PAUL WESTERBERG 8/9, THE VIC I pulled out Paul Westerberg's new "comeback" record, Stereo (Vagrant), with great trepidation. The guy had already hurt me at least once with a lousy record, but I got over it and got on with my life--so now I'm supposed to let him try again? (Yes, at this point bad records, especially from proven talents, do actually hurt.) But to be a rock fan is to be a little bit of a sucker: if we want to catch the next amazing thing, we've got to keep our hearts open even as we stick sardonic Band-Aids over the wounds from the last dozen half-assed attempts. So I let Westerberg in one more time, and I'm happy to report that I don't regret it. Stereo is a defiantly good piece of out-of-time heartland rock--husky but fey, a la Cat Stevens, cleverly melancholy like Gordon Lightfoot, understatedly tuneful like Tom Petty. What with a whole generation too young to remember the Replacements fast becoming legal, Westerberg's going to have to make it on his own merits; it appears he has, as this show is sold-out. JEWS BROTHERS BAND 8/10, NEVIN'S LIVE; 8/11, HOTHOUSE This New Zealand-based ensemble, which contains a couple of New York expats, attacks your basic swinging urban klezmer with the kiwi flair for untrendy experimentation. Head brother Hershal (who has no use for a surname), the only member who'd really heard any klezmer before the band coalesced, has also played Afro-Cuban music and jazz, and his piano work drives the band's second album, My Yiddish Swing (Rouge), all over the map; mandolinist Nigel Gavin occasionally tours as a member of Robert Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists. The Jews Brothers have made a name for themselves in Europe and Australia; these shows are part of the Kfar Jewish Arts Center's series "Tzitzit: Voices From the Jewish Fringe." KEPA JUNKERA 8/10, HOTHOUSE Accordionist Kepa Junkera is a Basque--a member of an ethnic group in Spain and France that for centuries has struggled to preserve its autonomy. But musically Junkera's a synthesist, not a separatist: he's worked with the Chieftains and Andreas Vollenweider, among others, and if traditional tunes are the heart of his music, jazz, dance music, and a sort of pan-European fusion that brings together everything from Irish jigs to Portuguese fado are the bones and skin. His latest album, Maren (EMI), is positively joyous sounding; he takes up the banner of his own culture and runs it the world over, delighting in every spot he visits. This is his Chicago debut. MANISHEVITZ 8/10, ABBEY PUB Main Manishevitz man Adam Busch, a transplant from Virginia, draws on the Truckstop talent pool to play everything from broody sad drone to a wall of sound that's as orchestral as you can get if the orchestra still needs to be able to get up and run when the cops come to shut down the party. He and his current cohorts, who contribute guitar, sax, flute, bass, organ, cello, cornet, ARP, and drums, charmed a tough crowd opening for Michael Hurley last month, and might well steal this show opening for local roots rocker Chris Mills (who's due to drop The Silver Line, his first new album in three years, in October). There's a new album in the works; in the meantime the new EP Private Lines (Jagjaguwar) shows off Busch's range and his way with a cover (in this case, Roxy Music's "2HB" and Robert Wyatt's "Free Will"). SINISTER LUCK ENSEMBLE 8/10, SCHUBAS Charles Kim's loosely organized "supergroup" might feature some local stars (including bassist Kent Kessler and, on record, Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche, plus guests like Andrew Bird, Rob Mazurek, and Ken Vandermark), but elegant humility is the overarching mood of its debut full-length, Anniversary (Perishable), released this spring. Band members do a good business providing music for local filmmakers, and the whole record, coolly romantic and melodious, sounds like it would love to serve some dreamy visuals. In places it brings to mind Calexico's spaghetti-southwestern approach, but the landscape it evokes is also by turns boreal and snowy or damp and noirishly urban. DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS 8/13, HIDEOUT I've sung the praises of this intelligent rebel-yell juggernaut at length; their brilliant Southern Rock Opera probably would have topped my top-ten list last year if I had bothered to make one. This summer the group, led by singer, songwriter, and son of a Muscle Shoals session man Patterson Hood, has reportedly recorded the bulk of a follow-up, and last month their independently released masterpiece was reissued by Mercury/Universal's Lost Highway imprint--home to the O, Brother sound track, among other things--which means that it'll finally be available at your local CD emporium. If you've got any affinity with southern rock at all you'll soon have no excuse for not having heard it. LAVENDER 8/14, HIDEOUT Wesleyan University products Lavender, making their Chicago debut, kick off a bill that also features locals Lozenge and Pillow. In his compositions for the group on their second album, Get Your Eye (Newsonic), guitarist Charlie Looker fools with his share of dissonance but relies heavily on traditional jazz sounds (especially via Julie Strand's clarinet and Brett Deschenes's trumpet) and isn't afraid to incorporate vocals (a tool that's rusting out behind the arsenal of many Chicago bands in this realm). In the lineup that appears here, Strand seems to have been replaced by violist Karen Waltuch.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Stanley B. Hamilton.