I'll confess that I always get Chris Whitley and Keith Whitley confused. Both have always existed on the outer range of my musical radar, so when country-singer Keith Whitley stopped making records in 1989 (the year he died) and roots-rocker Chris Whitley released a critical smash in 1991 with his debut Living With the Law, they sort of melded in my mind. Well, the later Whitley (the one who's still around) never really followed up on the critical or commercial promise of Living With the Law, bouncing from indie label to indie label over the past decade and fiddling with his sound. Whitley's new record, Soft Dangerous Shores, melds his singer-songwriter moves and scratchy voice with lots of production atmospherics, like a late-period Tom Waits record. Not my cup of tea at all, but that doesn't mean it isn't yours. Whitley plays Newby's Saturday, July 30th.
- Chris Herrington
I didn't get the memo, but it looks like several area music venues have declared Redneck Appreciation Week. How else do you explain the harmonic convergence of such acts as Molly Hatchet, .38 Special, and David Allen Coe? The more populist ZZ Top, who play the Grand Casino on Friday, July 29th, may have angered some of their hell-raising fans when they added synthesizers and drum machines to their revved-up blues rock sound in the '80s, but their lyrics about beer drinking, chick chasing, and cheap sunglasses have kept most in the fold.
Known for their bloody fantasy-art album covers and mean Southern boogie, Molly Hatchet toured relentlessly in the '70s and early '80s, and I'll never forget the insanity that broke loose when they kicked into a blistering rendition of "Flirtin' With Disaster" at Nashville's One for the Sun concert way back in 1982. These days, the band, as bearded and wild-eyed as ever, likes to wear lots of patriotic red, white, and blue and should go over big with anybody who has a "W" sticker on the back of their broken-down 1980 station wagon. They're at Neil's on Friday, July 29th.
While Hatchet may be the quintessential redneck band, there can be no doubt that .38 Special have found a broader audience and greater commercial success. In fact, when it comes to putting out catchy singles celebrating life below the Mason-Dixon, they are rivaled only by Lynyrd Skynyrd. In fact, the Special's "Wild Eyed Southern Boys" - not "Freebird" - should be the Southern-rock anthem. They'll bust some triple leads on Friday, July 29th, at Tunica's Isle of Capri Casino.
Now: If you've got a Confederate flag tattoo or a license plate that reads "Forget Hell..." chances are you've already scored tickets to see the Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy, aka David Allen Coe. From his cool musical history of outlaw country, "Willie, Waylon, and Me," to the absurd (and wonderfully funny) last lines of his otherwise beautiful "You Never Even Called Me By My Name," Coe constantly reminds us that he has mad songwriting chops. As Willie and the dearly departed Waylon gained respectability, Coe stayed on the fringe and, for better or worse, is the last true honky-tonk outlaw. He's at the New Daisy Theatre on Saturday, July 30th. - Chris Davis
It was 1989. I was in fourth grade, and I'd carry my beloved bubblegum-pink plastic cassette player to school everyday. At recess, I would choreograph cheesy dance routines to my favorite jams and force my reluctant friends to join me in embarrassing ourselves in front of our classmates. One of our favorites was Tone Loc's "Wild Thing." Lyrically, it was probably a bit racy for 9-year-olds but, hey, we weren't really interested in the song's meaning. It was just fun.
And then came Tone Loc's "Funky Cold Medina." One of my best friends was named Melissa Medina, so you can imagine how we wore out that song. We dubbed it her theme song, and even started calling her Funky Cold Medina. You really just can't go wrong with a song about a horde of poodles showing up at your door looking for love (or at least a little humping action) after accidentally slipping your dog an aphrodisiac. God, they just don't make rap songs like they used to.
So if today's rap, with all its guns and drugs and obsessing over bling, has got you down, Tone Loc offers a remedy when he hits the Newby's stage Friday, July 29th. n - Bianca Phillips