Okay, so we've got a controversial president who has gotten America into a quagmire of a war, prices are increasing all over the country while wages are falling like a Led Zeppelin. So where the hell is the next generation of protest singers hiding? Oh wait, they aren't hiding at all. According to my calendar, they're all coming to Memphis this week.
After reading Chrissy Flatt's glitter-spattered zine-style bio filled with bad coffeehouse prose about karma and souls and about how the Texas folkie penned her first song after her best friend -- a black cat -- died in her arms, I was disinclined to actually spin the disc. But, fortunately for me, I didn't judge this book by its cover and discovered a pure country treasure in the stripped-down tejano of Flatt's opening song, "Further Away." Her vocals range from beautifully twangy to typically disaffected, and her songwriting ranges from full-on flaky to breathtaking, with very little in between. "Came Back Broken" may be about the horrors of the Vietnam War, but it's also a chilling reminder that a lot of perfectly good young men who have been sent far away to kill for their country aren't going to be the same when they come home. Flatt will play Murphy's on Monday, October 11th.
I was disinclined to spin Watermelon Slim's album because his name is Watermelon Slim and because he claims to be the most well-read bluesman playing today. (Do I smell a grudge match brewing between Slim and Memphis' own Dr. Dave Evans?) Again, I overcame my predisposition and discovered a performer deeply connected to the primal forces that shaped the blues long before it crawled up the hillbilly highway to Chicago and other points north. As it happens, Slim was the first U.S. serviceman to record an album of protest songs against the Vietnam War. These days, he seems content to sing about blue freight-liners and the loneliness of the open road, but something tells me that he's still fighting the power. Slim breaks out his slide guitar and his ragged vocals at the Midtown Huey's on Sunday, October 10th.
If a band calls itself I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House, they had better deliver. Fortunately, they do. This band comes on like the Rolling Stones on a Southern rock rampage, with an eye for American hypocrisy that even the Drive-By Truckers might envy. Frontman Mike Damron entered into adulthood as a boxer for the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Today, he sings about George W. Bush -- a man who "prays to a God that hates his guts" and about an America where life is cheap and booze is cheaper. Think of these guys as a more political version of Lucero, with big bad hooks and vocals that make Ben Nichols sound completely unaffected by way of comparison. They're at the Young Avenue Deli on Wednesday, October 13th, with Memphis roots-rocker Mark Lemhouse.
For those who just want to rock, no politics attached, By Divine Right plays the Hi-Tone on Wednesday, October 13th. At its best, By Divine Right's music reflects the best of American indie rock: Pavement and Guided By Voices. At worst, they sound like every other X-radio band on the block. Their latest disc, Sweet Confusion, is a mixed bag with a few true gems, including "The Devil Chaser," which I'm convinced is an homage to GBV's Robert Pollard. If it's not, it should be. n -- Chris Davis