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BURN ROME BURN 1/23, METRO These four locals have yet to put out their debut EP (they'll release it themselves in February, they say); in the meantime they're headlining Metro. The sampling they sent me was room-filling anthem rock with aspirations to romantic sweep. I gather the name's a nod to violinist Aoife Lyons, whose pure tones outline the band's windy grooves and rush into the quiet spaces between them like white water. Her spot in the mix, unfortunately, is more appropriate for an accompanist than the lead player she seems to be, a problem shared by most rock violinists who aren't Warren Ellis. But if Lyons suddenly disappeared, this band would feel it, hard. FREEKBASS 1/23, NEVIN'S LIVE Cincinnati bassist Chris Sherman got his nom de jam from the person in the world most qualified to bestow it: Bootsy Collins, who's both co- and executive producer of The Air Is Fresher Underground (Gemini/Bootzilla), the new album from Sherman's band. Bernie Worrell, Buckethead, and Bootsy's brother Catfish make cameos too. Hate to judge a man by his friends, but the company he keeps, as much as his own unrestrained sound and Rubber Band-meets-Velvet Goldmine fashion sense, confirm that Sherman's not just another dry funk-fetishizing scholar. The grooves are assembled on the more-is-more principle: no form of dance music since the early 70s goes completely untapped here, but the essence is rich, thick, oozy space goo. RUTH BUZZY 1/24, BEAT KITCHEN This trio got its start as a duo in Bloomington in the mid-90s, then took on Busker Soundcheck's Paul Kamp as bassist when it moved to Chicago in '97. Mission Statement (Veronica) is only the band's second album, but it sounds like they put their downtime to good use. Mostly they play an intelligent, slightly blustery brand of pop rock, like XTC with the fuzz turned up, but it's in the uncharacteristic stuff--the goofball country number "Porchlight," the quiet, pleading melody of "You Still Believe in Me"--that their smarts and heart really show. This is a release party. JASON RINGENBERG 1/25, OLD TOWN SCHOOL If you've been following the recent activity of Original Cowpunk Jason Ringenberg you probably saw this coming--first the love song to his baby (the gorgeous "For Addie Rose," on 2000's A Pocketful of Soul) and now a CD aimed at his young daughters' demographic. A Day at the Farm With Farmer Jason (Yep Roc) is a musical picture book, taking the detailed critter cataloguing (a la "Old MacDonald") kids love to new extremes. Titles like "The Tractor Goes Chug Chug Chug," "A Guitar Pickin' Chicken," and "He's a Hog Hog Hog" give such a clear idea of what you're in for, it seems almost redundant to have songs attached to them. But corny as it is, it's delivered with skill, joy, and love. Ringenberg hasn't given up rocking for grown-ups either--there's a new album due later this year. This is a noon matinee. MAMMALS 1/27, GUNTHER MURPHY'S Evolver (Humble Abode), the first studio release from this young Hudson Valley string band, is a wonderful piece of trad revisionism that leaves slicker pretenders to the outhouse throne, like Nickel Creek, in its dust. Tao Rodriguez-Seeger (grandson of Pete) grew up in Nicaragua and is working on a Spanish-language solo album, but he plays banjo like he's never been out of the Tennessee hills; Ruth Ungar (herself the offspring of working folkies) chips in some fiery fiddling and homespun singing. And Michael Merenda writes originals--"69 Pleasant Street," for instance--that sit comfortably alongside covers like Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" and reinvigorated chestnuts like "Way Down the Old Plank Road." At their best, his arrangements and delivery have the luminosity of early Simon & Garfunkel. STARSAILOR 1/28, METRO These NME darlings recorded a few songs for their new Silence Is Easy (EMI) with Phil Spector, just before the esteemed eccentric made his bid for 15 minutes of Celebrity Justice. A little murder-mystery fear could have taken the record in an interesting direction, but no such luck: their "heartfelt," reverent rock still sounds frightfully mundane, though it isn't every band that can make lyrical allusions to This Is Spinal Tap without seeming to realize it's supposed to be funny. MILK AT MIDNIGHT 1/29, METRO The members of this trio have paid their dues in a fair number of local combos (Today's My Super Spaceout Day is probably the best known), and seem to have learned a few lessons the hard way. They're celebrating the release of the new band's first full-length, A Fit to End All Time (Agatha's Records): a sharp-angled, high-spired architectural folly. The kind of artsy-aggro ambition found here can't help but lead to some moments that jell beautifully and others that miss by a mile. Get past the indie-rock trappings to the high guitar drama beneath and this starts to sound like a near-great homage to Jane's Addiction--I'll certainly take it over anything Perry Farrell's done for us lately.

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