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Taylor day

| November 9, 2011 | 0 Comments

Six years ago, Maria Taylor made a solo album. We’ll give you one guess which night the author of 11:11 plays Chicago. Also in town this weekend: John Scofield, Ron Pope, The Dirt Drifters, Nikki Lane, and Premonition13.

Ten years ago, Azure Ray became one of the first non-Omaha-based bands to gain membership on Conor Oberst’s Saddle Creek roster. Half of the duo, Maria Taylor, was a precocious 25-year-old crafting delicate, lovelorn dream-pop with her delightfully named partner, Orenda Fink. Five years later she made her solo debut and, after a one-off with Nettwerk Records, returned to Saddle Creek for this summer’s Overlook. If that seems like an abundance of history, that’s because the weight of experience guides the album. The tone is partially informed by frequent Southern and Americana accents, but Taylor’s vocal confidence is a string that ties its more urbane, sexual instincts to the rustic provincialism of her distant past. (Friday@Subterranean with Dead Fingers and The Grenadines.)

In the shadow of gold’s almost unsustainable price rise as a commodity, the dollar has made a good showing in late 2011 (thanks, Euro-zone crisis!) as has dirt. On the heels of The Dirt Daubers’ summer performance, The Dirt Drifters campaign their major-label debut in town. This Is My Blood (Warner Bros.) makes muscular, melodic minced meat of Nashville pop-rock twang. Heavily preoccupied with a working-class living, opening track “Something Better” laments the lifestyle but the band’s tour schedule — stopping in Effingham and Pontiac on their way through Chicago to Chattanooga — shows they’re ready to put in the hours. A bit heavy-handed in their approach, the Drifters leave clear lyrical opportunities — like the drinking problem lurking beneath “Always A Reason,” or the dead-end tribalism crowding “Sun Goes Down” — behind to paint in the lines. (Friday@Joe’s On Weed with Easton Corbin.)

Dance music’s unexpected revival in America has compelled thousands of Internet users to dismiss the style’s perpetrators as talentless, a dismissal that rock fans have waged against hip-hop since its inception. It’s also something classic rockers brandished against punk, hair-metal against grunge, etc., with a blind eye to rock’s treatment from jazz and folk aficionados in the ’50s and ’60s. The mantra obviously goes back a bit further, when jazz was denounced as lower-class perversion of the standard musical form, a grimy lurch born of bordellos and all manner of addicts. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, however, which is how we arrive at John Scofield‘s gig this weekend. On his latest album, A Moment’s Peace (Decca), the veteran guitarist makes like Wes Montgomery to Larry Goldings’ Jimmy Smith, a low-key saunter through dark alleys. His usual lite-funk has been swapped for a candlelit lounge atmosphere, one perfect for his slowly congealing take on “I Loves You Porgy.” (Friday@Symphony Center with Ravi Coltrane.)

You expect someone with the last name Pope to have a certain conviction in his views, an unwavering belief that there’s indeed only one way to rock. For Ron Pope, that doesn’t mean an AC/DC-like adherence to power chords and a midtempo beat, but rather an unflinching sincerity that can turn the most lighthearted rocker into a personal statement. Whatever It Takes does exactly that to make sure you understand he means every note, lyric, pause, and bead of sweat — and, admittedly, Pope could use a little levity. He’s backed himself into a corner where he relax on so much as a beat, which is where his fans win. (Friday@Uncommon Ground on Devon; Saturday@Penny Road Pub.)

If you want to know what Nikki Lane looks like, we emphatically recommend you turn your SafeSearch settings to “Moderate” before you use Google images. Even when you do, however, it’ll take you a second to reconcile the granola hipster her in press photos with the nasally twang of her dustbowl Americana. Even her debut album’s title, Walk Of Shame (Iamsound), seems better suited for Lydia Loveless or Kesha than the narrator of “Hard Livin’,” who’s watching someone drink themselves into oblivion. Less sonorous than Neko Case but sticking to a lo-fi aesthetic, Shame steps off of dirt paths often enough to invoke elements of surf (the title track) and country gospel (“Save You”), and still varies her downhome approach from countrypolitan to the nod to “Lonesome, On’ry And Mean” of “I Can’t Be Satisfied.” (Friday and Saturday@Lincoln Hall with Noah & The Whale.)

Wino Weinrich probably doesn’t mean to trample on his own work, but news of St. Vitusfirst new album since 1995 will surely take some of the steam out of his push behind Premonition13‘s debut, 13 (Volcom). Of course, whether it’s The Obsessed, Vitus, Shrinebuilder, Spirit Caravan, or any of his myriad other projects, you know what you’re getting. One of the supposed beauties of stoner metal is if you can only give 70 or so percent, hey man, all right! But 13 breathes a respectable fire, with miles of solos wrapping around an endless supply of riffs. If Vitus can match this, we welcome them back. (Sunday@Cobra Lounge with Gates Of Slumber.)

— Steve Forstneger

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Category: Stage Buzz, Weekly

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