Detroit Cobras | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Detroit Cobras

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In jazz, blues, and R & B some folks still appreciate the art of interpretation, but the notion persists that to be a great rock or pop artist you have to write your own material. Bah. Practically every song on the Detroit Cobras' three LPs is a cover--most are shoulda-been-classic soul and R & B numbers--but they all come out coated in the band's trademark greasy, smoky, old-fashioned rock 'n' roll. The Cobras' debut for Bloodshot, Baby (which came out last year in the UK on Rough Trade), includes tunes by Bobby Womack, Muscle Shoals heavyweights Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn (see Sunday's Critic's Choice and the Meter), and the Stax all-star team of Steve Cropper, David Porter, and Isaac Hayes; the lone original, "Hot Dog (Watch Me Eat)," is a playful throwaway, but at least it sounds like it was meant that way. (It's an homage to www.watchmeeatahotdog.com, where you can browse photos of garage-rock royalty like King Khan, Jay Reatard, and M.O.T.O.'s Paul Caporino doin' what comes naturally.) Front woman Rachel Nagy strides through the songs with a sexy swagger, and her smart, throaty voice makes each generic "you" sound simultaneously menacing and irresistible, a la Chrissie Hynde. Guitarist Mary Ramirez, the only other constant member of the Cobras' famously unstable lineup, steers the band through trashy rockabilly and heartfelt soul with her serpentine lines--her flexibility and fervor are what thread everything together. Consider this show a well-earned reward for all the times you've sat through sets by earnest young songwriters who really had something to say but bored you shitless. Guitarist and singer Greg Cartwright, formerly of the Oblivians, has been helping the Cobras out in the studio, and he'll join them onstage here--after riling up the crowd with his current band, the Reigning Sound. Vee Dee opens. Sat 11/18, 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $12.

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