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Spot Check

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JACK LOGAN 5/28, SCHUBAS Working-class hero Jack Logan made more than 600 home recordings before a pal in R.E.M. recommended him to his first record label in 1994. As prolific as Robert Pollard but more willing to edit, he's released five more LPs since. His latest, Buzz Me In (Capricorn), features the most elaborate arrangements yet, with gospelized backing vocals, trombone (by Vic Chesnutt) and sax, congas and bongos (by Curtis Mayfield affiliate Luis Stefanell), and violins and cellos, but many of its husky, alt-folky tunes nevertheless have the spontaneous energy of a quick sketch. BOY SETS FIRE 5/29, FIRESIDE BOWL This Delaware quintet does a slightly cheesy version of the old-school hardcore thing--for Pete's sake, quit that singing!--and just so there's no question about which "old school" we're talking about, their EP In Chrysalis (Initial) closes with a faithful (if tame) cover of "Holiday in Cambodia." It's just not as much fun now that Ronald Reagan can't remember it, is it? Avail headlines. RHEA'S OBSESSION 6/1, SMART BAR Tired of Celtic music and wanting something more, um, "experimental," Toronto folkie Sue Hutton met, married, and formed this darkwave band with former rocker Jim Field. At worst, Rhea's Obsession sound like Jarboe trying to play pop or Dead Can Dance trying to play metal; at best, they put their finger on a genuinely haunting fusion. Their first album, Initiation (Spider), includes a Sheila Chandra cover, and Hutton even gets away with adapting an Aleister Crowley poem--no mean feat. (Crowley sure knew his Babylonian correspondence tables, but no one's ever accused him of being a great pop lyricist.) If you can't find the record, listen for their spooky sound behind the action on the USA Network's La Femme Nikita series. SEBI TRAMONTANA 6/2 & 9, EMPTY BOTTLE In the midst of all the high-intensity houserocking at the Empty Bottle jazz and improv fest this year--Mats Gustafsson and Thurston Moore's intuitive sparring, Peter Brötzmann's bookending blowouts--Italian trombonist and electronicist Sebi Tramontana stood out for his somewhat intellectual employment of startling samples and contemplative whimsy on the 'bone. By Sunday evening, when he was feeling well enough to play his scheduled duet with fellow trombonist Giancarlo Schiaffini (originally scheduled for Saturday), it was just as well he didn't have to compete with the previous night's barful of Sonic Youth fans. He was practically raffish, though, compared to his performance on his 1998 collaboration with pianist Georg Gräwe, Schz!, on the Italian Spalasc(h) label. Here Tramontana goes acoustic, abandoning his battalion of electronics, and interacts with Gräwe as a serious conversationalist. This Wednesday he'll play with local boys Ken Vandermark, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Kent Kessler, and Tim Mulvenna; next week he and Lonberg-Holm will join percussionist Paul Lovens, one of the giants of the European free-improv scene. LEATHERFACE 6/3, FIRESIDE BOWL Despite the creepy name, there's a beery friendliness about this re-formed English band's crunchy, hooky Husker Du-derived assault--like some really really huge guy who's really really drunk leaning on you and knocking you over when he only means to show sincere, innocent affection. Leatherface is making its first U.S. tour to support a split CD with Gainesville punkers Hot Water Music on LA's BYO label--its first U.S. release since its third LP, Mush, came out on an Atlantic subsidiary in the early 90s. AMERICAN LEGENDS "BLUES CARNAVAL" 6/3, HOTHOUSE In conjunction with the Chicago Blues Festival (and a stone's throw from Grant Park), this intimate all-star show features "Legends of the Delta Blues" Robert Jr. Lockwood, 84; Homesick James, 91; Henry Townsend, 90; and Honeyboy Edwards, 84. At least two of these guys knew Robert Johnson personally, and let's face it: in an age that sometimes seems to aspire to historical illiteracy, that really does count for something. --Monica Kendrick

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

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