Category Archives: The Set List

The Set List — Roberta Flack

By Ed Reynolds and Bart Grooms

Roberta Flack has made a career singing boring pop that has about as much passion as Liza Minelli or Phoebe Snow. So it’s hard to fathom that a breathtaking song on Flack’s debut album First Take that Clint Eastwood demanded be included on the soundtrack of his film Play Misty for Me rates as a true 24-karat masterpiece. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” is nothing short of spellbinding, an awe-inspiring, hypnotic slice of musical history that rarely fails to make one stop whatever they’re doing and simply listen. To her credit, Flack told music big shots and producers overseeing her career to take a hike when told to speed up the tempo. Instead, her voice approaches each phrase with a delicate caress. Too bad she couldn’t pull off that neat trick again with “Killing Me Softly,” “Where is the Love [with the late Donny Hathaway],” “The Closer I Get to You,” and, of course, the thoroughly irritating “Tonight I Celebrate My Love for You.” (Saturday, January 22, at the BJCC Concert Hall) —Ed Reynolds

Roberta Flack (click for larger version)

Regina Carter


Regina Carter (click for larger version)

Although she later received classical training, violinist Regina Carter began the way many of her jazz forbearers did—playing by ear. She later mastered written music and theory, but as she puts it, “I think that kind of experience has freed my playing up a lot more, so I’m not stuck on the page. A lot of people are afraid not to have a piece of music in front of them.” She sees her mission as expanding the profile of and approach to her instrument, and to this end she plays in an aggressive, often percussive manner that recalls the great Stuff Smith’s bluesy swagger more than, say, Stéphane Grappelli’s more refined style. “Instead of being so melodic,” states the fiddler, “which I can be, I tend to use the instrument in more of a rhythmic way, using vamp rhythms or a lot of syncopated rhythms, approaching it more like a horn player does. So, I don’t feel that I have a lot of limitations —I feel like I can do anything.” Indeed, what she can do is pretty striking, and her quintet’s ASC concert on Saturday, January 22, at 8 p.m. will give us an opportunity to hear for ourselves. Until then, her beguiling duet album with master pianist Kenny Barron (Freefall, on Verve) is highly recommended. Tickets are $46, $36, and $26; For more information call 975-2787 or visit —Bart Grooms

Set List: Ludacris, Tobi Keith, The Isley Brothers, and more


The Set List


July 29, 2004Little Charlie and the Nightcats
In a world saturated with bad blues acts, swing and jump blues masters Little Charlie and the Nightcats provide redemption for the most worn-out genre in the history of music. They’re the best blues band in the world. Despite Charlie Baty’s talent at dashing off clever and tasteful guitar licks, the real show-stealer is harmonica virtuoso and wry vocalist Rick Estrin. (Estrin’s immaculate, eye-popping suits are worth the price of admission alone.) His gangster persona never fails to entertain. (Saturday, July 31, at Workplay; 7 p.m.; $15-$17.) — Ed Reynolds

Mac McAnally
He started out as the Warren Zevon for the Jimmy Buffet set. Mac McAnally then spent the ’80s putting out great country-pop albums that could’ve spared us the Americana movement had they been more successful. Fortunately, he’s been covered enough to guarantee that labels would fund his own string of ’90s releases (most of which went straight to the cheap bins). The patronage of David Geffen has also ensured the occasional windfall from projects like the soundtrack to The Prince of Egypt. Europeans still haven’t discovered McAnally as a cult figure, though, most likely because very few recording artists can do justice to his unashamedly emotional tunes. Adrienne Barbeau has recorded an impressively torchy version of “All These Years,” though. (Tuesday, August 3, at Zydeco; 8 p.m. $15.) —J.R. Taylor

Little Charlie and the Nightcats (click for larger version)


Don’t mistake this for a KISS reunion tour. It’s really another fine summer cash-in, but it pales next to the potential of the Gene Simmons solo tour we should be enjoying. Poison deserves the privileged opening slot, though, since they were always The Ramones in spandex. Nobody wrote better pop songs about girls and best friends—at least, for about two years back in the ’80s. Here’s a Don Dokken quote that really sums up the band’s long career: “Poison’s having the last laugh on all of us. It makes me feel like I wasted a lot of time practicing guitar and reading poetry.” (Tuesday, August 3, at Verizon Music Center; 7:30 p.m. $25-$60 R.S.) —J.R. Taylor


Poison (click for larger version)

Garrison Starr
Don’t blame Hilary Duff because Garrison Starr isn’t on a major label. Airstreams & Satellites is an album worthy of any woman who’s been around long enough to be Duff’s mom. True adult pop still doesn’t sell—but if it did, Starr’s defiant jangle-pop would ensure that her posters covered the bedroom walls of many beleaguered adults. (Wednesday, August 4, at Workplay; 8 p.m. $17; Laser’s Edge in-store concert; TBA; free admission.) —J.R. Taylor

Toby Keith/Terri Clark
They’re still terrified of Southern rednecks, so Toby Keith has certainly done his part to keep country scary for the national media. The press will never get close enough to appreciate his complexity, either. In that same spirit, Terri Clark’s new Greatest Hits collection showcases one of country’s most bizarre femmes—or soft butches, as the case may be—who has an angry sexuality that doesn’t scare away the fans of her fun and tuneful work. (Thursday, August 5, at Verizon Music Center; 7:30 p.m. $32-$64.) —J.R. Taylor

Ludacris/Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz/Sleepy Brown/David Banner
Everybody knows Ludacris is so crazy, and Sleepy Brown is still an unknown quantity when not performing with Outkast. That leaves David Banner, who is this bill’s biggest deal as the critics’ darling of Crunk—mostly because he adds a spiritual spin to rapping about the joys of bouncing along in a Cadillac. Banner also has an impressive stash of instrumental tricks, and everyone likes the idea of storytellers coming out of Mississippi. Lil Jon & the East Side Boys, however, remain the true Kings of Crunk, and not just because they used the word as an album title back in 2002. Their big jeep beats are the closest that Southern hip-hop will ever get to matching the stigma of bad Southern Rock blaring from Camaros. (Friday, August 6, at Alabama State Fairgrounds; 7 p.m. $25 per day; $40 for weekend.) —J.R. Taylor

The Isley Brothers featuring Ronald Isley/The Gap Band/Bobby Womack/Avant/The Bar-Kays
The Isley Brothers are back to being chart-topping pop stars, so there’s little to add there. The Gap Band and The Bar-Kays are equally iconic as vanguards of funk. So that leaves Bobby Womack sorely in need of being remembered as a soulful crooner whose long, long career has him defining any number of genres. This singer/songwriter has plenty of hits to fill his stage time, but Womack could’ve also built an entire alternate career out of some stunning album tracks. He’s still a great live act, too. Avant also appears as the token young-blood soul man who’s probably thrilled to share a bill with guys who were legends before he was born. (Saturday, August 7, at Alabama State Fairgrounds; 5 p.m. $25 per day; $40 for weekend.) —J.R. Taylor


The Isley Brothers (click for larger version)

Bobby Womack
When Bobby Womack was a young man singing in a gospel group with his four brothers, his father, Friendly Sr., warned of eternal damnation if his son went secular, which acquaintance Sam Cooke was encouraging him to do. So what did Womack do? He convinced his brothers to join him on the secular circuit despite threats of damnation. They changed their name from the Womacks to the Valentinos, and released a pair of songs written by Bobby that would be famously recorded by The Rolling Stones ["It's All Over Now"] and The J. Geils Band ["Lookin' for a Love"]. After going solo, Womack later penned many songs for Wilson Pickett (including “I’m a Midnight Mover” and “I’m in Love”) and recorded in the studio or performed live with acts such as Ray Charles, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Sly & the Family Stone. As a solo artist, he had a string of R&B hits, including “Woman’s Gotta Have It,” “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” and the blaxploitation classic “Across 110th Street” (last heard on the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown).

Bobby Womack (click for larger version)

But despite his success, Bobby Womack might have wondered if his dad had been right, because tragedy was not far behind. Womack married Sam Cooke’s wife a few months after Cooke’s murder. The resulting ill will in the R&B community stalled his career, and he began battling a drug addiction that almost killed him. In 1974, Womack’s brother was stabbed to death by his girlfriend at Bobby’s home, and in 1978, Womack’s son Truth Bobby died at the age of four months. Another son committed suicide at age 21.

Throughout his adversity, Womack continued to record and was generally known as a bit of an iconoclast. At one point in the late ’70s, Womack badgered his reluctant label into letting him do a full album of country music, something he’d always loved but that the label regarded as commercially inadvisable. The album, BW Goes C&W, sold poorly. What’s more unfortunate is that the label didn’t release it under the title Womack reportedly wanted: Step Aside, Charley Pride, Give Another Nigger a Try.

Womack’s output slowed throughout the ’80s and ’90s. His last studio recordings were a 1994 album for the label owned by friend Ron Wood and a 1997 gospel album, Back to My Roots. (Saturday, August 7 at Alabama State Fairgrounds, August 6 through 8; $25 per day, $40 for the weekend.) — Ed Reynolds

White Animals
The White Animals date back to precious days when a band had to be sure they had good songs before investing in studio time. They’d be D.I.Y. legends if they’d been turning out bad punk rock. Instead, the White Animals deserve to be heroes of jam bands everywhere for pioneering trashy frat-rock that bespoke a World Music collection instead of a token reggae LP. Actually, they’re probably responsible for a lot of really bad music from bands that followed in their wake. At least their recent originals are pretty good, and they’re touring seldom enough to make this show worth seeing. (Saturday, August 7, at Zydeco; 10 p.m. $10-$12.) —J.R. Taylor

Patterson Hood
In retrospect, Patterson Hood had little to worry about at the start of 2001. His band, the Drive-By Truckers, was already getting more press than any other project from this rapidly aging rocker. Any musician about to tour behind a popular album doesn’t get much sympathy for being recently divorced, either. Hood nevertheless worked out all of his bad feelings in his living room on his new solo album, Killers and Stars—a pleasant diversion from the determined Southern goth of the Truckers. The album is less of a singer/songwriter bid than a look at the self-loathing and self-obsession that eventually turn into grander obsessions for the band project. Hood’s feeling much better, of course, and maybe this solo appearance will bring up some of the poppier tendencies that some of us still hope to hear again. (Thursday, August 12, at Workplay; 9 p.m. $12.) —J.R. Taylor

The Set List — Jimmy Hall

2004-02-12 tracking Music section

By J.R. Taylor, Ed Reynolds, Bart Grooms

“Blow and suck as hard as you can!” That’s the advice former Wet Willie vocalist and harmonica dynamo Jimmy Hall gave local harpist Topper Price during a one-time harmonica lesson decades ago. “Jimmy can sing like an angel,” Price elaborated. “He’s the biggest single reason I do what I do today.” Jimmy Hall has inspired more than just the locals. After an extended stint in the 1970s working every beer shack between New York and L.A.— where Hall’s reputation as a hip-shaking, Dixie-fried Mick Jagger (right down to the big lips) established the band Wet Willie as a Southern heavyweight on par with the Allman Brothers and Marshall Tucker Band— the Mobile native went on to earn a Grammy nomination for his vocal work on Jeff Beck’s Flash in 1985. In fact, Hall came very close to joining the Jeff Beck Group as lead vocalist, a position held at one time by none other than Rod Stewart. He later played sax and harmonica while serving as Hank Williams, Jr.’s bandleader. When Hall performs at the Oasis, he’ll be backed up by Birmingham’s finest: Tim Boykin on guitar, Leif Bondarenko on drums, Eric Onimus on bass, and Macey Taylor on piano. (Friday, February 13, at The Oasis.) —Ed Reynolds

Dillinger Escape Plan
They don’t introduce their songs by name, since that’ll interfere with what this band likely wants to imagine as a sonic assault. It’s also kind of a serious musician pose—which is desperately needed when you’re an acclaimed cutting-edge band hoping that nobody notices that your jagged metal sound is really just rap-rockin’ nü-metal without the sponsorships. (Saturday, February 14, at the Homewood Armory, 6 p.m., $10 adv.) —J.R. Taylor

Flickerstick/Blue Epic
For those with a sense of instant nostalgia, Flickerstick was the big winner on a legit-rock version of American Idol. The resultant album had about the same impact as Justin Guarini’s. So, the dumbest possible thing would be to play up this generic band’s shortcomings with a live album, as they did with the aptly-titled Causing a Catastrophe. Couldn’t they have just made a beach movie with Bijou Phillips? That tense little EP from locals Blue Epic is holding up pretty well, though, although those pleading vocals are probably best served by a five-song format. (Sunday, February 15, The Nick, $7.) —J.R.T.

Mindy Smith and Eliot Morris
She took off after stealing a Dolly Parton tribute from her famous contemporaries, and One Moment More updates Smith’s “Jolene” with harmony vocals from Dolly herself. That’s actually a distraction, though, since Smith’s big talent is that she’s the first great song stylist to come out of Nashville since the early Countrypolitan days. She’s styling her own songs, as we’re reminded by her appearing with Eliot Morris in a concert packaged as a night of singer/songwriters. She writes some beautiful tunes, but watching her pull them off is a real event. You’d never know that she has one of the most limited voices in Nashville. (Thursday, February 19, WorkPlay, 8 p.m. $8.) —J.R.T.

The Red Clay Ramblers
They’re the New Christy Minstrels of string bands, if only because nobody can ever remember the guy who writes their original songs. And if I told you, you’d think I was making fun of his name. Still, the Red Clay Ramblers are also important purveyors of the American songbook, and are versatile enough to toss off some prehistoric jazz and classic novelty tunes. At least the name has become a franchise unto itself, so the band will likely go on in perpetuity. We weren’t that lucky with Tiny Tim. (Saturday, February 21, 8 p.m. and Sunday, February 22, 2:30 p.m. at the Hoover Public Library. Sold out.) —J.R.T.

Smile Empty Soul perform at Banana Joe’s. (click for larger version)

Smile Empty Soul
Last year’s self-titled debut allowed Smile Empty Soul to break new ground in the realm of rock bands that blame their parents for everything. In fact, resentment is pretty much this band’s main product. They resent intrusive parents and neglectful parents—not to mention strip malls and religion. But angry young Sean Danielsen also resents drug use, so there’s something to separate them from Rage Against The Machine. Danielsen probably also resents not being around in 1988, since he’s got a pretty sharp sense of melody that would’ve guaranteed a five-year career arc back in the day. Danielsen wouldn’t have shot his profits up his arm, either. He probably resents the people who did. (Tuesday, February 24, Banana Joes, 8:30 p.m., $5, 18+.) —J.R.T.


Sweet Honey in the Rock perform at the Alys Stephens Center. (click for larger version)

Karen Gruber
Karen Gruber, a fine jazz vocalist, will perform with drummer Sonny Harris’ trio at Moonlight Music Café in Vestavia. Gruber is a thoughtful, articulate singer with a sensual touch to her expression, and she swings in an understated, effective manner. (Wednesday, February 25, Moonlight Music Café, 8 p.m., $10.) —Bart Grooms

Sweet Honey in the Rock at Alys Stephens Center
If you’ve never had the experience of seeing and hearing this a cappella group, get ready to be blown away by their artistry, message, and sheer vocal power. Founded by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon in 1973, this ensemble of six black women (and an expressive sign language interpreter) draws deeply from the well of black church music, adding blues, jazz, and folk tunes for seasoning. Their material ranges from the overtly spiritual to topical explorations of international justice and freedom issues. (Friday, February 27, Alys Stephens Center, 8 p.m., $22-$42.) —B.G.