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WEDNESDAY 5.21

BR549 -- Hell yeah, a real country band in the midst of race week. While local country stations dole out slick pop-country swill, these cats crank out a killer show of retro twang. They're not too shabby when it comes to rockabilly and straight hillbilly boogie either. They've dropped the hyphen (from BR5-49) and a couple of members as well. The current line-up is comprised of original members Chuck Mead, Shaw Wilson and Donnie Herron and augmented by Chris Scruggs and bassist Geoff Firebaugh. Opening for Charlie Daniels Band. Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium, Kannapolis (Shukla)

Chicken-Bone -- Pretty good roadhouse-style bluegrass here, nicely blending the classic 'grass of a Jim and Jesse with just a touch of the new stuff. The band's CD, Hickabilly Casserole, is more of the same -- solidly played, tasteful, and with just enough reverence that it never becomes too hokey. Something about the name sort of sticks in my throat, however. (Ba-dum-bum). Puckett's Farm Equipment (Davis)

THURSDAY 5.22

Kevin Gordon -- A graduate of the University of Iowa (where he studied poetry at the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop), Gordon never lost his first love, that of early rock & roll as purveyed by Lewis, Berry, Cochran and Co. I recently had a chance to see him perform in tiny Taylor, MS, and his stripped down band (Kevin, guitar, guy on a snare and cymbal) fit the stripped-down little roadhouse/grocery store to a T, resulting in one of my favorite shows in years (coulda been the free Jack Daniels, though). Indeed, Keb' Go' is one of the few songwriters around that understands the maxim that sometimes a writer can say more with what he leaves out than with what he puts in. Poetic stuff, but not in a songwriter kind of way. Rather, in a "saying what needs to be said in the best and fewest words possible" kind of way. Shit. That's way too long to be a maxim. See how hard it is? Also Saturday at the Double Door Inn with David Childers. Rodi, Gastonia (Davis)

FRIDAY 5.23

AFI -- The opening track of their new effort, Sing the Sorrow, kicks off like a Neurosis record but the hardcore dudes from East Bay easily move dirge to uplifting punk rock to almost, gulp, balladeering. AFI are maturing the angst into reachable directions. It's refreshing to see a band actually flexing its musical muscle after jumping to a major label from an adventurous indie. Hmmm, there may be hope yet for the big boys. With Most Precious Blood. Tremont Music Hall (Shukla)

Jem Crossland & the Hypertonics -- Crossland wasn't born on American soil, but he does a fine job of synthesizing this country's early music history: namely, folks like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, and Bill Haley. While Haley had "His Comets," Crossland boasts the capable Hypertonics, comprised of John Marlow on drums and Charlotte music vet Chipps Baker on saxophone and bass. Indeed, Crossland is able to look at this country's roots music as only an outside eye can: clearly, affectionately, and with an uncanny purity that comes from always having been exposed to the good stuff. With Drat, a new band composed of some familiar faces (see Lynn Farris' In Tune column). Double Door Inn (Davis)

Jodie Manross Band -- Pleasant acoustic roots band from Tennessee with Jodie manning the vocal duties and a peppy rhythm section backing her up. It's your basic uplifting folk, with the acoustic guitarist occasionally venturing into Middle Eastern rhythms and slow flamenco styling, but the vibe has the potential to get a little dull after a long set. The songs are interesting enough in the lyrical department and the waifish Manross manages vocals that don't let the guitar walk a couple paces ahead of her. The Evening Muse (Shukla)

Murdercycle -- Look, it's just plain and simple hard stuff, sorta like if Black Sabbath got a slap on the head and started jogging from their usual crawl. In the end, the Charlotte rockers offer plenty of riffage and flailing hair that only enhances the steady stream of cold brewskies or any other personal vice. With Hot Plate and Pornocopter. Fat City (Shukla)

Spy Glass Blue -- Young David Bowie wannabes also take cues from The Cure and Psychedelic Furs and create contemporary new wave that's not great, but gets the old neck wobbling. It's all there, as the pretty frontman and slick echo honed sounds keep the kitsch at a proper distance with lean guitar chops pointing at the polished chapters of the 80s era. With Thou Shalt Not. The Room (Shukla)

SATURDAY 5.24

Black Lagoon -- A good band name, this one, implying as it does a sticky murk inhabited by mutant creatures of indecipherable origin. Add some Tiki torches, tattoo art, Misfits records, incense, blood roses, and riffage that makes Satan blush, and you have Black Lagoon the band, one of the more unique local rock outfits in recent memory. A group that trades in polar opposites as its raison d'etre, The 'Goon often manage to work despite themselves. What other band do you know of that includes an ethereal, Kate Bush-like lead singer, a manic bassist, a Tony Iommi clone on lead, and a singer/utility player/flower girl in the finest Bob Nastanovich tradition? You've heard of that band Evanescence? This is what they might sound like if they had a sac(k). Appearing with the band will be Wilmington's Gollum and Astrid Haven (Lancaster, SC). Tremont Music Hall (Davis)

White Trash Party -- Not sure what Dave Rhames and his Westchesters think about the title of this gig, nor the Star Motor Company boys. That said, it ought to be an inspired pairing. "Southern Fried Rock-n-Roll, Country Style" is how Rhames describes his music, and he's pretty much nailed it. Hints of Tompall Glaser, Kristofferson, and Bocephus share the stage with Skynyrd and David Allan Coe. Mostly, it just sounds like Rhames: whiskey-strong, homey, and a little rough around the edges, with just enough danger mixed in with the balladry to keep you on your toes. Star Motor Company I continue to come back to whenever I need a fix of no-nonsense Southern dirge -- the band's hooks are so big and weighty you may as well call them anchors, and vocalist Chris Boone can summon enough rage tying his shoe to scare the shit out of most people. None of it's reinventing the wheel, but worth it for folks who like their rock no-frills and with a minimum of pretense. The Steeple Lounge (Davis)

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