock your lights out.
Thurs Feb 28, 8 PM, a benefit at Barbes for saxophonist/composer Andrew D’Angelo who suffered a major seizure while driving in Brooklyn. Tests in the hospital revealed a large tumor in his brain. D’Angelo successfully underwent surgery last week, but more will probably be necessary. Like many Americans, Andrew has no health insurance. A fund has been established to help with the costs of his surgery and recovery. Barbes’ benefit features the Jessica Pavone and Mary Halvorson duo, Laura Cromwell’s Queen Moonracer and the Trevor Dunn and Shelley Burgon duo and more tba. Donations can also be sent via PayPal at email@example.com. Outsider jazzcats, unite.
Fri Feb 29 at 8 PM at Symphony Space, Syrian expats the Arabesque Music Ensemble plays songs by al-Fursan at-Talatha (“The Three Musketeers”) highlighting three great composers who wrote for Umm Kulthum: Muhammad al-Qasabji, Zakariyya Ahmad, and Riyad al-Sunbati, adv tix $29 at the World Music Institute box office and worth it. The ensemble is absolutely brilliant; be aware that they’re going to sing this instead of bringing along a standin for Umm Kulthum. Which is just as well since she was the great pantheonic singer of the 20th century Arab world.
Also Fri Feb 29 Luther Wright & the Wrongs play Banjo Jim’s, 9:30 PM. Better get there an hour early if you’re going because this is a small place and the band will probably take up half the club. They’re best known for their bluegrass cover album of the Wall by Pink Floyd, but their originals are also excellent, laden with wit and blazing chops.
For equally good Americana in slightly larger surroundings, Jan Bell & the Cheap Dates play a benefit for Red Hook community organizations at Midway, 10 PM. This Yorkshire lass has a great band, writes and sings as if she grew up in the mountains of West Virginia: click the link above, relax and relish Leaving Town, the gorgeous, haunting song on her myspace.
Sat March 1 jangly indie rock trio Electric Engine play Luna, 7:30 PM. They spun off of the late, lamented Moths a few years ago and are absolute kings of the killer chorus.
Also Sat March 1, at Barbes: Layali El Andalus, led by Moroccan master musician Rachid Halihal, the Judeo-Muslim ensemble evokes the spirit of golden-age Andalusia. At 8 PM Barbes followed by recently resurgent acoustic bluesman/songwriter Howard Fishman at 10
Also Sat March 1 NYC’s answer to X, Spanking Charlene plays Goodbye Blue Mondays in Bushwick, 9ish. Not every day that a white rock band this good plays a show this deep in the ghetto.
Also Sat March 1 subtle, funny, tuneful Americana rock duo Kill Henry Sugar play Pete’s, 10 PM
Also Sat March 1 it’s Unsteady Freddie’s monthly surf music extravaganza at Otto’s starting at 10 PM with the very good Connecticut cover band the Clams followed by Bongo Surf, Mister Neutron and the Octomen probably somewhere around 2 in the morning.
Also Sat March 1 fiery indie rockers Sousalves play Rock Star Bar in Williamsburg, 10ish.
Sun March 2 (repeating on 3/9, 23, and 30) tuneful, laid-back country crooner Matty Charles plays Pete’s, 8:30 PM
Also Sun March 2 Django Reinhardt disciple Stephane Wrembel plays his frenetically virtuoisic gypsy jazz guitar at 9 PM at Barbes. He’s also here on 3/30 at 9.
Also Sun March 2 Radiohead-soundalike art-rockers My Pet Dragon play a somewhat stripped-down show (guitar, drums and percussion) at Southpaw, 9:30 PM. If you love In Rainbows (good album, actually) but wish it had more balls, this is the band for you.
Also Sun March 2 the Headless Hookers play Midway, 10 PM. How to get our attention: name your band something funny and ridiculous. These guys sound kind of like the Barnyard Playboys playing Knoxville Girls songs with Jello Biafra on vocals. If you know who the Barnyard Playboys are you’ll probably love this band. Kind of cheesy twangy guitar sound, lyrics and vocals as silly and over-the-top as their name implies, and no bass player. But they do have dancing girls. This is the kind of band that probably sounds best if you’re really drunk.
Mon March 3 at1 PM the Hudson Trio (piano/violin/violincello) plays Ravel and Chausson at St. Paul’s Chapel, Broadway at Fulton.
Also Mon March 3 Jah Division – whose specialty is dub reggae covers of Joy Division songs – play the Mercury, 7 PM. Dance dance dance to da radio, yeah mon!
Also Mon March 3 dazzling ex-Rasputina multi-instrumentalist art-rocker (how’s that for hyphens) Serena Jost plays the cd release for her brilliant new one at Joe’s Pub, 9:30 PM
Also Mon March 3 the charmingly romantic ukulele-driven oldtimey Prewar Ponies, fronted by Jack Grace Band bassist Daria Grace open for the self-explanatory Ukeladies at Rodeo Bar 9:30ish
Tues March 4, Cordero play Mercury, 9 PM. Frontwoman/guitarist Ani Cordero got her start as the drummer in a Man or Astroman cover band, did a stint in the hauntingly gorgeous Bee & Flower and now fronts this popular, jangly indie band with tinges of latin and Mexican melodies.
Tues March 4 through March 9 at the Village Vanguard it’s the Lou Donaldson Quartet featuring Dr. Lonnie Smith on organ, Randy Johnston on guitar and Fukushi Tainaka on drums. Saxist Donaldson is a warm, sunny, smooth-grooves kind of guy, just as you’d expect from somebody who got his start in soul music in the 60s, expertly complemented by this like-minded unit.
Weds March 5 through 9 the Ron Carter Nonet plays Birdland, sets at 8:30/11 for a $30 cover. The pantheonic jazz bassist likes big arrangements and the crew he’ll have for these shows justifies the expense.
Also Weds March 5 legendary all-female punks the Slits play the Mercury, 11 PM. All original members. Scratchy, minimalist reggae influenced tunes, alternately funny and confrontational. They’re also playing Maxwell’s on 3/24 at 9:30 PM
Thurs March 6 the Bedsit Poets play Banjo Jim’s, 7 PM, early. Soaring harmonies from Amanda Thorpe – who has a great new solo album out – and Ed Rogers, a supremely catchy 60s Britpop vibe and great lead guitar.
Also Thurs March 6 accordionist/pianist/singer Rachelle Garniez plays her monthly Thursday gig at Barbes, 10 PM. We will continue to sing her praises until she is a household word, which she should be, one of the funniest and most charismatic live performers of our time whose fiery, somewhat apocalyptic new album is the best thing she’s done to date.
Also Thurs March 6 Melomane, who play lushly beautiful, ornately orchestrated, scorchingly political art-rock based on dark, sometimes macabre garage rock riffs, play Hill Country, the fairly recently opened barbecue restaurant at 26th and Broadway, 10 PM. They’re not just one of NYC’s best bands – they’re one of the best rock bands in the world, period. Strange place to see them warm up for their upcoming European tour, but what the hell.
Fri March 7 a killer double bill at Cake Shop. At 7:15 wickedly literate and amusing chanteuse Linda Draper plays her increasingly catchy acoustic songs, followed by somebody else and then the somewhat Patti Smith/Siouxsie Sioux-esque Randi Russo and her darkly scorching, chromatically charged band at 9: they’re going deeper and deeper into psychedelia, with delicious results.
Also Fri March 7 pianist Lee Feldman’s musical Starboy will be performed at Union Hall at 7:30 PM with special guest Neil DeGrasse Tyson from the Museum of Natural History. This is a small room, about the same size as the downstairs at Freddy’s, so early arrival is a must. This is a sweet but not saccharine, absolutely psychedelic story about an alien who comes to rescue the sponges in the ocean, with some great tunes. Like the Simpsons, there are jokes that the kids won’t get that the adults will find very, very funny. Feldman is also playing a set of music with his band here on 3/21 at 8.
Also Fri March 7 Jack Grace brings his old-school, 1960s style country band into the cozy confines of Barbes, 10 PM. Very funny guy and an incisive, powerful lead guitarist when he wants to be. He’s also at Rodeo Bar on 3/15 at 10:30 and at Lakeside on 3/29 at 11.
Sat March 8 at 8 PM at Barbes: Ljova & the Vjola Contraband doing a gypsy/Russian trad/Latin/Blues mix followed by the charming, harmony-driven Pan-American stylings of las Rubias del Norte.
Also Sat March 8 NYC’s best old-time band the Moonlighters bring their mix of ukelele and steel guitar-driven classic and original Hawaiian music, swing and blues to the Jalopy Cafe in Red Hook, 10 PM.
Also Sat Mar 8, 10:30 PM or so at Lakeside, Simon & Bar Sinisters do their wildly funny, guitarishly brilliant mix of rockabilly, surf and punk. Simon Chardiet is hilarious, if you’re lucky he’ll do his obscene Batman theme and his ska cover of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.
Sun March 9, early, 6 (six) PM brilliant surf/jazz/western swing guitarist Jim Campilongo plays with his trio at 55 Bar. If great guitar gives you chills, if you like Whit Smith or Matt Munisteri or Steve Ulrich, this guy is right up there with them.
Also Sun March 9, early, 7 (seven) PM, this from the Barbes website: “QNG, recorder collective. The award-winning German quartet plays a repertoire of baroque and contemporary works. The instruments they play include a large number of accurate copies of authentic historical instruments plus modern recorders called Pätzoldbasses. These square box-like recorders produce a different structure of overtones based on those of organ pipes and therefore a specific extraordinary sound, which is further enhanced by the percussive nature of the keys. The diversity of the instruments, paired with QNG’s theatrical flair and high-intensity performance mode, inspires composers to write in fresh and exciting ways that define the music of our time.” Cool, huh?
Mon March 10 speaking of good guitar, Robbie Fulks plays an early show at the Mercury, time TBA. This may be hubris to say, but he’s sort of the second coming of Willie Nelson, a country guy who’s really a jazz guitarist at heart. If you’re lucky he’ll play Fuck This Town.
Tues March 11 invariably interesting, original multistylistic violinist/composer Jenny Scheinman plays Barbes, 7 PM followed by the boisterous Balkan brass band grooves of Slavic Soul Party. The bill repeats 3/18 and 3/25.
Also Tues March 11, yeah mon, oldschool Jamaican crooner Gregory Isaacs plays B.B. King’s, 8 PM, $22.50 adv tix onsale now. He still has his Wilson Pickett-inflected growl, will probably draw a big crowd of Jamaican women in their forties and always has a good band behind him.
Also Tues Mar 11 the excellent vocal jazz group the Old Rugged Sauce plays Lakeside, 10 PM. Paulie their frontman is a smooth crooner himself and the crew behind him, rhythm section and horns, do some terrifically imaginative arrangements. It could be lounge music but it’s not: it’s a lot of fun.
Weds March 12 Rev. Vince Anderson trombonist Dave Smith’s jazz group Who Put the Bad Mouth on Me plays Black Betty, time TBA. He’s an exceptionally terse, bluesy purist; these guys can go way out there in a Sun Ra kind of way. Should be interesting.
Thurs Mar 13 Tom Clark & the High Action Boys play Midway, 10 PM. The last time we saw Clark he absolutely slayed us with his solos. Whether he’s going for the jugular, jangling or twanging or just doing interesting little fills, the guy can flat-out play, generally on a twangy Americana/Neil Young tip. And the sound here is excellent.
Also Thurs March 13 Musette Explosion with Will Holshouser – accordion; Matt Munisteri -guitar and banjo and Marcus Rojas – tuba play haunting, classic covers of Belgian and French instrumentals at 10 PM.
Also Thurs March 13 Wayne “the Train” Hancock brings his potently amusing, guitar-stoked country stuff to Rodeo Bar, 11 PM
Fri March 14 here’s your chance to see Big Lazy for free! They’re playing Zebulon at 11. Yeah, the place will be mobbed with trendoids, but get as close to the stage as you can and get soaked in scary reverb. The world’s finest noir instrumental trio has never been more interesting or diverse than they are now, and guitarist Steve Ulrich’s eerie, evil improvisation has never cut more savagely.
Also Fri March 14 for fans of happier guitar tones, Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars play authentically classic surf covers and instrumental versions of pop hits at Lakeside, 11 PM
Also Fri March 14 hilarious, long-running faux-French garage rockers Les Sans Culottes – featuring the amazing Gina Rodriguez from Moisturizer on bass – play the Mercury at 9 followed by the excellent, ever-increasingly catchy indie rock quintet Elk City and their guy/girl vocals at 10.
Also Fri March 14, 10 PM the Moonlighters play Barbes. The smartest and most politically astute oldtime band on the planet with those gorgeous harmonies, sweetly swaying blues, swing and Hawaiian songs and killer musicianship. They’re also here on the 19th.
Sat March 15, 8 PM a very appealing if expensive bill at Merkin Concert Hall: Music from Medieval Andalusia by the Omar Metioui Ensemble (lute, viola, zither, percussion & vocals), adv tix $38 available at the box office.
Also Sat March 15, 8 PM an expensive blues show at Town Hall: Chicago clubowner/vocal legend Koko Taylor headlines. Also on the bill: Robert Johnson’s ageless childhood friend, fingerstyle delta guitarist David “Honeyboy” Edwards, gloweringly incisive Muddy Waters/Howlin Wolf pianist Henry Gray along with NPR faves Cephas & Wiggins.
Also Sat March 15 potent, improvisationally-minded Nashville gothic rockers Ninth House open for Mike Ness (unadvertised, but he’s headlining) at Maxwell’s, 9 PM.
Also Sat March 15 the most exciting acoustic gypsy band in town, Luminescent Orchestrii play Southpaw a little after 11. La Strada and Michael Winograds Infection open.
Sun March 16 Ralph Stanley plays B.B. King’s, 8 PM with his band the Clinch Mountain Boys, $30 adv tix available at the box office. He doesn’t play much anymore and serves mostly as the orchestrator of this killer bluegrass band, but the voice is still there after all these years and he can still whip a quick solo for a few bars to prove he’s still vital. He’s earned his legendary status, somebody you should see sooner than later if you like this stuff.
Also Sun March 16, Ninth House frontman Mark Sinnis plays the cd release show for his brilliant solo debut Into an Unhidden Future at the Slipper Room, 10 PM. Fans of Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Johnny Cash, Shane McGowan will love his darkly glimmering acoustic Nashville gothic solo stuff.
Mon March 17, St. Paddy’s day Black 47 play at 7 PM (probably because the drunks who’ve been drinking all day won’t be able to stay on their feet much longer at B.B. King’s, $25 adv tix available at the box office. Their new cd Iraq is reputedly these rousing Irish expats best and most potently political album, and since the band pretty much lives on the road, they always put on an exhuberant show.
Tues March 18 through 23 the Joshua Redman Trio with Reuben Rogers on bass and Brian Blade on drums plays theVillage Vanguard. The tenor player has settled into a comfortably bluesy style that still manages to surprise. Forget all the hype: the guy has vastly more subtlety than he gets credit for.
Also Tues March 18 fiery art/punk/noise rockers System Noise blast into Arlene’s, 9 PM. Their frontwoman Sarah Mucho is a rising star on the cabaret circuit, and might just be the most explosively powerful singer in all of rock. Their guitarist is a darkly chromatic guy equally good at pretty melody and ugly squalls, and the drums have jazz inventiveness and metal power. And plenty of righteous, politically-charged rage and good lyrics.
Also Tues March 18 Elisa Flynn plays Union Hall, free, 10 PM. Indie rocker who’s too young to be a veteran but too well-traveled to be up-and-coming. As good a guitarist as she is a singer, fond of incisive minor key tunes and imaginative, counterintuitive song structures.
Also Tues March 18 Basement play Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Country band with a keyboard and a lot of good original songs.
Weds March 19 country/rock/pop star Tift Merritt plays the Mercury, 7 PM. With that riveting, understatedly melancholy voice, she’s the closest thing to a young Linda Thompson we have these days. Some of the songs venture into Sheryl Crow territory, but it’s hard to imagine anyone better at country ballads than Merritt.
Also Weds March 19 New Model Army plays Maxwell’s, 10:30 PM. Since the tragic death of their drummer Rob Heaton, frontman Justin Sullivan has been doing acoustic versions of his powerfully anthemic songs. Back in the early 90s they were one of the best bands on the planet, sort of the missing link between Midnight Oil and the Clash. Nobody ever did a more spot-on critique of the failings of the left than these guys.
Thurs March 20 a killer oldtimey triple bill at Hank’s: at 9 PM the devastatingly funny master of innuendo-filled banjo ragtime songs, Al Duvall; at 10, the self-explanatory Ukeladies and at 11 Moonlighters’ frontwoman Bliss Blood’s sensational, piano-driven barrelhouse blues band Delta Dreambox. Reputedly Al Duvall will be sitting in with them at this gig as well.
Also Thurs March 20 the Mercenaries play Lakeside, 10 PM. Saying that they play somewhat Stonesy meat-and-potatoes rock doesn’t provide the full picture: they have a sense of humor and a far more ambitious musical outlook than other bands of that ilk like the Izzys. If you like Guided by Voices at their most tuneful, check them out.
Also Thurs March 20 guitar god Matt Munisteri is back from Europe and playing Barbes 10 PM.
Also Thurs March 20, 10:30 PM Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. play their spot-on, early 1950s style pre-rockabilly country swing tunes at Rodeo Bar. They look exactly like they stepped off the stage at the Ryman, 1953, right down to their suits, although their lyrics are set in the here-and-now and are very funny.
Fri March 21 former Industrial Tepee frontman Tom Shaner plays Lakeside, 11 PM. Last time here he had Tom Clark playing amazing lead guitar, and sounded just as good, catchy and insightful as his old somewhat southwestern gothic band.
Sat March 22 the Sweet Bitters, which is songwriting sirens Nina Soka and Sharon Goldman’s new project plays from 9 to 11 at the Perch Café, 365 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope, Free. Two of the best and subtlest singers on the NYC scene. Soka is a jazzcat at heart, excels at harmonies and is very funny. Goldman is equally amusing and one of the great melodic pop stylists around.
Also Sat March 22, 9:30 PM Kristin Hoffmann plays Caffe Vivaldi. Somewhat evocative of the semi-goth chanteuses (Lida Husik, for one) who were popular in the late 80s, but with a darker, more rocking noir cabaret feel.
Also Sat March 22 amusing garage rockers Jesse Bates’ Flying Guitars play Lakeside, 11 PM. Bates is the last guy you’d expect to be fronting a band: he can’t really sing, but he’s very funny and when he comes off the stage, right up to you and says he wants to be your neighbor, you actually take him seriously (although he doesn’t) and say, why not? Ken Fox and Keith Streng from the Fleshtones are also usually in the band.
Also Sat March 22, Greg Tate’s sprawling, psychedelic, ambient, downtempo instrumental orchestra Burnt Sugar play half past midnight at the Blue Note 12:3 (i.e. the wee hours of 3/23), only $8 for a table! They’re also at Black Betty on 3/26, time TBA.
Sun March 23 it’s the Porn Rock Easter Ball at Don Hill’s…or you could set your sights a little higher and go see the Tarras Band at Barbes at 7. From the Barbes website: “dedicated to the repertoire of Yiddish-American clarinetist and composer Dave Tarras. Michael Winograd (cl), Ben Holmes (tpt), Jim Guttman (bs), Richie Barshay (drums), and featuring Klezmer legend and long-time Tarras accompanist Pete Sokolow (piano).” Semi-legendary gypsy jazz guitarist Stephane Wrembel plays afterward at 9
Also Sun March 23 all-female UK punk/funk/reggae legends the Slits (including two of the original members, one of them presumably being Ari Upp) make a midnight appearance at Don Pedro’s in South Williamsburg.
Thurs March 27, 7 PM at Barbes it’s “OUD-OFF II: ALL ABOUT OUD. An evening of classic repertoire and improvisations with Brooklyn’s Palestinian oudists of distinction: Zafer Tawil and Georges Ziadeh. Zafer Tawil plays violin, oud , percussion, and qanoun, he has performed with some of the Arab world’s most celebrated artists, including violinist and oud master Simon Shaheen, and rai singer Cheb Mami. George Ziadeh was born in Birzeit, Palestine oud with Simon Shaheen and classical singing and voice with Youssef Kassab.” WOW. You can bet we’re going to this one.
Also Thurs March 27 once-and-future White Hassle frontman Marcellus Hall plays Union Pool, 9 PM. His guitar chops have never been better, his Americana and early Dylan-inflected tunes are catchier than ever and as a lyricist, he is unsurpassed, potently satirical and very, very funny.
Fri March 28, as you’ve been able to see from our front page for the past month, Jenifer Jackson is playing Joe’s Pub, early, 7:30 PM, $15 and worth it. We continue to be amazed that this unassumingly talented panstylistic rock goddess is not yet a household word. Her vocals are pure solace, her tunes completely out-of-the-box mesmerizing. The show is a celebration of her latest album The Outskirts of a Giant Town, recorded live in the studio. One of the most imaginative and gently riveting performers you will ever see, adept at any style she chooses: jazz, Beatlesque pop, Nashville gothic, psychedelia, samba, bossa nova, everything except for surf rock and she could undoubtedly play that too if she felt like it.
Also Fri March 28 it’s the Trapezoids at 8 PM at Barbes featuring Ila Cantor- guitar; Chris Higgins- bass; Bryson Kern- drums. As the name tells you, they are not squares. Just out of college, Cantor is a jazz guitarist with a seemingly effortless, fluid legato and a subtle chordal style, discovered by Stephane Wrembel when still in her teens. Gypsy jazz is another fascination of hers. You heard about her here first, remember that.
Also Fri March 28 Groove Collective plays Luna, 10:30 PM. They’ve been around forever but still bring the funk better than just about anybody in town. Long, sprawling jams are their thing. Very psychedelic, with an amazing bass player.
Sat March 29 the charming, harmony and banjo uke-driven Les Chauds Lapins play innuendo-laden 1930s/40s French chanson at 8 followed by the equally charming Las Rubias del Norte at 10 at Barbes.
Also Sat March 29 authentic old-school Chicago-style blues guitarist/singer Johnny Allen plays Terra Blues, 10 PM. A great soloist with a biting, incisive edge and one of the finest real soul singers of our time. He is the real deal, not a wannabe. And he’s been doing this for what seems like 20 years now.
Upcoming (don’t laugh):
4/2 Alan Parsons at Irving Plaza, adv tix $35
4/2-5 Karin Allyson at Birdland 8:30/11, $30 tix
4/3 the Bodeans at Irving Plaza
4/4 Anti-Nowhere League at Europa
4/4 Steve Wynn at Luna, 10:30 PM
4/6 Bliss Blood of the Moonlighters solo at Spikehill, 6 PM