SHANNON CURFMAN 11/19, MARTYRS' When a teenager sets foot in the spotlight, everybody assumes she's been pushed out there by the stage mother or lecherous manager in the wings, but Shannon Curfman's drive seems to genuinely come from within. "At 10, I set the goal to have a band by the time I was 12, but I got it together about a year earlier than schedule," says the 14-year-old blues-rock singer and guitarist, whose debut album was just reissued by Arista. At 12 she persuaded her parents to move from Fargo to Minneapolis to boost her career, and her soul-and-blues cover band Monsters on a Leash was soon gigging weekly at a bar to which she'd otherwise never be admitted. She does quite a few covers on the album, and her taste isn't terribly refined--the title, Loud Guitar, Big Suspicions, is lifted from a Sheryl Crow song she does. But the first single, "True Friends," is impressive: she plays supremely confident, chugging power-blues guitar (reportedly she solos with flair as well, though fellow Fargo wunderkind Jonny Lang does the honors here), and her voice sounds like it should be coming from a woman three times her age and twice her size. So who'd wish a "normal life" on this kid? HAMMERTOES 11/19, beat kitchen; 11/28, SCHUBAS They say there's a lot of life in the desert even though it seems dead to the naked eye. But at first pass this Arizona octet's second album, I Too Have Sinned (Tortuga), seems to be teeming with activity: scattering clarinets, oompahing tubas, wailing saws, thrumming Gypsy guitars, percussion galore, and third-rate Tom Waits impersonations pretty well keep the wide open spaces hoppin'. These guys and gals play the stuff well enough--if only one of them would learn to sing it properly. JERRY JEFF WALKER 11/20, HOUSE OF BLUES A key figure in the 70s outlaw-country movement, Jerry Jeff Walker has been deserving of a good career retrospective for some time--and hey, if you want a job done right, you'd best do it yourself. He's chosen to do it in book form rather than box-set form, but his new autobiography, Gypsy Songman, does have a sound track on his own Tried & True label, which he's been running out of Austin for almost 15 years now. It includes rerecorded acoustic versions of classics like "Morning Song to Sally" and "Mr. Bojangles," a few new songs that could kindly be called "mature," and a heartwarming duet with his son Django, for those who can't resist that kind of thing. Walker will also sign copies of the book at Brent Books, 316 N. Michigan, Sunday at 1 PM. DANZIG, SAMHAIN 11/21, HOUSE OF BLUES For a guy who's so indebted to Satan, singer, muscle man, and comics entrepreneur Glenn Danzig is obsessed with staying out of his clutches--though that's not to say he's made any moves toward exiting the comfortable devil-devil-devil-music niche he's occupied for the last couple decades. He now has his own label, Evilive, and he's signed a licensing agreement with E-Magine Entertainment, an independent Internet music marketing company that he's talking up as a force that will bring the major labels to their knees. His band Danzig's sixth full-length, called (you knew this was coming) 6:66 Satan's Child, was available on the Web several months before its retail release this month; in September the site had reportedly fielded more than 400,000 hits....But the real news, at least for this tour, is the one-shot reformation of Glenn's post-Misfits, pre-Danzig death-punk band, Samhain--generating some interest, perhaps, for the Samhain box-set retrospective planned under the E-Magine deal. BACKYARD BABIES 11/24, EMPTY BOTTLE Total 13 (Scooch Pooch), the ninth album in nine years from this raucous and cocky Swedish band, is a gorgeous array of big American trash-rock cliches--more songs about money and heroin, infused with the sort of shit-hot fire you only get nowadays if you're coming at this stuff as a second language (though the cameo by Hanoi Rocks' Michael Monroe on the U.S.-only bonus track "Rocker" doesn't hurt either). MIKE NESS 11/24, HOUSE OF BLUES On Cheating at Solitaire earlier this year, Social Distortion front man Mike Ness let his inner cowboy take a lap or two around the corral, matching country covers with originals written in the spirit. On the new Under the Influences (both records are on Time Bomb), Cowboy Mike seizes the reins: as the title implies, it's a collection of tunes by Hank Williams, A.P. Carter, Carl Perkins, and the like, the sole original being a honky-tonked-up version of SD's "Ball and Chain," complete with pedal steel. At this rate, Ness will soon be the Jon Langford of SoCal--but where Langford's revisitations of murder ballads and honky-tonk standards are angry and intimate, Ness's sound is big, fast, and tight, more like Blackfoot at their best than the Wacos in all their beer-soaked glory.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marina Chavez.