Sweet as Melons
What do you get when you cross a blue-collar girl, a pin up model, a sex activist and a powerful-yet-dainty blues voice? Why, Candye Kane, of course. Since first making her name in the ’80s with the likes of Social Distortion — among others — she’s been causing a riot everywhere she treads. Seriously, every group you can think of is a fan of this woman: Bikers, punkers, drag queens, strippers, escorts, porn lovers, dancers, musicians, feminists and more form her loyal fan base.
With 10 records out to date, many of which contain top 10 Billboard singles, Kane is truly an inspiration. She sings soulfully on tracks such as “Superhero” and “Misunderstood,” a cool groove that for some reason evokes a young Django Reinhardt dancing burlesque. OK, so that might not sound so sexy, but the truth is this pin-up-girl-mother-of-two-activist-inspirational-blues-singer of a woman can really wail, and that’s all there is to it. Candye Kane plays at Mac’s at the Vet’s at 9:30 pm Wednesday, Nov. 10. 21+. $12 adv., $15 door. — Andy Valentine
(Finally) Travelling Again
Singer-songwriter Kris Delmhorst has always seemed on the verge of whatever singer-songwriter superstardom might be (not counting Ani DiFranco, who’s a force of nature). She fiddles angelically (and devilishly); she has a voice that can stroke a ballad like “Birds of Belfast” from 2008’s Shotgun Singer or the achingly lovely yet fierce “Garden Rose” and “Broken White Line” from 2001’s Five Stories — or she can dig deep into the energetic, pounding truthfulness of “Bobby Lee” of 2003’s Songs for a Hurricane. Then there’s the poppy, amused Kris of “1000 Reasons” (2008) and the intellectually involved Kris of the entire Strange Conversations album (2005) — hey, guess what, this woman’s simply fantastic. Why isn’t she more famous?
Delmhorst doesn’t foreground her personal life in her music, but songs like “Little Wings” obliquely refer to her struggles to establish an identity that’s just the size she wants: “I don’t want to rip the sky wide open; I just want my song to be heard.” But she hasn’t been heard, live, in Eugene in ages; her most recent nearby gig was in Portland at Mississippi Studios more than two years ago — where she announced to the way over-capacity crowd that she was pregnant. Daughter Hazel was born in June 2008, and though the large state to our south has seen her a few times since then, it’s been a long dry spell for Oregon. That’s about to be broken when she returns to Eugene at the warm, slightly offbeat (and little wings-y) venue of Tsunami Books. Kris Delmhorst plays at the bookstore/venue at 8 pm Saturday, Nov. 6. $14.50 adv., $16 door. — Suzi Steffen
No Cover Ups
Sometimes cover bands are great because you can hear them perform songs you love without having to pay $50 for a ticket — plus the $100 Ticketmaster “convenience” charge — to see the real band play. And while a lot of these bands try to play a song as close to its original version as possible, there are some artists who instead like to put their unique spin on a noteworthy tune. Keller Williams falls into the latter category as his latest release, Thief, is an Americana-styled collection of cover songs that pay homage to everyone from Kris Kristofferson to Amy Winehouse.
Williams and his cohorts on this album, Larry and Jenny Keel, have fun with Cracker’s seminal hit “Teen Angst,” turning the “angst” into something far less dramatic while using an increased tempo to make the song sound perfect for a hoedown. Likewise, when they do “Bath of Fire” by Presidents of the United States of America, some of the song’s dark and kooky edges are softened by quicker rhythms and Williams’ light and easy vocals. And while all the tracks don’t work well (the cover of Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy,” for instance, is only slightly less tedious than the original), and one or two seem like strange choices (Yonder Mountain String Band’s ‘Wind’s on Fire” is covered, but their bluegrass sound is similar enough to this album’s that the changes are minor), Williams’ decidedly upbeat takes on these tunes should make you smile.
Keller Williams plays at 9 pm Wednesday, Nov. 10, at the WOW Hall. $20 adv., $23 door. Brian Palmer
Creative artists today have learned that they can’t rely on big institutions — universities, presenters, record labels, name your sugar daddy — to support their dreams the way they used to. Increasingly, as the composers who started New York’s Bang on a Can did a generation ago, they’re creating their own presenting and producing venues, organizations and festivals. That’s what composer/pianist Paul Safar and singer Nancy Wood did here a few years back with Cherry Blossom Musical Arts, which began with occasional concerts primarily featuring Safar’s music, Country Fair performances and other scattered events. Steadily growing in ambition, the organization has lately teamed with the nascent Cascadia Composers (the Portland-based regional branch of a national composers organization) and, based on its strong track record, garnered support from the city and Lane Arts Council. That support, in turn, has made the organization’s Nov. 5 concert its most impressive ever, including the world premiere of Brooklyn composer (and former UO music prof) Derek Healey’s Thy Distant Fire: an Edgar Allen Poe Songbook, written for Wood. The concert also features a brass quintet, solo piano piece and song cycle all written by the dean of Oregon composers, Portland’s Tomas Svoboda, and a solo violin work by one of Oregon’s finest composers, Jack Gabel. Performers include members of the Eugene Symphony, UO faculty and more. Cherry Blossom Musical Arts’ fall concert takes place at 7:30 pm November 5 at Central Lutheran Church, 1857 Potter Street. $10-$15. — Brett Campbell
A Hoe-Down Feast (Salmon on the Side)
Drew Emmitt (Leftover Salmon) and Bill Nershi (String Cheese Incident) — both founders of popular jam bands — have done the sold-out-stadium, prestigious rock ’n’ roll thing flawlessly. Over the years they developed a strong friendship as the paths of their bands crossed at shows and festivals. From that kindred-spirit bond grew the idea of forming a project together and returning to their roots as The Emmitt-Nershi Band. They didn’t waste time focusing on the band’s name; instead, they focused on the music — some of the finest examples of modern bluegrass music you’ll ever hear. Their latest collaboration, New Country Blues, is like a cornucopia filled with the succulent fruits of their love of the music.
Bring Emmitt and Nershi together with their old friends of Great American Taxi — one of the best-known headliners on the jam band circuit — and you’ve got one hell of a show. Former Leftover Salmon singer, guitarist and mandolin player Vince Herman is one of the founding members of Great American Taxi. The band’s music — a blend of swampy blues, progressive bluegrass, funky New Orleans strut, honky-tonk country and good old fashioned rock ’n’ roll — has been self-labeled “Americana Without Borders.” Their latest release, Reckless Habits, captures the raucous enthusiasm of which their live shows are legend.
If that’s not enough, genre-bending banjo man Danny Barnes will join them on stage. While incorporating digital technology and multiple effects pedals, Barnes takes the banjo where it has never been musically. His skill as an instrumentalist has ushered him to share the stage and record with countless multi-genre artists (including Leftover Salmon).
The Emmitt-Nershi Band, Great American Taxi and Danny Barnes play at 8 pm Sunday, Nov. 7, at the WOW Hall. $18 adv., $20 door. — Blake Phillips
It Gets SO MUCH Better … with Harmonicas!
Canadian folkies flood the U.S. like … wait a second; no, they don’t. Especially harmonica-wielding lesbian folkies who write songs like “Co-op Girlz” and “I’d Go Straight for Ridley Bent,” which made me burst into laughter even though I had no idea who the hell Ridley Bent was, and even though Kate Reid has obviously left the closet far behind.
Reid’s voice when she’s talking over a backbeat of banjo, harmonica and guitar (and some handclaps, I think) sounds a bit like the jokey/dead serious Ani DiFranco talking her way through early songs, but she’s also straight-up (so to speak) funny, wry and full of energy. I can’t express enough deep affection for her “It Gets Better” through self-empowerment tale about learning to play Ferron and the Indigo Girls on the guitar when she was a teenager — saving her life in her small farm town in Ontario, she says, and starting her down the path to artistic and personal freedom. She now lives in Vancouver, winning superlatives from Canadian writers and prizes from contests, and she’s playing at 9 pm Wednesday, Nov. 10, at Cozmic Pizza. $10. Co-op grrrrlz, I’ll see you there. — Suzi Steffen
Calling Laura Veirs Mine
Cat Power casts a long shadow over many indie rock singers these days, and Portland’s Laura Veirs is no exception. Both have an ethereal, otherworldly power to their voices, and are best when accompanied by sparse, atmospheric arrangements of guitar or piano. But while Cat Power’s sultry coo expresses a jaded world-weariness, Veirs’ voice has an angelic, childlike quality. Her music is wide-eyed and still full of wonder for the world.
Veirs put out her first album in 1999, but really began making a name for herself with 2005’s critically acclaimed Year of Meteors, selected as “critic’s choice” by The New York Times. This year, she released July Flame, picked as one of the year’s best by The Washington Post and lauded by Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy as his favorite album of the year.
The remarkable July Flame title track opens with a lonely, bare electric guitar line. Veirs’ voice soon emerges from the ether as tremulous as a pool of water, weaving around cello and strings as the song bursts into the infectious and romantic refrain, “Can I call you my own, can I call you mine?” In one song Veirs captures the exhilaration of young love, and the melancholy of its memory years later.
Seattle’s Led to Sea is a solo project by violist Alex Guy, who has been featured on recordings by Xiu Xiu and the Parenthetical Girls. Her latest release, Into the Darkening Sky, is a haunting mix of minimal avant-garde classical music and pop songwriting arranged mainly for viola and voice with some band accompaniment.
Laura Veirs, Led to Sea and Leslie and the Badgers at 9 pm Thursday, Nov. 4, at Sam Bond’s Garage. $8. 21+. — William Kennedy
Woe Is Happy
Stars’ songs sound like romantic nostalgia. Airy vocals, crisply insistent rhythms, pulsing choruses and persistent melodies conjure up teenage dreams and lost loves, cold nights with colder hands and a palpable sense of longing: This is music to listen to when you’re missing somebody, or losing somebody, or thinking too much about the last time either of those things happened. This isn’t to say Stars songs are sad, though, and that’s the contradiction that makes their music, including their latest album, The Five Ghosts, so enticing. All that yearning is packed into songs that pop along neatly, glossy and sly, or shiver with moody, New Wave-y synths and clever interplay between singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan. “How much more am I supposed to take? How much more am I supposed to break?” Millan asks over a lush, dramatic intro that shifts as soon as she’s asked her questions, the percussion picking up the tempo while the vocals remain languid. “How Much More” feels like a song you could dance to alone, sweating in the crowd, or sway moodily to with someone else close by. Gorgeous and bittersweet, Stars records are the soundtracks to enjoying the way heartache hits, because it reminds you why you’re aching. “They were kids that I once knew / Now they’re all dead hearts to you,” Campbell and Millan insist on “Dead Hearts,” The Five Ghosts’s opening track. If they’re not entirely convincing, that’s kind of the point. — Molly Templeton
Stars, Delays, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Weekend • 8 pm Sunday, Nov. 7, at the McDonald Theatre • $14 adv., $17 door.
Best Weekend Ever
While it’s hard to fathom how anyone can take a band that calls itself The Pains of Being Pure at Heart seriously, the New York band’s San Francisco-dwelling tourmates Weekend are worth showing up early for, even if you’re not into POBPAH (even the acronym is awkward). Weekend’s three members summon forth a wailing wall of sound, one that hums with feedback and crackles with distortion. A sinister, static-y theremin sound drones at the base of “Coma Summer,” a track from the band’s Slumberland Records debut Sports, which is streaming on NPR’s website through Nov. 9. The band’s fuzzy atmospherics never completely swallow up the melody, which pulses through the music’s foggiest moments. Meanwhile, POBPAH have a new single out called “Say No to Love.” Its saccharine bounce may be pure pop, but it’s the good shit, which is probably why the band has defied the odds and transcended its regrettable choice of handle. — Sara Brickner