Of course, the first thing here is RIP Valerie Starr taken from all of us and from the world far, far too soon. A brilliant mind, a font of endless charm and delight, and a fascinating artist who was only beginning to show the world what she had to offer. My heart goes out to her husband, Talcott Starr, and all the many, many people she touched.
If you like retro sounds of one stripe or another, there is an embarrassment of riches in Columbus this week; more than I could reasonably fit in my top five.
July 6: Dale Watson. Woodlands Tavern, 1200 W 3rd Ave.
At the height of my alt.country fandom, I never found a better singer than the hardcore classicist Dale Watson. I came to him with the I Hate These Songs record on HighTone (much missed aesthetically but I hear not so much from a people or fiscal perspective) and that might still be my high-water mark for a contemporary honky-tonk record.
Watson’s chiseled good looks (well-preserved as he’s gone into silver fox territory), silky baritone and boundless charisma are all so striking they’ll drag you into the bar floating like a cartoon, but most of what keeps you there is the songs. Watson understands the pacing of a set, when to break out a weepy ballad and when to kick it up to a shuffle or a two-step. All these styles have been synthesized, with a bone-deep understanding, into a personal voice that lifts songs of Watson’s like “I Wish I was Crazy Again”, “Every Song I Write is For You”, “I Lie When I Drink”, “Louie’s Lee’s Liquor Lounge”, or “Call Me Insane” above a Lefty Frizzell pastiche that sends you home wanting to listen to the real thing. These songs are the real thing. This band is the real thing. Dale Watson is the real fucking thing.
Show starts at 9:00pm. Tickets and more info at http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=5826515&pl=wood
July 7: Sarah Borges and Amy Black’s Muscle Shoals Revue. Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza, 5601 N High St.
Much like Dale Watson (and a couple things discussed last week), the Fitzgerald’s American Music Festival pays Columbus dividends by putting us in the path of two of Boston’s finest singer-songwriters: Sarah Borges and Amy Black, bringing their special Muscle Shoals show to our finest overall listening room.
Borges is one of the finest writers and interpreters of song I’ve ever seen. The first time I saw her, at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan, doing “The Day We Met” almost made me drop my drink all over the row in front of me – I didn’t, but it was close. Every time after that when I saw her, the Mannerchor in Columbus twice, Fitzgerald’s in Chicago, talking other friends of mine into seeing her in Boston and St Louis, she had a purity of voice, a sharp wit and a way of getting to the marrow of the song and making it both writ-large and human sized that’s never bettered and damn near unparalleled. Beyond her own songs, she’s done phenomenal covers of Smokey Robinson’s “Being With You”, Compulsive Gamblers’ “Stop and Think it Over”, NRBQ’s “It Comes to Me Naturally”, Tom Waits’ “Blind Love”, and Hank Ballard’s “Open Up Your Back Door” so seeing her dig into Muscle Shoals’ rock and soul should be a treat.
I don’t know Amy Black’s work as well but the handful of songs I’ve heard off her Muscle Shoals Sessions record are world-beaters. If this won’t get you out on a Tuesday, nothing will.
Show starts at 9:00pm. Tickets and more info available at http://nataliescoalfiredpizza.com/?p=7395
July 8: Wreckless Eric. Strongwater Food and Spirits, 401 W Town St.
Wreckless Eric (née Eric Goulden) has had at least one eye on mortality and the danger and crushing disappointment inherent in daring to dream your own dreams since his days on Stiff Records in the late 1970s.
No matter how weighty the themes he’s wrestled with, Wreckless Eric found bouncy melodies and irrepressible, unforgettable hooks to wrap that darkness in so his work never feels monochromatic. He makes – yes, still makes, both solo and with his partner Amy Rigby – classic powerpop that’s about the world and about a depth of feeling, not just the depth of somebody’s record collection.
Ken Eppstein’s Nix Comics – whose work also gets better and better and more unique with every year – is putting on this show in one of our most gorgeous bars/event spaces, Strongwater.
Show starts at 8:00pm. Tickets and more information available at http://nixcomics.com/
July 9: Ghostface Killah and Raekwon. Park Street Saloon, 525 N Park St.
Raekwon’s Only Bult 4 Cuban Linx which heavily featured Ghost might be the best of the first wave of Wu-Tang Clan solo records. Those records are all so good that’s an impossible call to make but it’s certainly a record I take out and put on regularly even 20 years later.
Both rappers also tour regularly so they haven’t been growing cobwebs in the studio during the intervening years so this reunion for the 20th anniversary of that landmark record shouldn’t be missed.
Doors at 8:00pm. Tickets and more info available at http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=5953505
July 11: 4th and 4th Fest. Seventh Son Brewing, 1101 N 4th St.
Revelator Productions’ 4th and 4th Fest has always had one foot in national acts, separating it from many of the Summer festivals in Columbus, and making it more than just a substitute for Surly Girl’s much-missed Parking Lot Blowout on this weekend in the same part of town. They’ve outdone themselves this year with a gobsmacking afternoon/evening of music. I’m going to touch on a couple personal highlights.
Nots is one of the most exciting rock bands I’ve seen in years. Based out of Memphis and led by Natalie Hoffman and Charlotte Watson, when they take the stage it’s a torrent of sparks and heat and acid. They put out a record on Goner last year I can’t stop listening to. Seeing them on a bigger stage on a summer afternoon, for me, was worth the ticket price all on its own.
Nobunny’s a little more seasoned but I’ve never seen him disappoint whoever’s in his backing band. Chuck Berry riffs filtered through the Cramps’ horror imagery isn’t a new concept but whenever Nobunny takes the stage it’s easy to forget any antecedent for his sound and approach. If you can get through a set of his without dancing like a moron, you’re made of stronger stuff than I am.
Turbo Fruits, led by Jonas Stein, have sanded down some of their rough edges since their first record with Ecstatic Peace after breaking off from Be Your Own Pet but they still have those infectious hooks, even in a more stadium-rock package. Jaill bring a jittery, dance floor-ready, surf inflected rock with great, heartbroken vocals.
The locals on the bill are no slouch either – Cherry Chrome and American Jobs are two breaths of fresh, new air in a city sometimes prone to recycle whatever worked year in and year out.
Show starts at noon. Tickets and more info available here: http://4thand4th.com/