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STEVE RILEY & THE MAMOU PLAYBOYS 7/10, FITZGERALD's Those square folkies who booed Dylan for plugging in at Newport were wrong in the specific, but not unjustified in their fear of the impending ubiquity of rock music. While traditional regional music still hasn't been wiped out by a long shot, going electric sure isn't the answer for everybody. Thankfully Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, Cajuns who wanna rock, amp up with a little more taste and sensibility than a lot of their peers--their take on rock is unpretentious and straightforward and they got their trad chops down first, the result being that the tunes on their new Bayou Ruler (Rounder) are still too down-home to sound at home in the faceless suburban sprawl.

EMPTY BOTTLE Over the past half decade, Windy Webber and Carl Hultgren of Dearborn Heights, Michigan, have quietly released close to a dozen albums, singles, and EPs on almost as many small labels, touring extensively and picking up a loyal cult following. Their spiraling, loopy, hearts-of-space music, with its entrancing, slow-building grooves, may not sound like much to the casual listener, but it's pure rocket fuel to the new breed of psychonauts, who've heard a million times if they've heard once that the trips were better back in the day.

Bobby Conn, Easy Johnny & DJ LeDeuce 7/11, The Lab This is a release party for the second issue of Easy Listener, the lazy, sleazy alter ego of the Lumpen. The first issue featured articles on chairs, the Carpenters, and "The Chihuahua, Easy Listening Dog of Choice," as well as nudie pix of local underground icons like Azita Youssefi and Bobby Conn. The compilation CD handed out at the party for the first issue is your second clue that this is a great big happy in-joke: Big Songs for Small Apartments includes violinist Julie Pomerleau's "modern classical suite" based on the Flying Luttenbachers' Gods of Chaos and Cheer-Accident's over-easy cover of "Close to You." The substantial list of DJs and performers includes Conn as well as a character called Easy Johnny, a twisted crooner who mutters and wails over by-the-numbers beats, but the music, appropriately enough, will probably serve mainly as ambience.

Danielson 7/12, Lounge Ax; 7/13, reckless on broadway There's something disturbing about New Jersey's Danielson (also known as the Danielson Family), and it isn't just the vaguely unwholesome wholesomeness of a large, mild-looking clan playing Christian pop music. The "Danielsons," most of whom are actually Smiths, are united around brother Daniel, whose lo-fi tunes have a kiddie-sing-along quality that belies lines like "You must draw some blood and give your right arm too / Raise those ones you overthrew" (from "Holy Kisser's Block Party," on the new Kramer-produced Tri-Danielson!!!, on Tooth & Nail)--and who delivers his revelations in a terrifying, moment-of-humiliation-in-the-youth-group-choir falsetto yelp, like Jad Fair trying to pretend his voice never changed.

MIKE LANE 7/12, BARNES & NOBLE IN SKOKIE, BEAT KITCHEN; 7/14, SCHUBAS Lane, the former leader of Sunday Cannons ("Baltimore's premier post-punk band," or so he claims), recorded his solo debut, Good Luck With Electricity (Dutch Maniac), in Minneapolis, where he scraped together enough cobwebs from the Replacements' glory days to make it the note-perfect mid-80s college rock album.

Unfortunately, it's no longer the mid-80s except in Canada, where the album's insidiously catchy tunes have made a small dent on college radio.

SISTER SOLEIL 7/14, METRO In every club crowd there's always somebody who yearns to pull those Dead Can Dance records out of the chill-out room and onto the main floor. It's been tried many times and it never works--that ethereal romanticism clashes horribly with the prevailing macho beats per-minute aesthetic. Likewise the sweepy, literate dance pop on Soularium (Universal), Chicagoan Stella Katsoudas's first full-length as Sister So-leil, is doomed to be disliked by the dance-music cognoscenti: it's so girly that I kept picturing women running around in the dark in white nightgowns, like in that old Bonnie Tyler video. But if you approach it from the pop side, it is awfully catchy and seductive--even when Katsoudas's high, airy voice stretches thin over the beats provided by the all-star cast of DJs, remixers, musicians, and producers that hangs out at Peter Gabriel's live-in Real World studios. I wonder what they play in the chill-out room there.

BELA FLECK & THE FLECKTONES 7/15, RAVINIA Here it is, a lovely summer evening, but your best friend will only listen to John Zorn-approved avant jazz; your signifcant other is in an obsessive heavy-funk phase; your father has just decided that alt-country is the shit; your mother prefers light modern classical; and your brother's in town between selling T-shirts and herbal ecstasy on the summer festival circuit--is there any way to get all these people together to see some music? Well, there is one way, one name that brings respect everywhere you go: multi-instrumentalist Bela Fleck has walked many a crooked mile between the mangled bluegrass terrorism he purveyed with the New Grass Revival in the mid-80s to the material on his new Left of Cool (Warner Brothers), which is a sort of hyperactive worldbeat jazz with some lovely moments, some overblown moments, and some moments of just plain genius (consider the title "Trane to Conamarra" fair warning). A caveat for record buyers: vocal turns from Dave Matthews and Amy Grant do seem to serve a higher purpose here, but they definitely introduce a small cringe factor.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo of Danielson by Tim Owen.

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