Hank Williams, Jr.
Though he first appeared on the Grand Ole Opry at age 11, performing his late father’s tunes, Hank Williams, Jr., later chose to rebel against the expectations heaped upon him as the son of the greatest country music singer of all time by cranking up the electric guitars and extolling the virtues of smoking pot while sipping Jim Beam. Never mind that his dad had been shooting up morphine long before Hank, Jr., puffed his first joint. Maybe the real reason he chose to rebel was that his father nicknamed him Bocephus, after a dummy used by a Grand Ole Opry ventriloquist. Regardless, Hank, Sr.’s devout legions didn’t quite know what to make of Junior’s version of a hillbilly, but his undying allegiance to the Confederate flag had them in his corner in no time. Originally viewed as an embarrassment by hardcore country fans, Williams Jr.’s, crass songs were merely caricatures of the plaintive, stark beauty of country music. For the past decade, however, he’s been more or less a saving grace in a world where Shania Twain and Tim McGraw are revered more than Loretta Lynn and George Jones, though he’ll never live down those jingles that promote “Monday Night Football.” (Saturday, September 13, at Oak Mountain Amphitheater, 7:20 p.m.; $10-$39.75. R.S.) —Ed Reynolds
It’s been hard times for those who prefer Son Volt to the suddenly-sanctified Wilco. Jay Farrar didn’t even rate a mention in the Wilco documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (despite his long history with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy in Uncle Tupelo), and then Farrar’s first post-Son Volt project got swamped in the wake of Wilco’s lousy Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Fortunately, this bought Farrar the time to record ThirdShiftGrottoSlack, an EP on which he finally ditched Americana and started exploring his avant leanings. Now, all of his visions have come together with Terroir Blues, a 23-track collection of gorgeous, quiet compositions augmented by noisy interludes and assorted reprises. Neil Young couldn’t have come up with a better mix of ambitious indulgence and genuine talent. The critics, naturally, aren’t pleased. Farrar probably couldn’t be happier. (Wednesday, September 17, at WorkPlay, 10 p.m. $20.) —J.R. Taylor
Hayseed Dixie/The Kerosene Brothers
Or Bill Dana opening for Jose Jimenez. Hayseed Dixie has been more successful than they could have hoped by playing bluegrass covers of AC/DC and Kiss. Now it’s time for the Kerosene Brothers to tour on Hayseed’s coattails—and those are mighty short coattails since The Kerosene Brothers are Hayseed Dixie in their purest form, before an indulgent side-project kinda took over their careers. Choose Your Own Title shows the Kerosene Brothers bringing that Hayseed energy to their own fun originals, with no hint of any deep insight having been buried by their successful alter-egos. It’s simply one good joke after another, and it’s not their fault if the joke has become more believable than most acts’ sincerity. (Wednesday, September 24, at The Nick.) —J.R.T.
They should be calling it the “Sorry About the ’90s” Tour since Michael Stipe can no longer tell the executives at his record label that questions about sales performance are “mean-spirited.” There have even been rumors of advance money being handed back, although that remains unconfirmed.
Let’s concede that some people out there are looking forward to buying R.E.M.’s recent best-of compilation, even after hearing the crappy new single. Meanwhile, the vast majority of fans haven’t really cared about anything R.E.M. has recorded since 1992. The fans haven’t missed a thing, either. Pete Buck still drinks and plays too much, Mike Mills remains the only talented member, and none of them know how to produce a rock album. The Michael Stipe co-produced American Movie, however, was a pretty cool film.
Sparklehorse, incidentally, is an R.E.M. tribute band, in that leader Mark Linkous’ rote sound collages—occasionally containing a good melody—are a tribute to how so many lame art-rockers have been able to limp along thanks to R.E.M.’s support over the years. Thankfully, that’s pretty much over, too. (Wednesday, September 24, at Oak Mountain Amphitheatre, 7:30 p.m. $15-$60 R.S.) —J.R.T.
The Polyphonic Spree/Starlight Mints/Corn Mo
Redefining both cult-rock and the cult of Mitch Miller, Tim Delaughter’s (former singer for Tripping Daisy) traveling band of white-robed glee clubbers sounds like an honest big deal on Beginning Stages of the Polyphonic Spree. They also do a fine job of burying the lame Sunshine Pop scene that came skipping out of the 1960s. Unlike their hippie forebears, this 24-piece ensemble plays off orchestral arrangements and fun synth touches to create truly entertaining pop masterpieces.
There’s also the occasional artistic misfire. But the only real problem is that nobody seems to remember how to actually produce a record by a big choral group nowadays. You have to see the band live to appreciate some of the delicate touches that are wiped away in the album’s traditionalist rock mix.
Starlight Mints are a proudly trippy act in their own right, getting past their dull power-pop roots and now indulging in a lot of privileged quirkiness on Built for Squares. And it’s left to Corn Mo to represent the Great Spirit in his role as the Heavy Metal/Prog-Rockin’ God of the Accordion. (See feature, this issue.) (Thursday, September 25, at WorkPlay, 8 p.m. $15) —J.R.T.
Caitlin Cary/Mimi Holland
College begins, and this former Whiskeytown girl stays on the road, and that’s pretty good news for fans of both country-pop and spoken word. There’s simply no live act that better captures the simple charm of a witty Southern gal—except maybe Rufus Wainwright. And the band plays up the jangle-pop subtext that makes I’m Staying Out such an impressive recovery from Cary’s lousy debut album. (Cary only, Friday, September 12, at Laser’s Edge CDs, 5:30 p.m. Free admission; Cary and Holland, Friday, September 12, at WorkPlay, 9 p.m. $15.) —J.R.T.
Remember how stupid those Brits looked battling it out between Oasis and Blur? Canadians were reduced to taking sides between Blue Rodeo and The Tragically Hip—two interesting, brooding bands that each took their time compiling an album’s worth of decent live material. Blue Rodeo gets some bonus points for being a lot more Canadian, though, slowly compiling an epic farmland rock opera. In the process, they managed a few masterpieces and a lot of pleasant minor tunes. They’re still a big deal back home, but it’s always enjoyable to see Blue Rodeo working small clubs and pulling out greatest hits for an audience that’s never heard of them. (Friday, September 12, at The Nick.) —J.R.T.
It’s funny how quickly Leon Redbone has been forgotten in the midst of the continual O’ Brother mania, despite his having a long-standing set list that could’ve passed for a rough version of the film’s soundtrack. He’s certainly contributed to his own low profile, too. A night at the local public library seems like a step up from touring kiddie shows, but at least it’s one less tax dollar being spent on a professional storyteller. And though his Panama Jack routine was thoroughly tired by the ’80s, he’s spent his old age priming himself as a blues guitar god capable of replicating lost artists. Redbone’s death will be like losing Tiny Tim, taking a good section of the Great American Songbook with him. (Friday and Saturday, September 12 and 13, at the Hoover Public Library, 8 p.m. $15.) —J.R.T. &