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The little continent that could

| September 9, 2011 | 0 Comments

With colorful exports such as Kylie Minogue, Nick Cave, and Cut Copy, it’s easy to forget the gritty side of Australia. Paul Kelly arrives in town next week, as do non-compatriots John Hiatt, The Jim Jones Revue, Adam Levy, Painted Palms, and The Dirt Daubers.

Paul Kelly is one of those national treasures of which Americans sit curiously unaware. Like Cliff Richard, The Tragically Hip, or Charles Aznavour, he’s an institution whose decades-long standing as such more or less means it will remain underheralded. This rare, five-city tour comes following the digital release of Greatest Hits: Songs From The South, which hits stores as a double-disc set in late October. It was a tough task for the compilers to pare down his 30-year catalog, so they stopped at 40 songs — probably a bit much for newbies. (Conversely, there’s also an eight-disc, 105-track box set in the pipeline.)

Originally a child of Australia’s pub-rock scene, he began tapering his output to the island-continent’s unique experience, becoming something of a coarse-surfaced John Mellencamp. His most iconic song, 1987’s “To Her Door,” was named one of Australasia’s greatest recordings despite a rather prominent F-bomb. These appearances have been marketed as the “A To Z” shows — 50 tracks in alphabetical order. (Monday and Tuesday@Schubas.)

Of course, you can’t blame Americans for not knowing Kelly when they hardly know one of their own. John Hiatt has been scratching at the door since ’74, subsidizing his career as a solo artist by writing hits for others. He’s been idling just beneath the surface since ’87, when Bring The Family won him overdue — but not quite bronze — status. The beautiful thing about Hiatt is you don’t need a double-disc anthology when a new album like this year’s Dirty Jeans & Mudslide Hymns (New West) provides 11 solid entries for fans who’ve put down the book or ones who never opened it in the first place. His is the final Ravinia Festival performance of 2011. (Sunday@Ravinia with Big Head Todd & The Monsters.)

When the statistics were tallied this week and Lil Wayne topped Billboard, the chart-keepers revealed he’d sold a whopping 700K more albums than the debutante in slot 2, Red Hot Chili Peppers. As the Peppers are one of America’s biggest rock bands, the numbers go a long way to explain why Q101 and rock stations everywhere have fallen by the wayside. Here to stomp on the grave, The Jim Jones Revue — and, ironically, Jim Jones is also the name of a prominent rapper — play four-on-the-floor, barroom stomp like the music will disappear tomorrow. Less immediately bluesy than Jon Spencer Blues Explosion but equally ostentatious, Burning Your House Down violates the fossils of the MC5, Mitch Ryder, Ike Turner, and Jerry Lee. (Wednesday@Schubas with Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds.)

Despite song titles like “I Wish I Could Change Your Mind,” “There’s A Light,” and “Promised Land,” Adam Levy sounds nothing like Tyrone Davis, The Smiths, or Bruce Springsteen. Not to devalue his lyrical ability, the heartbeat of The Heart Collector is “When I Lose Myself,” a rich, acoustic instrumental that mirrors the fluid playing on each of the cuts. Another highlight is an uncommissioned sequel to Sam Phillips’ “Edge Of The World,” whereby the protagonist inhabits Levy’s title track and examines his nefarious mind. (Tuesday@Space with Ernie Halter.)

Australia might be able to hide Paul Kelly from satellite view, but Louisiana keeps New Orleans jazz right on the front porch. That’s why it’s surprising to learn Painted Palms‘ origins — psychedelic, Animal Collectivist prog-pop owes as much to the bayou as Tinariwen would. Working in a style du jour is never easy for a young band, but Palms’ Canopy EP (Secretly Canadian) offers its best work when backed with a pulsating club beat like on “Great White” and the cascading “Water Hymn”; opener “All Of Us” ably mimics what it’d be like to swim in a rainbow Jello mold, but it’s more a distillation of music already out there than a challenge. (Tuesday@Empty Bottle with Braids and Pepper Rabbit.)

Colonel JD Wilkes keeps it in the family for his Legendary Shack Shakers side-project, The Dirt Daubers. Named for a Southern wasp, Wilkes and wife spark a swarm of guitar, mandolin, and front-porch accouterments in spare arrangements that envisage what Squirrel Nut Zippers would sound like after hard times hit. Wake Up, Sinners chugs past at a dizzying pace, proving that even if the South never rises again, string-band music always will. (Tuesday@Hideout with Wagons.)

— Steve Forstneger

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Category: Stage Buzz, Weekly

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