C.J. CHENIER & THE RED HOT LOUISIANA BAND 1/11 & 1/12, FITZGERALD'S In rock 'n' roll, sons of legends will almost always let you down--call it the curse of Julian Lennon. But C.J. Chenier's father, Clifton, was one of the proud few responsible for bringing zydeco to the masses, and in his death in 1987, he passed the torch (and his band) into capable hands. The burly, tattooed accordionist with wicked taste in suits isn't the traditionalist you might think--he's sat in with Paul Simon and the Gin Blossoms, and on his releases for the Alligator label he integrates funk, R & B, and pop in ways that make some purists wince. But the music's so high-spirited and so flawlessly executed that it's impossible to stay sour for long. Chenier played to a gigantic crowd at the last Chicago Blues Festival--here's a chance to catch him in a more natural habitat. DAVID LIGHTBOURNE'S STOP & LISTEN BOYS 1/11, CALIFORNIA CLIPPER Before I get down to it, I must admit I have some reservations about recommending a show at a bar that's dealt such a nasty blow to labor recently. I'm a former regular who thought the old staff did great work--I especially enjoyed the nights when manager Brian Page spun old soul and gospel--and I have many hilarious memories of the place (including, alas, the night the scholarly improv masters AMM were denied admission because, being gray-headed Brits, they didn't realize they'd need their IDs for a quiet evening at the pub). But I also have an extreme fondness for Joe Carducci's Upland Records--home of roots music that can make both your heart and your head hurt--and for this trio, the Stop & Listen Boys. Led by David Lightbourne, a contemporary (and kindred spirit) of the Holy Modal Rounders, and armed with jazzhorn, guitar, mandolin, double bass, and occasionally kazoo, they pin down traditionals and standards with aching sweetness and a drunken stagger-on-a-dime irreverence that can whip a listener right back to the way this music felt when it was born--in sawdust-floored juke joints where down-and-outers paid pennies for stale beer scammed from higher-class establishments and a few pennies more for the privilege of passing out on the floor in the back room. If you were still capable of remembering a "home" in this state--well, that's what this music was for. (It also reminds me a little bit of R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders.) They're best previewed on their album Monkey Junk, but you can also hear a couple tracks on Upland Breakdown 2000, which documents a gathering of the label's roster in Carducci and Lightbourne's adopted home state of Wyoming. PORCH GHOULS 1/12, BEAT KITCHEN The Porch Ghouls posit themselves as the last of the Memphis "ruckus" (or jug) bands, and the three swampy tunes I've heard from their forthcoming Bluff City Ruckus (produced by Greg Oblivian) would seem to back up the claim--even if their turn as fashion models in a New York Times Magazine spread last May wouldn't. Star power and slide guitar are provided by the Grifters' Scott Taylor, here known as Slim Electro; and suitcase drummer Duke Baltimore, aka Bruce Saltmarsh, is a vet of the Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments and '68 Comeback. But the band's guiding force is Dobro player and shouter Eldorado Del Rey, and its secret weapon is harpist Randy Valentine. DETACHMENT KIT 1/13, METRO This buzzy local foursome is pointing it at the big time, having already been taken on by Guided by Voices' manager--but then maybe they need a management team just to stop people from confusing them with the Dismemberment Plan. Bolstered by lots of Electrical Audio crunch on They Raging. Quiet Army (due next month on Self-Starter Foundation), their catchier-than-average songs lurch precisely through familiar arty guitar band tropes, burdened with pseudopoetic titles that would shame Joan of Arc. LUNCH 1/16, SCHUBAS This local band's second self-released album, Go Fish, lays out their two dominant modes pretty clearly: Depeche Mode-ish dance trance and Smiths-esque sensitive-boy balladry. They're an aptly named band, given the tendency of doe-eyed, slender-necked boys to get eaten up alive here in big-shoulder land; as if to defend themselves, they attempt one bit of good ol' feathered-hair rock, on "Steering Wide," but it sounds like what they're shoplifting is the intro to Heart's "Magic Man." O.A.R. 1/16-1/18, HOUSE OF BLUES This independent jam band from the D.C. burbs sure is popular--all three nights of this engagement are already sold-out. But why? I know antidepressant manufacturers are doing their best to make the world safe for fluffy and tensionless music, and since so many of their customers are libido impaired, they've got to have something to do at night...but the worn-smooth folk rock and ska-lite on their latest, Risen (Everfine), would be utterly featureless if it weren't for Marc Roberge's phantasmally aggravating bark. This record stank up my office so bad my cat wouldn't come in to use the litter box and took a big dump in the bathtub instead. HAWK 1/17, SCHUBAS Hawk front man Dave Hawkins learned to play guitar while he was managing Souled American in the 80s, and upon leaving the job he got to live a country rock dream: he and his longtime girlfriend took up residence on an 80-acre farm in rural Illinois where he could four-track to his heart's content. The couple moved back to Chicago in 1993, and Hawkins formed the first incarnation of this band, but when his girlfriend's death from an asthma attack in 1995 put an end to the idyll, he retreated alone to the Maine woods for a while. Since returning to Chicago, he's re-formed the band and released two albums, the newest simply titled Hawk. He tends to drift toward tepid country-rock, like a shopping cart that always wants to go left, but he's held back from its worst cliches by a hearty respect for the acknowledge-the-tragedy-but-hold-your-head-up school of songwriting, found in its highest form in mid-70s Dylan, some Richard Thompson, and the third Velvet Underground album. There are some local stars in the current lineup: Jeff Kowalkowski contributes string arrangements, Jen Paulson plays the violin, and Jeff Dorchen plucks some banjo.