IAN MOORE 4/7, MARTYRS' When I was a zine kid, back in the Paleolithic, a friend of mine had a theory about "guitar gods" and "guitar guys." It was fairly obvious how they broke down once you grokked the distinction, but there were twists: Rick Derringer was a guitar guy who thought he was a guitar god; Eddie Van Halen was a guitar god who thought he was a guitar guy; Eric Clapton has really been a guitar guy since, oh, Derek & the Dominos, but people called him God so often he started to believe them. Judging from his latest, And All the Colors...(Koch), Ian Moore is definitely a guitar guy--overly interested in singing and songwriting, shooting for Jeff Buckley on the steamy bits but sounding more like whats-his-face from Foreigner when he starts rockin'--but might someday aspire to guitar godhood in a relatively modest Jeff Beck kind of way. BEENIE MAN 4/8, house of blues International dancehall superstar Beenie Man won a reggae Grammy in 1998 and has been declared the top-selling reggae artist by Billboard for two years running, but with Art and Life, his forthcoming debut on Virgin, the label is pushing him as a crossover artist. No reason they shouldn't succeed: dancehall's as much hip-hop as reggae, an infectious urban fusion that doesn't fear the deep bass like so much of that tinny Jah-love stuff--and the Fugees' Wyclef Jean is on board to emphasize the connection. Plus, sex sells, and there's plenty of it here, in the grooves themselves as well as in tunes like "Girls Dem Sugar," "Some Tonight," and "I Got a Date." But "Love Me Now," which has hit written all over it, weaves tough politics into the mix, and "Tumble," on which Beenie sings in Spanish, features a cameo by Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. BOTTOM 4/8, FIRESIDE BOWL Hot rock 'n' roll doesn't need any gender modifiers, but I'll admit it does my so-old-school-it's-new-school feminist heart a lot of good to suffer subsonically induced arrhythmia at the hands of New Yorker women Sina, Nila, and Clementine, who worship at the temple of Black Sabbath on their Made in Voyage (Mudflap). As the name would imply, it's all about the sludge, the fuzz, the riff, and the unspoken agreement that only preening pussies play above the fifth fret. SLUGS 4/8, FITZGERALD'S, 4/9, borders on Michigan How long does it take for a band to "mature"? Well, as with children and wine, there's no right answer. When the Slugs started out in 1983, they were considered mods--and compared to the Jam, if you can believe it now--and took 17 years to evolve into a solid heartland pop band. Recorded, like all their albums, by the late Phil Bonnet, the new Junior (Famous Mistakes/Pravda) was begun in 1997 and progressed, appropriately enough, at a snail's pace while front man Dag Juhlin played guitar for Poi Dog Pondering and the rest of the group helped guitarist Johnny L. (who joined in '90, after years as the band's soundman) make the solo record that came out early last year. Junior's not going to set the world on fire, but it's OK--really. This sort of modest, down-to-earth songcraft sounds better on them than on all those 22-year-olds who'd have studied marketing in college if they'd only had the discipline. COREY COKES 4/9, GREEN MILL; 4/10, MAD BAR Corey Cokes is a rising poetry star--he was on the team from Providence, Rhode Island, that won the 1996 National Poetry Slam and appears in Slamnation, the much touted film about that event. But according to his label, the new Boston-area Varunee Recording Group, he's given up the sport of poetry to concentrate on the storytelling--a wise move. On his first album, Coreyography, his chilling, rousing takes on black history and culture nod in tempo to hip-hop and precursors like the Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron, but the musical touches--with the exception of Morris deRhon Robinson's performance of "Go Down Moses"--are pure gloss: Cokes always puts the words first, and Langston Hughes and Amiri Baraka turn up in his images and stories as well as his breaths and pauses. SLACKERS 4/9, FIRESIDE BOWL This New York-based "rocksteady, calypso, reggea [sic]" band recorded their latest, Live at Ernesto's! (Hellcat/Epitaph), in a Mexican restaurant in the Netherlands, fueled by "free access to the tequila icee machine." Superficially it's agreeable enough party music, with a funky-Kingston tunefulness, but the longer the party wears on, the hokier it starts to seem. UNION 4/9, HOUSE OF BLUES The Blue Room (Spitfire), from Union--a hard-rock band that features John Corabi of latter-day Motley Crue and Bruce Kulick of latter-day Kiss--is a lot better than you'd think. Close your eyes and pretend it's latter-day Aerosmith. CENTRAL AMERICAN ALL-STARS 4/10, CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER This package tour of musicians who are renowned in their native countries but pretty much unknown here makes a free stop at the Cultural Center. The night's headliners are Costa Rican classical and jazz pianist Manuel Obregon, who has made music with Spanish Gypsies and a marimba ensemble from Nicaragua, and the Mexican-born, Cuban-raised Panamanian songwriter Romulo Castro, who has written for Ruben Blades. Honduran singer-songwriter Guillermo Anderson, whose Afro-Caribbean fusion incorporates elements of Garifuna music, and Costa Rican singer, actress, and arts administrator Sylvie Duran, who has collaborated with Obregon in the past, will also perform, and I'm told that all the players may band together at the end. COREY HARRIS 4/11, CHICAGO THEATRE Blues singer and guitarist Corey Harris charmed me with his last couple releases for the Alligator label, Fish Ain't Bitin' and Greens From the Garden--the living, loving breaths he blew into acoustic Delta blues demonstrated that a music doesn't have to die just because most of its greatest practitioners are dead. On his latest, Vu-Du Menz (Alligator), he teams up with New Orleans pianist and vocalist Henry Butler and goes for more of a rollicking roadhouse feel, but here he'll play solo, opening for Tracy Chapman. NEGATIVLAND 4/11, HOUSE OF BLUES Negativland have always been a little too clever for their own good, but the 20-year-old collective's best pranks, appropriations, and media manipulations--most famously their neodadaist mangling of a U2 hit, which brought on a legal nightmare that they promptly milked for all the hype it was worth--have cast a refreshingly jaundiced eye on hype, intellectual property law, techno-fetishism, and the music biz alike. Not everything they do translates to a stage setting, so they don't tour much--this anniversary outing is the first in seven years. They claim it will also be the last, which would not be a particularly original or interesting hoax, so it may well be true. Although they may be the only band whose Web site (www.negativland.com) is more fun than their records, they're still worth seeing; I'm especially curious how they'll incorporate the House of Blues environment, which
is as weird a cultural jumble as anything they could invent.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jonathan Mannion.