It was barely six months ago that Eugene Weekly reported on the release of Unkle Nancy and The Family Jewels’ CD Vagabond Tramp. It seems that Joey Stewart, the prolific songwriter behind Unkle Nancy, is still tapped into his muse, because he has penned yet another release, called Dancing With the Devil. If that was the latest Tom Waits album, it would surely be hailed as a modern masterpiece, but since Stewart’s music flies a bit lower under the radar than that of Mr. Waits, critics will have to discover this gem on their own.
There’s plenty of weirdness on this album. A kazoo offers an insistent “whee” throughout “King’s Death Rattle,” in between Stewart spitting out, “I most certainly have the potential to be a junkie but I lack the dedication / My mom always said I could be a teacher but I don’t have the patience.” A theremin flits in and out of the junkshop melodies, adding an additional layer of eeriness throughout the album.
Stewart sings through a filter that makes his voice sound distant and fuzzy, giving his already raw bluesy noises even more grit. The track “I’m Not Crazy You Are” delivers exactly what it promises: evidence that Stewart’s unique view of the world is intact. Though this album doesn’t feature the cello, percussion and backing vocals of his regular band, The Family Jewels, it does deliver all of the idiosyncrasies that we’ve come to love about Stewart’s off-the-meds persona. Unkle Nancy plays at 9:30 pm Saturday, Jan. 9, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $5. — Vanessa Salvia
Salvation is a Toy Tambourine
Though The Builders and the Butchers’ breed of Gothic bluegrass can sound a lot like another well-loved Portland band, the Decemberists — a comparison aided in no small measure by Builders and the Butchers frontman Ryan Sollee’s nasal, Meloy-esque voice — this is not the Decemberists’ moody, black-clad younger cousin. Despite the macabre subject matter of Sollee’s songs, the band exudes a sense of joy in concert. Even when they’re singing about murder, poverty and strife, the five dudes in the Builders in the Butchers (particularly the band’s dueling drummers) are having a great time. And they want the audience to do so as well; hence the smattering of tambourines and other motley noisemakers conveniently placed at the foot of the stage for your use. The band put out its second album, Salvation is a Deep Dark Well, on Gigantic last year, and while it’s a more polished, well-produced album, the songs themselves resemble the songs from the band’s impressive self-titled debut a little too closely. Hopefully the band will be able to tweak its sound enough in the coming months to avoid putting out more or less the same album three times in a row, but the Builders and the Butchers have always been about the live shows, anyway. If you’re really lucky, Ryan Sollee will conclude the set with a procession out the door and around the venue. Make sure to snatch up one of those noisemakers before you depart. The Builders and the Butchers play at 8:30 pm Sunday, Jan. 10, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $5. — Sara Brickner
During this chilly season, it’s essential to find every way to keep warm. The WOW Hall offers a classic method on Saturday: dancing to a succession of quality reggae rock bands. Simple skankin’ moves matched with inventive surfer tunes will generate heat all night long.
For more than a decade, The Expendables have brought music lovers to their feet, opening for major acts such as 311, Pepper and Less Than Jake. The Expendables headline the Winter Blackout tour with their original blend of reggae, punk and ska.
Iration’s smooth reggae melodies are a crowd favorite in Hawai’i, where the members grew up. The group’s cool sounds bring a sampling of what it’s like to wake up in paradise. The other three bands on the bill produce novel takes in reggae composition, experimenting with dub (Passafire), punk (Pour Habit) and hip hop (Roots Down Below). Attendees should expect to black out the winter and remember the warm days of summer with this exceptional lineup. 7 pm Friday, Jan. 9, at the WOW Hall. $15 adv., $17 door. — Sachie Yorck