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Eugene Weekly : Music : 12.2.10

 

Not Poseurs

The Posies were a lot of things in the early ’90s, when their second album, Dear 23, won a certain level of acclaim. They were a change of pace for Seattle, which was in the thick of grunge; they were supposed to be the next big thing, once or twice; they were too simply summed up as “power pop” and clumped, in a 1991 Los Angeles Times article, with Jellyfish and Redd Kross. 

There’s nothing wrong with either of those bands. But there’s more right with The Posies. Main singer/songwriters Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow had moderate success (particularly with 1993’s Frosting on the Beater), broke up, went their separate ways, played with Big Star (both) and REM (Stringfellow) and reunited. Their last release, 2005’s Every Kind of Light, was a fine record, but it didn’t register the same way the best Posies albums do — insistent, bittersweet, self-incriminating, heartsick, captivating.

Blood/Candy, the Posies’ new CD, is fresh, elaborate and spry; it doesn’t sound like a band trying to recapture their youth, but like a band certain about what they do best — and where they can play with their strengths. Auer and Stringfellow still sound like they were born to sing together, those perfect, impossible vocals taking turns with the lead and working magic with the simplest harmonies. “For the Ashes” begins with a clean, suggestive piano before slipping into something almost theatrical; “Accidental Architecture” changes gears incessantly, a spare first section transforming into an elegant harmony that shifts into pure sweetness on the line, “There’s architecture in the way you care.” And “She’s Coming Down Again!” soars and swoons and turns wry as the chorus winds down. 

In a 2000 article in The Stranger, Sean Nelson wrote, “What distinguishes the Posies from their contemporaries — from their heroes, even — is that even at their craftiest or most confessional, they have the overarching conscience and courage to admit that no matter how strong a feeling is, what matters more is trying to understand it.” He’s exactly right: It’s that combination — the sincerity of pop paired with a biting wit and sharp-eyed reflection — that’s been key to the best Posies songs over the years, from “Suddenly Mary” to “Burn and Shine” to “Throwaway.” All of those do more than hold up; they sound at once classic and like they could’ve been written yesterday. Maybe it’s finally time to move the Posies out of the “perpetually underrated” column and give ‘em their due. The Posies, Brendan Benson and Aqueduct play at 8 pm Tuesday, Dec. 7, at the WOW Hall. $17 adv., $20 door. — Molly Templeton



Dramarama

There’s no subtle subtext to the moniker Hot Drama, according to vocalist/guitarist Terrianne O’Rourke. “When we started jamming, there was a lot of drama going on,” she says. “We were going through life stuff. Each of our songs was about somebody, and if you knew who it was, it was pretty obvious, so it was like, “Well, that’s ‘hot drama,’ baby!”

Subtlety really isn’t a priority for O’Rourke or vocalist/bassist Gina Kontur, whose style was dubbed  “gossip rock” by entertainer and Wandering Goat sage Tom Heinl. Robust voices, raunchy lyrics and unapologetic laughter characterize the band’s psychedelic-tinged garage pop, and audiences should expect to hear some raw musical themes belted lustily throughout the night. That their debut album title, Fresh-n-Clean, was intended as a big wink to their audience should be no surprise to those who know either of Hot Drama’s saucy sirens.

“There are some songs on there that are pretty dirty,” O’Rourke warns with a raspy laugh. “There’s a song on there that is not about anyone in general but it’s a conjure-up thing I came up with about home-wreckers called ‘Every Time I Fuck You I’m in Love.’ Each song has its tongue-in-cheek stuff because I just have to laugh. You can’t take stuff too seriously.  I don’t know if I am capable of writing something seriously at this point.”

Hot Drama emerged from the ashes of a number of popular bands, including Alpha Dahlia, Sirens of Mothra and The Ginger Hustlers. O’Rourke describes the project as “her baby” and encourages anyone who hasn’t gotten to know these rowdy girls next door to come to their CD release party. 

“The show that’s happening on Friday is going to be a pot luck of all our friends, people we love who have been supporting us for years,” she says. “Ty [Connor] is going to MC, Tom Heinl is opening the show and The Underlings are joining us also. Come with a sense of humor, and you’ll have a blast!” Hot Drama celebrates the release of Fresh-n-Clean at 9 pm Friday, Dec. 3, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $5. — Adrienne van der Valk



Calling “Uncle” on Nancy

On Saturday, Dec. 4, one of Eugene’s favorite live acts and most prolific recording artists is calling it quits. After eight years and more than 35 albums recorded solo as well as with his band the Family Jewels, Unkle Nancy, aka Joey Stewart, is retiring from music due to “health issues” that make performing difficult.

Born in Newport, Oregon, Unkle Nancy is based out of Eugene but claims to be from “Everywhere, Oregon.” Stewart picked up the name Unkle Nancy after a man whom Stewart describes as a “homeless looking midget” approached him on the street in Eugene during the early morning hours and said, “Say hello to your uncle Nancy.” The rest is history.

Since then Unkle Nancy has become a mainstay on stages all over the Northwest, most notably headlining the Whiteaker Block Party three years in a row. His live shows fuse the confessional positive vibe of conscious hip hop, the acoustic arrangements and live energy of a street busker and the vaudevillian, carnival-barker showmanship of Tom Waits.

Unkle Nancy is known for pulling harmless pranks on his audience, so some might find the claim that this is the last Unkle Nancy show ever hard to believe. But Unkle Nancy fans should rejoice. Mr. Nancy and the rest of his Family plan on pursuing other projects and artistic ventures in the future.

Unkle Nancy and the Family Jewels play at 9 pm Saturday, Dec. 4, at the WOW Hall. $5. — William Kennedy



Free Country, Free Show

Randy Ross and the People’s Choice make dub reggae in the name of progress and unity. Ross has been performing under the name “People’s Choice” for over 30 years. In that time, he’s used his music as a tool to promote progressive social change and unity, and the band’s latest effort in service of that goal, a CD called Progress People, comes out on Dec. 5. Ross’ music is a mix of classic dub and roots reggae — you know, the chill stuff you can hear wafting out of every other place of business in this town — and the music’s message is powerful without preaching overmuch. That said, there’s no comparing the recorded stuff with the live show experience; when someone’s been working as a performer as long as Randy Ross, you know you’re in for a treat. And because Ross believes in freedom, his show is free, too. Randy Ross and the People’s Choice perform at 9 pm Sunday, Dec. 5, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. Free. — Sara Brickner



A Voice All Her Own

After spending the last 10 years as the “sultry” voice of the Canadian trio The Be Good Tanyas, Frazey Ford launched her voice to the forefront on her debut solo album Obadiah, released earlier this year. Proving that Ford is capable of delivering a solid album on her own, the smoldering Obadiah sounds more ambitious than any of her work with the Tanyas. Her palette expanded, Ford’s comforting voice — weaving easily from soothing jazz to smoky soul and somber country — brings new colors to light.

Obadiah has the spontaneous feel of a live performance full of honesty and heart, rich with stories about love, loss and life that unravel at their own colorful pace. Ford’s writing has matured, touching on subjects that come with experience of life’s ups and downs. Her long list of influences is an eclectic collection — Joni Mitchell, Bessie Smith, Al Green, Sean Hayes, Pauline Lamb, Prince, Ann Peebles and Joan Armatrading, to name just a few. 

A true teller of tales with an incomparable voice, Ford’s finest talent is her skill to take on the embodiment of her song’s characters. This is evident on the opening track “Firecracker,” where she’s a hard-drinker that talks to angels with an artful grin. On “Gospel Song,” she looks back on her family life through the eyes of country preacher. In a nod to one her early inspirations, she covers Bob Dylan’s “One More Cup of Coffee” and makes it her own.

Frazey Ford, Tyler Fortier and Ivan and Alyosha play at 7:30 pm Monday, Dec. 6, at the WOW Hall. $12 adv., $14 door. — Blake Phillips



Job for a Cowboy

I grew up in the Deep South, surrounded by rebel flags, 4-wheelers, Nascar, wrestling and racism. The kind of place where your best couch goes outside on the porch, just so your neighbors know that you can afford one. Then I moved from Florida to Pennsylvania at the age of 16, and I began avoiding redneck culture faster than you can say “possum’s fer dinner.” So when my Penna friends starting talking about this Texas band, Pantera, and their album, Cowboys from Hell, well ... I wasn’t very interested. 

For the uninitiated, Hellyeah is a supergroup of sorts comprised of guys from Mudvayne, Nothingface and Damageplan and Pantera’s (and Damageplan’s) drummer, Vinnie Paul. While that sounds like a lot of personalities to fit into one package, it actually blends well into enjoyable kick-your-ass hard rock. I understand now that driving around in a jacked-up pick-up truck, drinking cheap beer and singing punny country songs ain’t necessarily a bad thing. Musically, Cowboys stands up pretty well to the passing of 20 years, and even though Paul could have easily given up after the murder of his brother, Dimebag Darrell, he didn’t. Hellyeah’s new album, Stampede, is a lot more diverse musically than the songs on their debut, and some of the redneck lyrics are destined to be classics (as on “Pole Rider”: “She’s not built for comfort, she’s built for SPEEEEEEEED!”). 

Even if some of it is clichéd, it’s the cowboy way. 

Hellyeah, Hail The Villain, Anew Revolution and We Have Guns play at 8 pm Sunday, Dec. 5, at McDonald Theatre. $20 adv., $25 door. — Vanessa Salvia