Slaid Cleaves lays down a serpentine path through the landscape of heartbreak on his latest album Everything You Love Will be Taken Away. On "Run Jolee Run" he urges his protagonist to flee the life in which she's found herself, while in "Black T-Shirt" he details the signs of embarking on that dangerous journey with "Gotta black eye and you wear it proud/Guns 'n' Roses way up loud." Cleaves is one of those guys that will turn you around on the whole singer-songwriter thing, real live flapping on the line like wet towels, stories all the fresher for having hung in the effortless breeze of his songs. He performs with fellow songwriter Michael O'Conner at the Red Dragon Listening Room on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, Jazz legend Ahmad Jamal will play two shows at the Manship Theatre. In the 1950s, Jamal's atmospheric take on jazz piano was big influence on Miles Davis' quintet work with Coltrane that led up to Kind of Blue, but Jamal has pursued his muse across the decades, weaving his experience with the times to reveal the larger fabric of jazz. He lent the progressive jazz of the 1970s a masterful grace on The Awakening, even recreating his 1963 smash I on a 2008 live album. This is a rare chance to see one of the most important figures in jazz in such intimate surroundings.
But that's not all for Thursday: Pop rock outfit Cage the Elephant seems to be everywhere all of a sudden: radio, festival shows, even in the video game Borderlands, and this week, that everywhere includes the Varsity stage.
Pete Yorn continues to brush the eclectic edge of the pop spectrum, recently recording a surprisingly charming album called Break Up with Scarlett Johansson (better than her recent Tom Waits cover album anyway). There is no word as to whether Johansson will be gracing the Varsity stage with him on Saturday or not (I'm thinking it unlikely), but Yorn's immediately-embraceable material should suffice. That said, I think it is safe to say Scarlett Johansson's appearance would be warmly-welcomed at any of the aforementioned shows.