MISSION: IMPOSSIBLEHere, in what feels like the first week of the "busy spring concert season," in which there is more to write about than there is space, I hereby take the music columnist's oath: "I promise to be pithy. I promise to be honest and subjectively fair in my assessment of those musical acts discussed below. I promise to be (even more) witty (than last week)*. I promise to mention at least 10 percent of all the live performances taking place in town this week**.
(* Denotes an attempt, not a promise. ** Denotes a potential, but unverifiable, lie.)
Let's do this, shall we?
A LEGEND PERFORMS--WE HOPERemarkably, George Jones' voice is still mostly intact, so if you're considering buying one of those rather expensive tickets to see him this week, you can rest assured.
The man of a million flattering nicknames--"The President," "Mr. Country Music," "The Rolls Royce of Country Singers," "The Possum," "Basketball Jones" (no, wait, that's a Cheech and Chong joint, isn't it?)--has, due to his past lifestyle choices and the resulting actions of that lifestyle, been cursed with one rather burdensome one, too: The guy didn't earn the nickname "No Show Jones" for nothing. (See what alcoholism, drug addiction and the worst hair in country music--read that back: the worst hair in country music!--will do for you, kids?)
And therein lies the allure of George Jones: The legendary country crooner--considered by many to be one of, if not the greatest, country vocalists in the history of the genre--was once willing to piss his career away, in order to live life his way. Shit, isn't heartache and rebellion what country music's all about, anyway?
Read 'em and weep, people: "He Stopped Loving Her Today," "A Good Year for the Roses," "She Thinks I Still Care," "The Race Is On," "The Grand Tour," blabbity, blabbity, blah. Jones is to country music what Sinatra was to the standards, and don't you regret never seeing him perform live? Lord knows I do.
George Jones performs at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at the TCC Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave. Advance tickets are available for $57.50 (plus service charges) at all Ticketmaster locations, ticketmaster.com or by calling 321-1000. For more info, call 791-4101.
THAT SO-FRESH FEELINGAs evidenced by its debut album, Fire, Blood, Water (Minty Fresh, 2005), it might be easier to convey what Champaign, Ill.'s The Living Blue sounds like by describing what it doesn't sound like. Its giant guitars sound occasionally like those of early Cheap Trick (power-pop maven Adam Schmitt co-produced Fire, Blood, Water), but it sounds nothing like anything that could be filed under power-pop. Its vocalist, Stephen Ucherek, demonstrates a certain amount of swagger and bravado normally associated with garage rock, yet yelps a bit too much (and doesn't sound nearly threatening enough) to be considered truly sleazy enough for garage. There's certainly more of a reverence for the indie-rock bands of the '90s than there is a trace of the disco-punk or shoegaze elements that most buzz bands these days seem to be steeped in.
Which is to say, in its own somewhat unclassifiable way, The Living Blue manages to somehow sound fresh right now. I can't stop listening to Fire, Blood, Water, and I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe it's because the songs sounded so much better the second time I heard them than the first, and better the third time than the second, and so on. But I don't remember the last time I liked such a straightforward, no-frills indie-rock album this much, without being able to articulate exactly why.
I'm not alone, it seems. The accolades just keep pouring in for these Midwestern lads: five stars in Alternative Press; two feature articles in the Chicago Tribune in as many months; props from Little Steven and Jason Lee; opening slots for The Strokes, the New York Dolls and The Stooges; soundtrack placement in both film and television.
I have a feeling the band won't disappoint live, either, though I'd imagine a few prior listens to Fire, Blood, Water would make the experience far more enjoyable. Recommended.
The Living Blue, along with The Year of Acceleration and Bombs for the Bored, performs at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., on Saturday, Feb. 4. Admission is $5. Things should kick off around 9 p.m. For further details, call 622-3535.
GHOSTS REVEALEDIt must be mighty cool to have Vic Chesnutt--who, for my money, is one of America's finest current songwriters--as an uncle. For proof, you'd have to ask Rome, Ga., native Liz Durrett, who at age 16 was given a guitar by Unca Vic, with the instructions to "write mean songs about your parents." She got right to work: Last year saw the release of her first album, Husk (Warm), a collection of songs that were recorded a decade prior. Last week, Durrett released her second, The Mezzanine (Warm), which was produced and includes contributions by Chesnutt.
For anyone who has listened to Cat Power's recent The Greatest, and found herself missing the ghosts that haunted Chan Marshall's early recordings, I have some advice: Go buy The Mezzanine. Like Cat Power of yore, the album is haunted and haunting, spare and pretty. Durrett's voice and songwriting are clearly influenced by Marshall's, but for some reason--likely the quality of the songs--it's difficult to merely write her off as a rip-off artist. This is quietly powerful stuff.
Liz Durrett performs at Plush, 340 E Sixth St., at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 5. Admission is free. For more information, call 798-1298.
SOMEONE WHO WOULD NOT SUCCEED IN 'AMERICAN IDOL'There's a reason why people say singer-songwriter Jeff Hanson--like Chet Baker, Wayne Newton and Jimmy Scott before him--sings like a girl: He does.
And there's also a reason that people make much of his being influenced by The Beatles in the same manner that Elliott Smith was. (See above.)
In fact, you could sum up Hanson's self-titled, second solo album for Kill Rock Stars by saying that it sounds like that one Elliott Smith album where he was experimenting with helium inhalation--if there actually were such a thing. Well, thanks to Hanson, there basically is. Thankfully, Hanson is a fine songwriter, so if that sounds remotely appealing, you'll probably dig his thing, once you get past the initial oddness of it all.
Jeff Hanson performs an all-ages show at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole. Ave., on Tuesday, Feb. 7. Southerly and The Crowd open at 9 p.m. Admission is $6. For more details, call 884-0874.
ON THE BANDWAGONAnyone who enjoys having his/her figurative balls rocked firmly against the wall would do well to check out the triple bill that Plush has in store next Thursday, Feb. 9. Making up for their cancelled appearance a few months back, Atlanta riff-rockers Nashville Pussy headline, with former Butthole Surfer Jeff Pinkus' Honky and former Whiskey Bitch guitarist Wendy Gadzuk's Cockpit opening. The 9:30 p.m. show will set you back a Hamilton in advance (available at virtuous.com), or $12 at the door. Questions? The number is 798-1298.
With a slew of unusual stringed instruments and a rig of electronic effects, San Francisco's Darin Schaffer layers textures of sound that include, according to a press release, "traces of jazz, classical, East Indian, folk and ambient pop." He'll play two free, local gigs, first at about 9 p.m. at The Red Room at Grill, 100 E. Congress St., on Monday, Feb. 6 (623-7621), then at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12 at Bookman's, 3373 W. Ina Road (579-0303).
Comprising local jazzy blues singer-pianist Lisa Otey, Holland's Harm van Sleen on bass and French drummer Fabrice Bessouat, the Lisa Otey Trio will perform a CD release concert for their new album, Trio, at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 5, at the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd. Tickets are $18 in advance, available at Antigone Books, Kool's Native Arts in Green Valley or by phone at 370-5912; they'll be $20 at the door; or $15 for Tucson Jazz Society members. For more info, head to lisaotey.com.