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Eugene Weekly : Music : 2.3.11


Rocksteady for Real Rebel Rockers

An alien species touches down on the West Coast of the United States to investigate the form of music known as "reggae.” The team reports back to their great Lord Zelnor that reggae singers frequently use the words "ganja,” "Jah” and "rasta,” and they also describe a hairstyle known to the natives as "dreadlocks.” The team goes on to explain that the music is usually played to large groups of often barefoot people, generally outdoors, and that it creates a strange trancelike condition in the audience ã identifiable by red-rimmed eyes and puffs of white smoke emitting from the region of the mouth. Sadly, Zelnors emmissaries are missing much of the history of reggae.

The Aggrolites are an L.A. band that plays music rich in that history ã back from a time before a certain Mr. Marley broke reggae to the mainstream. They might look like The Clash, but they sound like Studio One or Trojan Records luminaries from the •60s and •70s. Together since 2003, the Aggrolites have developed a style of reggae so retro its released on the punk label Hellcat Records. Although influenced by Jamaican soul, ska, mod-reggae and rocksteady, the Aggrolites sound is far from pastiche. They stamp their music with infectious hooks and bring a thoroughly modern, ferocious energy to live shows. When they shout "People, play that funky fire,” on the track "Funky Fire” from their 2006 self-titled release, Rastas, Mods, Punks and even Little Green Men cant resist hitting the dance floor. And that, after all, is what good reggae is all about.

The Aggrolites play with Randy Ross & the Peoples Choice and the Rhythm Pimps at 8 pm Sunday, Feb. 7, at WOW Hall; $10 adv., $12 door. -

ã William Kennedy

Good Grammer

Tracy Grammer has folk credibility in spades. Shes toured with Joan Baez, both as a band member and featured act. Mary Chapin Carpenter provides harmonies and liner notes on Grammers second solo release, Flower of Avalon, which reigned a year as the most played album on folk radio.

Grammer cut her teeth playing with singer-songwriter Dave Carter, with whom she released three albums. After her partners untimely passing, Grammer has carried the torch of his songwriting, releasing three solo albums and two previously unreleased albums of the duos recordings. In the classic Americana folk tradition, their songs trade in tales of love, family and the American experience ã gritty, blue collar and real.

More Cowboy Junkies or even Emmylou Harris than Ani DiFranco, her softly yearning, mournful vocals evoke classic female singers from an era when country music was something more than paint-by-numbers pop churned out by Nashville hit factories. Besides singing, Grammer plays guitar, violin, mandolin and banjo, packing enough twang into her music to interest the plaid-clad bluegrass hipster set.

Tracy Grammer plays with Brian Cutean at 7:30 pm, Sunday, Feb. 6, at Tsunami Books, all ages, $15.50 adv. $17.50 door. ã Ephraim Payne


Everythings Golden

Local favorite Tony Furtados come a long way from the twin National Bluegrass Banjo Championships he won by the tender age of 19. Not content to rest on his laurels or stick to the limitations of any single style, Furtado mastered the slide guitar and built a strong following for his fusion of roots, rock and blues by touring and playing relentlessly.

On Golden, his 15th album, the Portland-based slide guitar hero and banjo virtuoso shows hes still growing as an artist, for the first time claiming all writing and production credit. He even created the cover art, a two-headed rabbit sculpture. The sound hes cooked up at Portlands 8-Ball Studio with engineer Rob Stroup ranges from gritty •80s garage rock with driving banjo chords on "Toe the Line” to an Americana/Celtic blend on "The Willows Cry” and "Golden (Broken).” The instrumental "Portlandia” finds Furtado circling back towards his beginnings from a new direction, flexing the musical muscle that first gained him notice on a track easily at home on KLCCs Mist Covered Mountain.

Tony Furtado plays at 8:30 pm, Friday, Feb. 4, at the Axe & Fiddle, 657 East Main St., Cottage Grove; $8 door. ã Ephraim Payne


Being the Bengsons

All the theater geeks and band kids will want to grow up to be them, except those secretly pining for an audition to join the cast of Glee. When not churning out Off Broadway musicals proclaiming the need for social change, Abigail Nessen Bengson and Shaun McClain Bengson play Vaudeville Indie Folk under the sobriquet The Bengsons and electro-inspired rock with their side-project, Ol Zombie Nationalists, to growing acclaim.

Currently touring in supporting their latest effort, The Proof, the husband and wife duo claim a miscellany of influences ranging from Etta James to Tom Waits, Hank Williams to Gnarles Barkley. From the poppy, catchy chorus dominating "Even Then I will See you Again” to the sparse, banjo-driven "Growing Flames” to the Celtic folk-inflected "Empty Trailers,” the album demonstrates the Brooklyn-based couples ability to switch musical gears fluidly. "Lady and Whiskey” seems lifted directly from a musical, piano and accordion laying a foundation for manic, soaring vocals that sound eerily like PJ Harvey channeling Edith Piaf sans French accent.

The Bengsons play with Oh Horizon and Martini & James! at 9 pm, Thursday, Feb. 10, at Sam Bonds Garage; $5 door. ã Ephraim Payne