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Spot Check

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Curnutte & Maher 11/8, Otis' I caught a whiff of early Dylan on the verses to "American Fadeaway" from this Nashville-based acoustic folk duo's recent Alive (Marengo) ("She's buying up books about romantic looks / And constantly changing her hair"), but these college-circuit entertainers, too nice to go in for the kill, retreat on the chorus to smarmy sentimentality ("She's watching for blue skies") that reeks of Neil Diamond. Crown Royals 11/8, Vic Stepping out from its long-standing Bluebird Lounge stint (the last Sunday of each month), this local funkstramental foursome cooks with a cool precision that might at first seem to clash with headliner Jon Spencer's reckless abandon. But tenorman Ken Vandermark takes after (with this group, at least) Bobby Keys, the saxist on most of the Rolling Stones albums that directly influenced Spencer (whose old band Pussy Galore famously covered Exile on Main Street in its entirety). And the Royals' rhythm section emulates the old in-house groups at Memphis labels like Stax and Hi, whom Mick and Keith always held in the highest regard. So with any luck, early arrivers at this sold-out show will connect the dots. Ronnie Dawson 11/8, Fitzgerald's On "Action Packed," a rockabilly near miss from the late 50s (later covered by Jonathan Richman), a late-teenaged Dawson sounds like a bit of a pip-squeak, constantly interjecting "Hear me?" to get the listeners attention. That unchecked ardor might have prevented his being taken seriously at the time, but years later it enables him to deliver the goods--on the recent Just Rockin' & Rollin' (Upstart), he combines the know-how of a veteran with the vigor of a much younger cat. Paul K 11/8, Martyrs' On his eighth release, Love Is a Gas (Alias), this eccentric, heroin-damaged singer-guitarist's gospel-slanted rock ("They say the stars are God's eyes / And the mountains are his ears / But hesitations and lies / Are mostly all he sees and hears") is delivered forcefully but without much emotional investment. When he covers Queen's "You're My Best Friend" at the end, it's anyone's guess whether he's singing to Jesus or to junk. Satchel 11/8, Metro Shawn Smith sings with the quiet reassurance of a mother you've come home to be comforted by when the mean old world's got you down. But this Seattle quartet's second album, The Family (Epic), oozes classic-rock rehash unctuous enough to send you running back to the streets. The somewhat sprightlier Better Than Ezra headlines. Chip Taylor 11/14, Abbey Pub Taylor, the brother of actor Jon Voight, wrote "Wild Thing" to order for the obscure Wild Ones at the height of the discotheque craze in 1965 (they were the house band at a club owned by Richard Burton's ex-wife Sybil). It became an enduring rock anthem thanks to a chart-topping version the following year by the Troggs, and was covered to varying effect by Jimi Hendrix, the Runaways, and X. The liner notes to Taylor's recent Hit Man (Gadfly) reveal that he was actually embarrassed by the song's raw sexuality and had hoped it would disappear after its initial failure. Nevertheless, Taylor tackles it and numerous other songwriting successes (for the likes of the Hollies, Janis Joplin, and Waylon Jennings) in a mellow country-rock style with a voice that varies from gentle croon to hushed whisper.

--Frank Youngwerth

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/ Ron Keith.

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