Perhaps more so than most other musical types, downbeat singer-songwriters are a pretty individual taste. In terms of sound and mood, I should probably compare Haley Bonar, a precocious 19-year-old from South Dakota, to performers such as Cat Power, Gillian Welch, and Shannonwright. The problem is that I don't much care for any of those artists, and I love Bonar's recent debut album, The Size of Planets, to pieces.
Bonar is now based in Duluth, Minnesota -- a slightly less unlikely musical source -- and is a protégé of sorts of that town's trademark act, the seminal quiet band Low. Bonar's album was recorded at Low's Sacred Heart Studio in Duluth and released on Low leader Alan Sparhawk's Chairkickers' Music label. And Low is probably a better comparison, Bonar's acoustic guitar- or piano-driven songs slow, clear, emotional yet understated, and almost unnervingly pretty. She also, like her benefactors, takes religion seriously, though she has a far more combative relationship with it. (On "Bless This Mess," she's the mess, and she seems pretty happy that way.) Bonar plays the Hi-Tone Café Tuesday, June 3rd, with fellow Duluthians The Rivulets.
Would you want to see Led Zeppelin without Jimmy Page? The Rolling Stones without Keith Richards? Well, on Wednesday, June 4th, you can see Black Flag without founding guitarist Greg Ginn. Sort of. The Rollins Band, with original Black Flag singer Keith Morris, will be performing Black Flag songs at the New Daisy Theatre in a West Memphis Three benefit concert. --Chris Herrington
Outsider artist James Eddie Campbell (secret identity: Lamar Sorrento) is a guitar chameleon, and his skills seem to get better with age. One second he's jazzing it up like Django, then he's tearing it up like Townshend, then he's tripping it up like George Harrison. He makes it all seem so effortless and casual you might have to see him more than once for it all to sink in. And guess what? He's playing twice this week. James Eddie's playing an early show at Neil's on Saturday, May 31st, with Bruce Barham. Later that same night, Lamar Sorrento & The Mod Saints will be at the Young Avenue Deli, with The Glass.
The Supersuckers are a clichÇ with the volume turned up to 11. At some point, somebody, maybe Eddie Spaghetti himself, said, "Dude, this band's not going to take any prisoners," and they became obnoxious rock-and-roll assassins. When they released The Evil Powers of Rock and Roll in 1999, I was ready to proclaim that the Supersuckers are the greatest bar band in the world. But with the release of their latest album, Motherfuckers Be Trippin', it looks like they are slouching toward ordinary clichÇ. Taken for what it's worth, Trippin' is silly. Taken ironically, it's not. That's a lose-lose situation. (C'mon, the only band in America that can really get away with lyrics like "Grab a drink and chug-a-lug/Have some sex and take some drugs," is Memphis' own Joint Chiefs.) The good news is that the Supersuckers have been playing together since high school, and they have a back catalog that can more than make up for recent failings. They'll be at the Hi-Tone on Monday, June 2nd, with The Subteens and Throw Rag. -- Chris Davis