After the recent dissolution of his seminal (around these parts, anyway) alt-country band Blue Mountain, Oxford's Cary Hudson spent some time as a Preacher's Kid, backing up his old-time rock-and-roll homeboy Tyler Keith. But now Hudson's back in the saddle, going the solo route with the new record The Phoenix on his own Black Dog label. A laid-back mix of country, rock, blues, and mountain music, The Phoenix is sure to appease Blue Mountain fans with its bar-friendly roots-rock approach. Hudson will showcase the solo material Friday, April 12th, at the recently revamped Hi-Tone Café. Those who want an earlier look can also check out Hudson at Cat's Midtown, at 5 p.m. the same day, where he will be performing an acoustic set and selling copies of the record (which won't officially hit the racks until April 16th).
A low-key, literate songwriter, the Toronto-based Hayden became a bit of a cult figure with his 1996 debut, Everything I Long For. The hype earned him a brief, failed fling with major label Geffen, after which he mostly slipped from the pop radar. But now he's back, and the indie-rock troubadour captured on the new Skyscraper National Park splits the difference between fellow Canadian tunesmiths Ron Sexsmith and Leonard Cohen, mumbling smart, sensitive lyrics over plodding folk-rock, which gives way occasionally to more explosively electric finales (as on the standout "Dynamite Walls"). Hayden will be at Newby's on Friday, April 12th. --Chris Herrington
That devil music, the blues, will be used to do the Lord's work this weekend when Richard Johnston and Jesse Mae Hemphill, the She-wolf herself, take stage at the Church of the Holy Communion on Saturday, April 13th. That's right. You can take the Eucharist AND shake that thing all in one place. Johnston, a veteran of the local blues scene who used to front the Soul Blues Boys at Junior Kimbrough's Mississippi juke joint back before that fabled establishment burned down, has often named Hemphill as an influence and an inspiration. Their "Chicken and Gravy" duet on Johnston's new album, Foot Hill Stomp, is a charmer of a blues lullaby, and the two personalities play beautifully off one another. Hemphill has been singing the blues professionally since the mid-'60s and took home a Handy for Best Traditional Blues Artist in 1988. Her voice, which can go from sweet and soothing to vicious and terrifying in a breath, is a perfect complement to Johnston's "Muddy Lite" singing style. Hopefully, these two artists can channel the Holy Spirit and not merely the horned adversary through the one-chord guitar drone of hill-country ruckus. If not, the preacher's going to have a tough act to follow.
Ready for some '80s-style girl rock? Some chugging guitars? Some wistful, whispery lyrics about blisters and snow? Then maybe you should look into Crimson Sweet when they make the Hi-Tone scene on Thursday, April 11th, with Memphis' own Lost Sounds. Take a little Cure, stir in some Violent Femmes, add a dash of X, and you've got something close to the garaged-up, new-wave noise-rock of Crimson Sweet. Their CD EP, Foil Beach, may not thrill seasoned audiophiles, but it might at least make them feel 16 all over again. -- Chris Davis