THOSE BASTARD SOULS 9/30, the hideout; 10/1, schubas; 10/2, EMPTY BOTTLE With the release of their second album, Debt & Departure (V2), this side project of the Grifters' Dave Shouse seems to have grown into a going concern--more so than the Grifters, anyhow. The new record (which rethinks several tunes from the Souls' 1996 indie debut as well as one from the Grifters' last record) is a lovely selection of dark, lightly psychedelic on-the-road-at-night rock without a trace of the Grifters' fucked-up blues. The rest of the band these days is sometime Red Red Meat bassist Matt Fields, former Dambuilders violinist Joan Wasser and drummer Kevin March, and guitarist Michael Tighe of Jeff Buckley's band (the lead track, "The Last Thing I Ever Wanted Was to Show Up and Blow Your Mind," nods to Buckley's take on Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"). The Empty Bottle performance, where they share the bill with the re-reanimated Red Red Meat and the Vandermark 5, is a benefit for UIC's Liver Center. JAGUARES 10/1, ARAGON Million-selling Mexican rockers Jaguares--who've recently released their second album, Bajo el azul de tu misterio (BMG U.S. Latin), a double CD that features one disc of dynamic live material and one of shiny new prog lite--could easily cross over to "modern rock" radio. They've got just the right blend of power and gloss, and none of us monoglots would even notice leader Saul Hernandez's mordant politics or his nods to Native Mexican mysticism. DON CONOSCENTI 10/2 (Early show), SCHUBAS Singer-songwriter Don Conoscenti--a former Chicagoan who hit the road at 17 and eventually wound up in Colorado--is relentlessly sad: his sixth album, Mysterious Light, is sort of like a high colonic to clean the hidden mope out of people who mistakenly thought they were perfectly happy. Conoscenti's CDs have featured guest turns by Shawn Mullins, Ellis Paul, David Wilcox, and the Indigo Girls' Emily Saliers, but here he'll perform solo. HANG UPS 10/2 (late show), SCHUBAS Maybe it's just that when Twin/Tone put together Back Story, a promotional compilation to advance this veteran Minneapolis quintet's tour, they didn't give much thought to pacing. The CD, billed as a "beginner's guide," culls tracks from three albums--including the forthcoming Second Story, produced by Don Dixon and Mitch Easter--and the first few songs, with their jangling guitars, sweet harmonies, and the "Me and My Monkey"-like bursts of dirtiness ("Party"), hit the spot exactly. But by the fifth or sixth track I felt like I'd eaten one too many bowls of Trix. Liner note that tells you all you need to know: "This song owes a lot to Nick Drake's 'Pink Moon' although it has a brighter outlook. It has a lot to do with being excited about the future and being in love." LES NUBIANS 10/2, HOUSE OF BLUES Helene and Celia Faussart, West African sisters living in Bordeaux, have won more than a few American hearts already with their complex, creamy cosmopolitan soul-hop, but this is their first North American tour. The tunes on Princesses Nubiennes (Owntown), their 1998 debut, reportedly address topics from racism to abortion, but the only one I can evaluate lyrically--because it's the only one not sung in French--is "Sugar Cane," a beautifully phrased commentary on black women's history: "Take care of that inner black beauty that shines through your / Mela-mela-melanine tone / And take care of everything you got, visible or invisible / For not so long ago they didn't love none of us / At all." ODETTA 10/2, ABBEY PUB A genuine blues legend long associated with the civil-rights movement and the 60s folk revival, Odetta may languish in some minds as a relic from an age when earnest political protest wasn't considered declasse. But the richness and sophistication of her singing on her new Blues Everywhere I Go (MC Records) blows that perception out of the water: she can work up a rave-up on a dime but chooses to do so only sparingly, instead brooding in the darker passages of her still-impressive range and treating rarely heard numbers like Victoria Spivey's "TB Blues" and Bessie Smith's "Rich Man Blues" as if they were still relevant--and whaddaya know? They are. MYRA MELFORD'S CRUSH 10/6, HOTHOUSE Pianist Myra Melford is probably best known in these parts for her collaboration with AACM veterans Leroy Jenkins and Joseph Jarman in the collective Equal Interest and on their haunting 1997 "New Age" record Out of the Mist. But as a composer and bandleader in her own right, Melford's a force to be reckoned with. This is the Chicago debut of her new trio, Crush, with bassist Stomu Takeishi, who's played with Don Cherry and Henry Threadgill, and drummer Kenny Wollesen, who's played with everyone from John Zorn to Ron Sexsmith. AFRO CELT SOUND SYSTEM 10/7, DOUBLE DOOR The name of this international hybrid pretty much says it all: traditional sean nos singer Iarla O'Lionaird, ex-Pogue James McNally, and Breton harpist Myrdhin join percussionist Moussa Sissokho, singer and kora player N'Faly Kouyate, programmer and keyboardist Martin Russell, and Scritti Politti veteran Simon Emmerson in a startling fusion of Celtic and African music and British club beats. All these folks are excellent players, and their long-awaited second album, Release (Real World), is a much better argument for multiculturalism than its predecessor. Though it still suffers from some hyperactivity even in the chill-out spots, it's pretty hard to resist dizzying displays of groove virtuosity like "Big Cat" and effective modernizations like "Urban Aire."
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Piotr Sikora, D.R..