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MUSTACHE 1/23, LOUNGE AX All right, all you hardwood-floor-livin', Uncle Tupelo-worshipin', back-porch-herb-gardenin', Austin-goin' kiddies, git yer asses downstairs and meet your beer-belly displayin', rebel-yellin', Molly Hatchet-listenin', Chevy-baptizin' redneck neighbors who ain't gonna pay a lot for this tattoo. On Mustache's self-titled live album (on Beluga), recorded in front of what sounds like a stadium crowd at Lounge Ax, extra-large front man B.T. Owins bellows about rockin', rollin', and ridin' while no fewer than three "lead guitarists" whiz through the heavy cheese. Like Nashville Pussy, but uglier.

BERNIE WORRELL & THE WOO WARRIORS 1/23, CUBBY BEAR He'd be worth seeing again just as a Parliamentary wig, but there's something for everyone on keyboard ace Bernie Worrell's resume. With Bill Laswell, he's driven both the elegant art-funk of the Golden Palominos and the funk-metal-on-laughing-gas fusion of Praxis; he got the Talking Heads to stop making sense and proved there was more to Jack Bruce than "Tales of Brave Ulysses." Solo and in various configurations of his Woo band, he's pulled together more funk, jazz, hip-hop, rock, and orchestral elements with hardly a lick of gratuitous flash--though Lord knows he can flash when he wants to. He shares the bill with equally versatile and prolific funk giant Roy Ayers.

GRACE BRAUN 1/24, LOUNGE AX I suppose former DQE front woman Grace Braun qualifies as one of those y'alternative rockers I just tweaked a couple blurbs ago, but on her 1996 solo debut, It Won't Hurt (Slow River), she sounds as likely to be hunting for snakes under the porch as growing basil topside. She's got a knack for writing strange, passionate new songs ("Mermaid and the Sailor," "Jenny Wren") that sound like they could have been learned at grandma's knee--a refreshing reversal of the more common practice of flattening beautiful traditionals with studious reverence.

CHAMBER STRINGS 1/24, DOUBLE DOOR Like his sometime collaborator Nikki Sudden, ex-Mystery Girl Kevin Junior needs more melancholy like a hole in the arm, but doubtless this show will be haunted by the November death of Sudden's brother, Epic Soundtracks, with whom Junior had also worked. On Gospel Morning (Idiot Savant Music), the debut from his current band, the Chamber Strings, Junior's Sudden-esque songs don't always hold up under their bittersweet weight; his sad, bloozy choruses fluctuate in and out of phase, sometimes hitting the mark, sometimes pitifully thin. As much of a sucker as I am for this kind of stuff, I know it wouldn't work if he looked like, say, the singer from Mustache. Electric Airlines, the new band of Urge Overkill guitarist Ed Roeser, headlines.

WYCLEF JEAN & the refugee allstars 1/29, HOUSE OF BLUES What first caught my ear about the more or less solo debut from the Fugees' Wyclef Jean, Wyclef Jean Presents the Carnival Featuring Refugee Allstars (Ruffhouse/Columbia) was his startlingly vulnerable and honest rap about love and jealousy, "To All the Girls." But what kept me listening was Jean's sophisticated integrations--of Caribbean grooves and Celia Cruz with inspired sampling (you'll never hear the Bee Gees the same way again), of New York suavity with Haitian pride (four songs are in creole). And when the bullets start flying, Jean plays it down: the murder ballad "Bubblegoose" reads like a child's nightmare and is all the more harrowing for it. The Carnival's not the blockbuster that The Score was, but it's hardly an artistic disappointment.

RANDY HERMAN & THE SCEPTRE OF BENEVOLENCE, SAVAGE AURAL HOTBED 1/29, EMPTY BOTTLE In this corner, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Savage Aural Hotbed, percussionistic trance heads who use (among other things) "plastic & metal barrels, dryer drums, saws, grinders, drills, amplified springs & cables, buckets, double bass pipe, angklung, bin-sasara, singing rods, drive shaft, electric shaver, water, gravel, strobe, toy car," plus bass, clarinet, and theremin to make what can only be described as music to watch Lava lamps by. In that corner, from Chicago, Illinois, pianist Randy Herman & the Sceptre of Benevolence, who sound like They Might Be Giants covering a bunch of Robyn Hitchcock outtakes on a bad day. It's like being caught between the stoner who won't say a word and the one who can't shut up.

--Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Chamber Strings uncredited photo.

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