Wednesday, January 14, 2009

[The Record Crate] In Search of "Jam"

I am generally not a big fan of “jam band music,” not because out of some tiresome problem with hippies but because, in my experience, it rarely delivers on its meager promise. I want the band to jam, and they just never seem to do it. Instead you get limp improvisations around limper songs, cycling endlessly through the trappings of a forced demographic defining themselves on a nostalgia they likely didn’t directly experience. Not that there is anything wrong with that -- every music fan aligns themselves with some music they deem “real” -- but the jam band thing hits me as particularly forced. Fortunately North Mississippi All-Stars is an exception.

NMAS is a jam band by association mostly; really they are a meeting of the progeny of roots music champion Bruce Dickinson and the late Mississippi blues powerhouse R.L. Burnside in some lost, backwoods Delta nexus, channeling the power of everything from cotton field work chants to Sun Records, taking the chains off the blues and rock ’n’ roll, letting that dog run like it wants to. Last time I saw them, they managed to make something as horribly egregious as a washboard solo become a thing of feral transcendent joy. In sum, North Mississippi All-Stars is a band that jams, a feat you can bear witness to on Thursday at The Varsity.

Our other large performing arts theater is being put to good use this week. The Manship Theatre is hosting two-night run of Three Redneck Tenors, a Joe 12-pack spoof of the ubiquitous opera singer showcases of the last decade.

Folk music legend Richie Havens will take the Manship stage on Sunday night. Havens emerged out of the same fertile Greenwich Village scene as did Bob Dylan in the mid-1960s and rose up the ranks to be the opening act at Woodstock. More of an interpreter than a songwriter, it was his version of “Motherless Child” from Woodstock that launched him to international fame. His distinctive voice and guitar style, heard in everything from jingles to the Tibet Freedom Concert, have made Havens one of our country’s most treasured musical talents. He will be at the Manship on Sunday.

Monday night, the Manship will host four international masters of the guitar: French fingerstyle virtuoso Pierre Bensusan, classical guitarist Benjamin Verdery, Argentina’s Cecilia Zabala and American “guitar poet” Brian Gore. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: Masterful guitar music is what the intimate Manship stage is designed for, and this event on Tuesday night should only underscore my claim.

And, should you hunger for spectacular guitar jams not sated by the above, Texas outlaw country guitar slinger Eric Taylor will be at the Red Dragon on Thursday night and Mississippi blues swinger Lil Dave Thompson will be up at Teddy’s Juke Joint on Saturday night.

Thursday, Jan. 15

North Mississippi All-Stars at The Varsity

Eric Taylor at the Red Dragon

The Vettes, Oh Juliet, and Norico at Chelsea’s

I, Octopus and Panthalassa at North Gate Tavern

Friday, Jan. 16

Struggle Bear at Spanish Moon

The Captain Legendary Band at Chelsea’s

Rebecca Rubion at North Gate Tavern

Marcus Elizondo and Michael Juan Nunez & American Electric at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux’s

Dave Matthews Tribute Band at The Varsity

Three Redneck Tenors at Manship Theatre

Saturday, Jan. 17

CombiChrist, Black Light Burns, and Retard-o-Bot at the Spanish Moon

Jason Hilbun & the Homewreckers and Polly Pry at Chelsea’s

Supervillian at North Gate Tavern

The Lance Younger Band at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux’s

Three Redneck Tenors at Manship Theatre

Lil Dave Thompson at Teddy’s Juke Joint

Sunday, Jan. 18

Richie Havens at Manship Theatre

Monday, Jan. 19

Caspar & the House of David at Chelsea’s

Tuesday, Jan. 20

International Guitar Night at Manship Theatre

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1 comment:

  1. Not even NMAS do it for me. Too often, "jam" in jam band parlance equal solo tag with little happening collectively. It's also woefully inefficient, going on and on in hopes of a moment when magic actually happens.

    Then again, I'm not into drugs, and I'm willing to believe this is the one music that you must consume drugs to get. And part of me is very happy to have a substantial part of the contemporary music community into a music that requires drug use. Something needs to create an element of danger at a time when the mainstream culture seems able to neutralize almost any threat by accepting it.