The Set List
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
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
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
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
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).
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
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
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