Eugene Weekly : Music : 10.11.07

What. The. Heaven.

Way back in the day (1992, that year of potential when a presidential candidate named Clinton was going to kick the Republicans out of office), Michelle Shocked‘s Arkansas Traveler shook up both fans who loved Short Sharp Shocked and new listeners who didn’t know you could take “Cotton-Eyed Joe” and make such an awesome jam while commenting on the tradition of blackface minstrelry. Besides the metadiscussion, Shocked delivered “Come a Long Way,” a hilarious song about constant L.A. driving that became a cult hit, and songs like “Strawberry Jam” that just won’t leave your head in the middle of an Oregon summer.

But it’s 15 years and many albums later (including what she called her “Threesome” project, featuring three different albums released at the same time and advertised … well, you can imagine it). Michelle Shocked, to those who haven’t been following her closely, seems to have gone off the deep end. A while back, she went to church to listen to a gospel choir and hear some of the roots of rock; also, she wanted to break up what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “the most segregated time of the week.” This isn’t unusual: Susan Werner, another folk singer with a big, gorgeous voice, released a gospel-influenced album this year. But Shocked — whose “God Is a Real-Estate Developer” stoked many a young liberal in the early ’90s — now describes herself as an evangelical Christian. Her new album, ToHeavenURide, is a recording from 2003’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and most of the songs on it are covers, from The Band’s “The Weight” to Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child” and gospel staples like “Wade in the Water” and “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More.” Shocked’s glorious voice, as always, blasts through everything around her, even the amazing gospel choir backing her up on “Uncloudy Day” and her originals like “The Quality of Mercy.” If you can take the (evangelical) Jesus with the musical joy, Shocked plays at 7:30 pm Monday, Oct. 15, at the Shedd. $15-$30. — Suzi Steffen


Slow Cooked Stories

Listening to Greg Brown is like eating your favorite childhood comfort food … if your mom was into cooking with nutritional yeast and making her own granola. Not only does the sound of Brown’s rolling baritone feel supremely satisfying washing over your eardrums, but the visceral enjoyment of his voice is enhanced by the realization that not only is his music good, it’s good for you. Like many folk singers, he tells stories of love and loss, children, bad moods, fishing, travels and crystallized moments suspended forever in his consciousness. But extended exposure to 30 years of Brown’s understated, Midwestern take on his own foibles can teach listeners a lot about the value of mulling and molding your own thoughts into something other people will not only hear but understand. There’s humor in dysfunction: “Now I’ve got you, and you’ve got me for life / I will hand you this bottle, honey, if you will set down that knife.” There’s torment in love: “If you’re free, stay free / If you ain’t free, get free / But if you can’t get free, join me / All my life I’ve been bound by the chains of love.” And there’s always something to appreciate about the little things everyone says but nobody means: “Now we say I don’t care about money, but it’s not true / We can’t live without money / because we don’t want to.”

Brown’s ability to distill magic out of the everyday is less the product of an eagle-eyed artist casting about for raw material than the natural byproduct of a heart and soul that live, love and ponder together in real time. New listeners will enjoy his songs because they are the ultimate example of brilliant American songwriting. Those lucky enough to have lived life with Greg Brown in the background have inevitably grown from stumbling alongside a man who, luckily, can’t keep his personal journey to himself. Greg Brown plays at 8 pm Friday, Oct. 12, at the McDonald Theatre. $25 adv., $28 door. — Adrienne van der Valk


The In Crowd

When the opportunity arose to interview Amy Gore from the Gore Gore Girls, I jumped at the chance. But after my initial excitement came a nausea that I can only compare to an experience I had my freshman year in high school. My friend and I were enthralled by a group of bad-ass senior girls. One day I got up the nerve to tell one of the girls I liked her shoes. She disdainfully responded, “God, I hate these shoes; they are so ugly. Once I get some more money, I’m buying new ones,” and she walked away. My fragile psyche was crushed, and I never talked to the “cool girls” again. But here I was, over 10 years later, face-to-face with one of the coolest girls ever.

With their big teased hair, fuck-me pumps and a Charlie’s Angels presence, the Gore Gore Girls don’t take shit from anyone and they are serious about their music. Their sound is very much The Pipettes, but with PJ Harvey on lead vocals.

There are two things I learned about the band from my interview: 1. They don’t like to talk about their sex appeal; 2. They really like The Donnas. It has been several days since the interview, but even now when I think about it, my palms get sweaty and I revert back to that awkward teenage girl who falsely idolized the Bad Girls.

The Gore Gore Girls play with Electric Six and We are the Fury at 9 pm Friday, Oct. 12, at the WOW Hall. $13 adv., $15 door. — Deanna Uutela


Return of the Living TSOL

One look at the cover photo of TSOL‘s 1986 album Revenge, with the band in black eyeliner and coifed hair, one member looking suspiciously like a short-haired Vince Neil, was proof that this was not the same TSOL I knew from my cassette copy of 1981’s Dance With Me. Founding members Jack Grisham (vocals) and Todd Barnes (drums) had departed before ’84’s Change Today, and Revenge was politely considered an embarrassment amongst my friends. Being an open-minded music lover, I gave it a chance, and while it didn’t become my favorite TSOL album, I credit it with leading me to many other bands thanks to a merch insert prompting me to pick up a comp LP by Enigma, their label at the time. Enigma Variations contained tracks by 45 Grave, The Effigies, Leaving Trains, Tex and The Horseheads, Redd Kross and Greg Sage, which in turn led me to the Wipers and other Northwest punk like Poison Idea. That music so good could emanate from the land of loggers shocked my punk friends in Pensacola, Fla., where Southern California hardcore and skate rock reigned supreme. Years later, when I moved to Eugene in ’91, I felt an already established kinship with the scene here, thanks to TSOL.

The band’s three surviving original members — Jack Grisham, Ron Emory and Mike Roche (Barnes died in 1999) — won’t play any songs from Revenge or even acknowledge its existence, but they will put on a great show nonetheless.

TSOL, Mercy Killers and 19 Limbs play at 8 pm Saturday, Oct. 13, at the WOW Hall. $12. — Vanessa Salvia