A couple of weeks after Jeff Tweedy hit town, his better half in the seminal Uncle Tupelo, the bourbon-voiced alt-country icon Jay Farrar arrives in Memphis. In truth, Farrar has seemed a little lost since the dissolution of his post-Tupelo band, Son Volt, his thesaurus-inspired lyrics drifting off in the same winds he once promised would carry our troubles away. But Farrar still commands one of the greatest voices in all of Americana, and when he's on he can come off like a modern-day John Fogerty, making it hurt so good with the fatalistic certainty of an Old Testament prophet. Thankfully, Farrar's chronic seriousness will be mitigated by the presence of Missouri pal Brian Henneman, the voice and pen behind Festus' Bottle Rockets. Where Farrar's music conveys literary distance, Henneman is a front-porch story-swapper, having penned unforgettable odes to welfare moms ("Welfare Music," needed now even more than during the "welfare reform" and Rush Limbaugh period in which it was written) and unreliable transportation ("$1,000 Car" and the anthemic "Indianapolis"). Maybe his presence will even convince sad ol' Jay to crack a smile. Farrar and Henneman will be at the Old Daisy Theatre Thursday, November 14th.
I can say this with some certainty: If there isn't a place in your heart for Jonathan Richman, then there is clearly something wrong with your heart. If you are, in these dark prewar days, noticing that spin, hype, and a dozen other euphemisms for scat, used-car salesmanship, and outright mendacity have created an impenetrable barricade between the general public and anything remotely meaningful, our little Jojo is the antidote for your ills. With nothing but a guitar and a set of cocktail drums, Richman will rock away your worry with prepunk anthems like "Roadrunner," get you feeling all fuzzy with melancholy odes to "That Summer Feeling," and inspire an innocent longing to get "Closer" to the person you love the most. The wonder and absolute delight Richman displays while running through his catalog of underground classics illustrates why he remains a beloved and vastly influential artist. His sweet, anticommercial honesty, which in an eternally awestruck way outshines even the likes of Dylan, has, we may assume, kept him from becoming a superstar. He's at Automatic Slim's on Wednesday, November 20th, and, let's face it, you really should be too.
Garage fans can't miss the keyboard-crazy Forty Fives' retro rave-up at the Young Avenue Deli on Tuesday, November 19th, where they'll open for New York's The Mooney Suzuki. Country fans have two shows to whoop about: George Jones disciple Alan Jackson at The Pyramid Saturday, November 16th, and Luther Wright & the Wrongs at the Hi-Tone Café Thursday, November 14th. The Wrongs' attempts to temper traditional country with operatic pretensions can be a little gimmicky, but it's all in good fun. -- Chris Davis