COLLECTIVE SOUL 4/14, HORIZON Following the fluke success of last year's dopey "Shine," Collective Soul have just released a second album that varies from the first only in its bigger production. Beneath 70s funky hard-rock riffing the vocals of leader Ed Rollins strain to get across anything other than the stoned "yeah" that permeated their surprise smash. Sure there're some poorly used strings and the gospelish reach of "Reunion" is a real knee-slapper, but the sense of commercial calculation that laces their current claustrophobic hit "Gel" extends to most of the eponymous album, giving you more boredom for your buck. They open for some band calling itself Van Halen. W.C. CLARK 4/14, BUDDY GUY'S A mainstay of Austin's blues scene long before the Texas college town started getting lavished with media attention, W.C. Clark offers workable modern blues untainted by blatant rock intentions; imagine if Robert Cray hadn't succumbed to capitalist impulses. Last year's terrific Heart of Gold (Black Top) radiates a soulful glow: it succeeds due to a sharp combination of natural grit, economic playing, and superior tunes such as "Cold Shot," a Clark original previously recorded by Stevie Ray Vaughan. A highly effective vocalist, Clark suggests a less-finessed, deeper-hued Syl Johnson without the liquid swoops and trills. RAJAN MISRA & SAJAN MISRA 4/14, CHINMAYA MISSION CHICAGO The pellucid voices of brothers Rajan and Sajan Misra, who work in both Indian classical and light classical forms, gorgeously blend and play off each other, transcending the often misunderstood realm of Hindustani vocal music. THROWING MUSES 4/15, VIC I've never been much for the emotional torture of the Throwing Muses, yet the band's most recent effort, University (Sire/Reprise), is pretty hard to resist. Leader Kristin Hersh has developed a sense of refined drama to balance her maudlin sensibility and somewhat shallow melodic pool. The new album's opener, "Bright Yellow Gun," leaps right out, the band rocking like never before and perfectly buoying Hersh's metaphysical darkness. I'm not sure how, but I'm betting the current lineup--longtime drummer David Narcizo and new bassist Bernard Georges--will apply its aggressiveness to the band's vast back catalog, some of which is so ethereal it threatens to float away. Cincinnati's superb Ass Ponys open. DRUMMERS OF BURUNDI 4/15, PARAMOUNT Most folks heard a watered-down version of powerfully hypnotic Burundi rhythms back in the 80s when where-are-they-now Bow Wow Wow applied the sound to their pepped-up bubblegum crap. Due to the ongoing violence between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes of their homeland, Drummers of Burundi haven't toured the U.S. since 1993, but an eponymous 1992 Real World release vibrantly captures the thunderous tribal attack of this 15-man percussion troupe. Their ritualistic performances reach back into ancient African history, incorporating dance and primal chants. They reportedly pack the same visual wallop as Japan's Kodo drummers, the pulse of the music providing the heartbeat for an exhilarating display of rhythmic acrobatics. Senegalese percussionist Mor Thiam, who's added elan to outreach recordings by jazzers like the World Saxophone Quartet and pianist Don Pullen, also appears. PAT McLAUGHLIN 4/15, FITZGERALD'S On Get Out and Stay Out (recorded for Capitol Records back in 1989 with producer Mitchell Froom and only recently released by Austin's Dos) rootsy rocker Pat McLaughlin comes off as an assimilator for the mainstream. Blending bits of soul, country, and R & B, his music recalls that of well-positioned WXRT staple John Hiatt. From the Al Green-ish lilt of "Don't Tell Me" to the burning rock of "Night Thing," McLaughlin offers a variety of soulful singing styles for middle-of-the-road white folks. With the exception of cliche-hugging pap like "Love Schedule" ("If there's one place I got to be / It's on your love schedule"), it's generally solid pop rock, and McLaughlin's earned a reputation for passionate live performances. LOIS 4/15, EMPTY BOTTLE, 4/16, LOUNGE AX Bet the Sky (K), the third Lois album and the strongest yet, finds Lois Maffeo reaching beyond her previous attempts to graft the bossa-nova charms of Astrud Gilberto onto indie rock austerity. Bolstered by former Tiger Trap drummer Heather Dunn, Maffeo manages to better exploit the limited range of her gently caressed pop melodies. She performs solo at Lounge Ax, where the bill also includes solo sets from Red Red Meat's Tim Rutili and the Spinanes' Rebecca Gates. BEN LEE 4/18, LOUNGE AX Well before his voice broke, Ben Lee, the leader of the Australian kiddie-punk combo Noise Addict, earned attention for his ode to Evan Dando, "I Wish I Was Him." Then Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore released Def (Ecstatic Peace), a ten-inch of Noise Addict's earliest stuff, and Beastie Boy Mike D.'s Grand Royal label issued Young & Jaded, which includes the Dando ditty along with a spirited cover of Jonathan Richman's "Back in Your Life." Last summer Lee came to Chicago to record with Brad Wood. The resulting solo effort, Grandpaw Would (also on Grand Royal), is fairly simple boy-girl stuff, but the kid, now 16, has got a fairly natural way with hooks. For a handful of U.S. gigs he's backed by Wood, Casey Rice, and Rebecca Gates, who along with Liz Phair sings some backup vocals on the new album. SATCHEL 4/19, LOUNGE AX, 4/20, SCHUBAS The flatulent sound of Seattle attempting to expand beyond its pigeonhole. On its debut, EDC (Epic), this foursome led by Shawn Smith, who fronted Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard's side project Brad, goes beyond grunge redux, thanks to its leader's serious Prince jones. If he's not trying to stand in the shadow of Eddie Vedder, then Smith is going down like a power-ballad-singing arena rocker or aping the falsetto croon of Marvin Gaye with a nasty strep throat. Add an equally misguided musical attack and you've got a band sure of what they don't want to be, but clueless about where to go from there. They open for Madder Rose at Lounge Ax and headline Schubas.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Sophie Horwath.