Best known around these parts for his soaring sacred-steel guitar on The Word, last year's instrumental gospel collaboration with local boys the North Mississippi Allstars and jazzman John Medeski, New Jersey's Robert Randolph has gone from church-playing prodigy to something of a cause célèbre in the last year. Randolph's penchant for spiking his sacred-steel runs with Hendrixian fireworks was reportedly a mighty impressive sight to behold when he played B.B. King's last year. Now he's back in town for a Ronald McDonald House benefit show on Saturday, February 23rd, at downtown's Cadre Building, 149 Monroe Avenue.
Joining Randolph on the bill will be Shannon McNally, a rootsy singer-songwriter whose recent Capitol Records debut, Jukebox Sparrows, is a platter of soft "classic rock" likely to remind listeners of Sheryl Crow or Fleetwood Mac.
Showtime is 8 p.m., with tickets available through ticketweb.com or by calling (866) 468-7630. -- Chris Herrington
Before the colossal jug-free jug band the Bluff City Backsliders came into existence, if you wanted to hear the sounds that made Beale Street famous there was pretty much only one game in town -- The Last Chance Jug Band. Fronted by musicologist David Evans, whose simple, and simply wonderful, guitar work was rivaled only by the soaring whimsy of his kazoo, the LCJB could whip up a joyous noise that made dogs smile and booties twitch involuntarily. The crazy percussion work of washboard genius and virtual one-man band Jack Adcock only added to the fun. The group's album, Shake That Thing (recorded before Adcock and his equally talented bass-plucking wife Amy joined the group), was proof that when it comes to dancing that mess around, nothing can beat an old-time jug band. The group's live performances were often the unsung highlight of the Center for Southern Folklore's annual Heritage Festival.
After what seems like an eternity of inactivity, Evans is back with his jug band in tow supporting his new solo disc, Match Box Blues, which abandons the jug-band format for the less exciting but certainly more enduring sounds of the Mississippi Delta. Evans asks in his liner notes to be held to the standards set by blues pioneers like Charley Patton, which is a mistake since you can't really compete with the Delta's original red-headed stepchild. While Evans' studied slide guitar and vocals are technically accurate, there is just something missing in the mix: soul. It's blues that flows from the head rather than welling up from the gut, but it's still fine in its own right, and, compared to the vast majority of supremely lame blues records being produced these days, it's at least a semiprecious stone if not exactly a jewel. But with a little luck, when Evans takes the stage at Otherlands Coffee Bar on Saturday, February 23rd, he'll run through his Delta tunes quickly then kick out the superfine jug jams into the wee small ones. -- Chris Davis