WILL KIMBROUGH, KIM RICHEY 7/28, SCHUBAS The first solo album by Will Kimbrough, a Nashville session man and former leader of the Bis-quits and Will & the Bushmen, sounds exactly like the product of an artist who's trained himself in every small trend in American singer-songwriter rock of the last 30 years. This (Waxy Silver) nods to everyone from Alex Chilton to Neil Young to Tom Petty to Paul Westerberg, and there's a dutifully Stonesy slide-guitar riff on "Diamond in a Garbage Can," a paean to a teenage prostitute ("sitting in a puddle of beer") that aims to be bittersweet but instead comes off as Bickle-esque. There's also the obligatory song about the music business and another about the insincerity of scenesters. Kimbrough's a thoroughly ordinary guitar player whose take on the world is as average as his arpeggios. He's touring with Kim Richey, who's supporting her third album, Glimmer. Richey wrote Trisha Yearwood's number-one hit "Believe Me Baby (I Lied)," but her take on her own songs is reverent, as if she's grateful to be able to sing them herself. Nothing superspecial about the country-rock backing, alas, but live the forecast is probably better for genuine warmth. RONDELLES 7/28, FIRESIDE BOWL It must be a pretty heady experience for three teenagers to suddenly find themselves opening for Sonic Youth, Sleater-Kinney, and the Make-Up, as these Albuquerque-raised kids did a couple years ago--and their excitement was contagious. Their second album, The Fox, released last year on Teenbeat, is a brat-punk gem, blurring the line between late-70s punk and 80s teen pop so perfectly that I am now actually interested in picking up the dreadful-sounding 1998 Rhino comp In Their Eyes, where 90 teen bands covered hits from 80s teen movies, just to hear what they did to "I Melt With You." The Mooney Suzuki opens (see Critic's Choice). GHETTOBILLIES 7/29, ELBO ROOM It's true, first impressions are important, and I was all set to hate this Michigan-bred, Chicago-based trio. The booklet to their new CD, Butterface (Planet Ant), is full of cheesecake and toilet jokes and the dullest, drunkenest kind of frat-boy humor. But it turns out their blend of funk, country, bluegrass, midwestern radio rock, and even sweet balladry is raucous, infectious, sexy, and genuinely funny. Their unlikely style meshings are so seamlessly executed that they make perfect sense. RIVER CITY REBELS 7/29, FIRESIDE BOWL Not even a twinkle in their parents' eyes when The Clash came out and still not old enough to drink, on their new Racism, Religion, and War (Victory) these Boston boys re-create the sound of '77 with the wide-eyed, full-throttle, irony-free faith of recent discovery. It's all here--the tasteful ska flourishes, the Joe Strummer barking, the fist-pumping choruses. The subject matter isn't veiled by literary subtleties either (song titles: "Hate," "Religion," "The System," "Corporate America," "Fuck You"); and damn, they're tight. Tuneful, passionate, and exhilarating. JEFF BUCKLEY FAN GATHERING 7/31 & 8/1, UNCOMMON GROUND The late Jeff Buckley is destined for sainthood: the handsome, angelic-voiced young man died by drowning--just like P.B. Shelley--on a late-night swim at the age of 27, almost the same age at which his legendary father, Tim, shuffled off this mortal coil himself. Jeff left behind a much smaller body of work than his old man; like the output of Nick Drake, it's just enough to make the young girls cry. His songs could give a suggestible listener the warm sense that he was just over their shoulder, and unlike lesser singer-songwriter talents who try to achieve intimacy by unloading gratuitous confidences, Buckley did it with his seductive voice. Columbia is still milking his slim oeuvre for all it's worth, releasing the live album Mystery White Boy a couple months ago. At this event the singer's mother, Mary Guibert, will speak, answer questions, and hand out promotional materials for the CD; she'll also present Fall in Light, an English-language documentary about her son made for French TV, and a full-length concert video made in Chicago. The organizers strongly recommend making reservations; I strongly recommend bringing a clean hankie. DANNY BARNES & THEE OLD CODGERS, PETER KEANE TRIO 8/1, SCHUBAS One of my favorite surprises so far this year has been the Bad Livers' Blood & Mood (Sugar Hill), a stunning, twisted, brilliant fusion of bluegrass and electronica that sounds like nothing else on earth--and an absolutely perfect nothing else at that. On a hunch that those guys were never anything close to your garden-variety roots band, I went back and listened to their older, more trad-sounding material--the gospel standards album Dust on the Bible as well as original songs like "Shit Creek" and "Hogs on the Highway"--and sure enough it's true: main songwriter and banjo player Danny Barnes is a sly, self-effacing, low-key genius, capable of anything. Barnes's new acoustic project, Thee Old Codgers, features violinist Jon Parry and bassist Keith Lowe, who's played with Bill Frisell, Wayne Horvitz, and Fiona Apple. A collaboration with Frisell is in the works, as is a proper CD debut for this band; in the meantime Barnes has been recording himself at home and passing around demos with handmade artwork. A devout believer in music for the people, he invites fans to download MP3 files from www.dannybarnes.com and stresses a tapers-welcome policy for live shows. Opener Peter Keane, an Austin-based guitarist, distinguished himself last year with haunting blues picking on Bill Morrissey's Songs of Mississippi John Hurt (Philo), which managed to get closer to the spare, eerie sound of the acoustic blues than most earnest homages. Keane's newest record, Another Kind of Blue (Broken White Records), features originals that sound like oldies and covers of songs by Dave Van Ronk, Blind Willie McTell, and Skip James that sound like vintage-folk-festival treatments. Even his attempt at rockabilly is, as he acknowledges in the notes, full of blues ("You're so beautiful / You're gonna die someday"). He's a decent songwriter and an inoffensive singer, but his guitar work is the real reason to show up early. He plays here with the rhythm section on the record, drummer Richard White and upright bassist Charlie Larkey. --Monica Kendrick
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Glen Rose.