POST-MODERN GOTHIC SOUL
I first met Jeff Klein in October 2006, when he was in town for a show as a member of the Twilight Singers, the band fronted by once-and-current Afghan Whigs leader Greg Dulli and featuring Mark Lanegan.
I had interviewed Dulli in advance of their show at Club Congress, and happened to be at Congress the night before the show, where I found Dulli and his bandmates having a drink in the lobby. After chatting with Dulli for a bit, I began talking to the friendly guy sitting next to him, Klein. Within a matter of minutes, the conversation turned to where we grew up, where we've lived since then, and our experiences in between.
Klein had been living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan for a while, with his famous actress girlfriend, in an apartment so notorious for its debauchery that I had actually read about it online somewhere, not realizing it was Klein's place. After his relationship came to an end, and Klein realized he couldn't sustain that sort of lifestyle ("There are only so many times you can wake up at 11 a.m. and come downstairs to find [famous late-night TV talk-show host] and [famous child actor] doing lines off your living-room table," he told me), he eventually settled in Austin, Texas.
When I told him I grew up in Springfield, Ill., he said, "One of my best friends in Austin is from Springfield."
"Well, Springfield's not that big, so try me," I said—and it turned out his friend in Austin was one of my best friends from high school. We called our mutual friend on the spot and spent the rest of the night drinking and talking about relationships, our experiences growing up Jewish—you name it. A new friendship was born.
In addition to serving as a member of the Twilight Singers, Klein was also the opening act for the show the following night (he had released a trio of highly regarded solo albums), and, unfortunately, I got there too late to catch his set.
Not long after that, Klein formed the band My Jerusalem. Still largely unfamiliar with his solo work and that of My Jeru, I made it a point to meet our mutual friend at the band's showcase at SXSW in Austin, in either 2010 or 2011.
As anyone who is friends with musicians knows, it can be uncomfortable knowing someone before you see them perform. If they suck, are you honest? Do you just smile and nod and say, "Great show, man"?
As it turns out, I needn't have worried. Even if I hadn't known the band's frontman, My Jerusalem's powerhouse set before a packed house would have ended up as one of the best shows I saw all week in Austin.
Since then, I've repeatedly spun the band's 2010 debut album, Gone for Good (One Little Indian), as well as a couple of EPs, to the point of addiction. My Jerusalem's music contains instantly familiar (though surprisingly nonderivative) melodies, elements of fervent gospel, and a fire-and-brimstone urgency. Klein's obviously been influenced by his time performing with Dulli, but his songs are far from sound-alikes. There's a certain uplifting grandiosity to them, but they never stray into the overblown. And Klein has put together a band of ringers to perform them, including Cully Symington of Bishop Allen, and Ashley Dzerigian of Great Northern. Though My Jerusalem is far from a household name (yet), they've become critics' darlings, earning praise from the BBC and NPR, as well as being named one of Daytrotter's Best of 2011.
Earlier this year, they recorded their second full-length with Spoon's Jim Eno; a self-described "post-modern gothic soul album," Preachers will be released in October.
As for their show here this week, well, I can't recommend it highly enough. How's 'bout we show my friend a grand Tucson welcome, eh? Trust me; you won't regret it.
My Jerusalem make their Tucson debut on Tuesday, July 10, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. HAIRSPRAYFIREANDGIRLS open the show at 9:30 p.m., and admission is $8. For more info, head to plushtucson.com, or call 798-1298.
ONE-MAN ROCKABILLY BAND
After a couple of decades of fronting the trio Al Foul and the Shakes, Al Foul went solo for the release of his 2005 album, The One, The Only (Rock-N-Roll Purgatory)—and in his case, solo means simultaneously singing and playing guitar and drums ("bass drum and stomparine"—the latter being a tambourine triggered by foot stomps). In other words, he's become a one-man band. This week, Foul, the undisputed king of Tucson rockabilly, releases his second solo album.
Keep the Motor Running (self-released), recorded at Loveland Studio, strips Foul's brand of rockabilly down to its essence; aside from lead guitar from Naim Amor on a trio of tunes, Foul is responsible for everything you hear on the album.
The Mammoth resident has never succumbed to rockabilly fads—you won't find any traces of psychobilly, punkabilly or any other mutation of the genre in his music. No, Foul has always been a traditionalist in the mold of Charlie Feathers or Johnny Burnette—though the lyrics can occasionally remind you that you're living in the 21st century. Still, for the most part, he sticks with tried-and-true themes such as being on the wrong side of the law, troubled love, and trying to make your way home after sordid adventures.
The title track plays a neat trick with tempo, gradually and deceptively speeding up as the song proceeds until it reaches a fever pitch by song's end. "The D.A.W.N." is an oddly sweet tune about waking up in your clothes after failing to make it home because you're too stoned. "Baby Clothes and Dishes for Sale" is about a character tossed in jail for failing to pay child support and the yard sale he holds upon his release. And on "Memphis," Foul gives a shout-out to his home in Mammoth and his real-life "ball and chain," Maggie. (Thank goodness she's got a sense of humor.) The album runs through 10 songs in a half-hour, and there's not a clunker among them.
Al Foul celebrates the release of Keep the Motor Running at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Saturday, July 7. Tom Walbank and the Ambassadors and Hank Topless start the show off at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $5. Further details are available at plushtucson.com or by calling 798-1298.
Johnnie and the Rumblers are a local trio of dudes who have decided to pursue their passion for playing music at 60-something. This week, they're releasing their debut album, Dos Equis, with a CD-release show on Friday, July 6, at the Irish Pub, 9155 E. Tanque Verde Road. Based on song snippets they sent along, the band's music ranges from blues-rock (among others, there are covers of "Mustang Sally," "Chain of Fools" and ZZ Top's "Gimme All Your Lovin'" included), to '70s hard rock à la Alice Cooper. The show gets started at 7 p.m., and admission is free. Call 749-2299 for more info.
Café Passe, 415 N Fourth Ave., continues its weekly Country Sundays series this week with a performance by Phoenix's Kevin Daly, who performs country, psychobilly and garage rock with his groups Grave Danger and Chicken and Waffles. He'll be performing a solo set at Passe on Sunday, July 8, along with the venerable country singer-songwriter Hank Topless. Music begins at 7 p.m., and admission is free. Call 624-4411 for details.
Co-ed Austin duo Technicolor Hearts headline an RR Nites show at La Cocina, 201 N. Court Ave., on Friday, July 6. The band members describe their music as featuring "elements of dreamy psych pop woven in with arts and crafts rock, orchestral and synth layering, raw folk and storybook rhyme." Acorn Bcorn gets the night rolling around 10 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. For more information, check out lacocinatucson.com, or call 622-0351.
ON THE BANDWAGON
Chicago and the Doobie Brothers at AVA at Casino del Sol on Wednesday, July 11; Ultramaroon, Spray Paint, JJCnV and Hibris at The District Tavern on Sunday, July 8; Fatal Funnel CD-release with Broken Romeo, Funky Bonz and others at The Rock on Friday, July 6; comedians Rob Delaney, Pauly Casillas and Jericho Davidson at Club Congress on Friday, July 6; the Last Call Brawlers, The Hopheads and Bob Spasm Unplugged at the Surly Wench Pub on Saturday, July 7.
There's lots more happening this week, so be sure to check out our listings section.