Eugene Weekly : Music : 3.6.08

Brand New CD, Vintage Sound

Doesn’t it seem like I just wrote about Americana/folkie singer-songwriter Kris Delmhorst? Well, that was last November when she played a double bill at the WOW Hall with Erin McKeown. The two friends (Delmhorst was taking a break from recording an album in McKeown’s house while McKeown was on tour) now play in distinctly different styles, so that event demanded musical flexibility from fans who only knew one of the singers. Still, I’ve seen Delmhorst hold the attention of thousands of people on hot summer folk festival afternoons (with her fiddle, no less), and I’ve seen her enchant folks crowded into tiny, smoke-filled venues. No smoking in Eugene, of course, but I definitely hope a crowd streams in for the show. Delmhorst kicks off March at the WOW Hall again with a gig in support of the album she recorded at McKeown’s, Shotgun Singer. She previewed a few new songs in November, like the dreamy, Beth-Orton-like “Blue Adeline” and “Midnight Ringer,” a lovely, hopeful song. Like most musicians, Delmhorst prefers to play her newest songs — so even if you’re dying to hear “Garden Rose” from 2001’s Five Stories, she’s probably going to give you the new “Freediver” instead. Luckily, Delmhorst retains the ability to combine elliptical lyrics with a voice that ranges from smooth mumbling to lyrical soaring to whiskeyish growling, and that makes the new songs easy to take.

At the concert, be sure to listen for the poppy, sweet “1000 Reasons” (maybe she’ll ask the audience to clap in syncopated rhythm) and the spare, aching “Birds of Belfast.” Delmhorst, perhaps jokingly, titled the last song on the new album “Brand New Sound,” but that one’s more like vintage Kris: the light touch, the song that limns tantalizing silence and the tune that brings forth all our longing to be more. The Winterpills, another Northampton, Mass., export with tight harmonies, smart lyrics and gorgeously layered music, open for their Boston buddy. Kris Delmhorst plays with the Winterpills at 8 pm Friday, March 7, at the WOW Hall. $10 adv., $12 door. — Suzi Steffen


Do You Hear the Eugeneans Sing?

If you’re a certain age, you might have grown up with the phenomenon of “summer musicals.” Perhaps, if you had a birthday in the summer, your parents thought they should celebrate by taking your squealing friends out to mosquito land (we’re talking Midwest, here), spraying bugspray on you and then sitting you on a blanket for a KFC dinner before the pit orchestra, straining to tune in the 97 percent humidity, broke into the overture for West Side Story, Oklahoma! or Camelot.

Didn’t happen to you? Well, in some of us, that instilled a deep love for the songs of Broadway musicals. The Eugene Concert Choir heard our pleas for mosquito- and humidity-less musical music. Hurray! Conductor Diane Retallack and her brave crew are in the midst of preparing songs for two shows. One’s a short work focused on kid appeal (no “I’m Just a Girl Who Cain’t Say No” or “One Hand, One Heart,” that thinly veiled paean to Tony and Maria’s consummation), and the other a full-on adult production. As a former Iowan, I’m pleased to say that The Music Man is well represented. But don’t worry, y’all who have never dreamt of enjoying a musical from the “golden age” of the 1950s. There’s a second golden age, made up of Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber, of Disney and of serious cash flow, and the Concert Choir isn’t neglecting Les Miserables or the Disney repertoire (though, hey, where’s CATS or, horrors, Phantom?).

Lord, these musicals are schlocky, aren’t they? But it’s schlock that we love, from tearjerkers like “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (Carousel) and “I Dreamed a Dream” (Les Mis) to the saccharine “Circle of Life” from Lion King. The splendid spectacle features soloists Shirley Andress, Bill Hulings, Laura Decher Wayte and David Gustafson along with a barbershop quartet, which we just know will nail “Lida Rose.” Do we love you, Eugene Concert Choir? Oh yes, we love you, and we’ll gladly tell you … at 11 am Saturday, March 8, for the Broadway Kids concert at the Hult ($15, $5 youth; family pack available) and again at 2:30 pm Sunday, March 9, for the lengthier version ($19-$34). — Suzi Steffen


Birds of Pray

Christian punk rock. Sounds like an oxymoron, but this nonsecular subgenre consistently gains popularity each year. Hawk Nelson leads the pack alongside mainstream favorites Relient K and FM Static.

Hawk Nelson leans more toward the pop-punk side, sounding a bit like New Found Glory and Good Charlotte and citing Green Day and pop-punk favorites Blink-182 as influences. Though their name sounds like it ought to belong to a tough guy in a Western, Hawk Nelson doesn’t so much spin a six-gun as offer positive lyrics that encourage higher self-esteem and optimism in listeners. “So many people are struggling today. Most of all they need a friend, and we believe everyone has a friend in God,” says frontman Jason Dunn. The band views success as a matter of making friends rather than of winning fans — a canny way to put it in the age of MySpace, where popularity is measured by number of “friends.”

Hawk Nelson sounds like your average pop-punk band; odds are most listeners won’t catch on to the fact they’re a Christian band on first listen. The Christian message the band promotes comes across relatively subtly in most songs, such as the first single from Hawk Nelson is My Friend (due out April 1), “Friend Like That.” “I’m not a wanna-be / I’m who I want to be / And I intend to be / How you created me.” The last song on the album, “I Still Want You,” will be when it hits you. “I know that Jesus has the answer / And he’s bigger than the cancer in you.” Hawk Nelson and Run Kid Run play at 7 pm Thursday, March 13, at the McDonald Theater. $15 adv., $20 door. — Anne Pick


Black Out

Black has inundated the indie rock world, and I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s getting harder to tell who’s who. I mean, seriously, how many things can bands designate Black? Let’s see: There are Keys that are Black; Lips that are Black; Angels, Kids, Dice, Mountains, Ghosts, Heart Processions, Rebel Motorcycle Clubs and Moth Super Rainbows, all of which are Black. Come up with a new color, people! I guess Black is the new black, but it’s becoming a bit ridiculous, don’t you think? Well, here’s another band to add to that ever-darkening list: The Black Swans.

How do the Black Swans differentiate themselves from all the other Black bands? They really don’t, because, like most of the Black-denominated, indie-rock acts, they sound black. By that, I don’t mean black as in African-American gospel, soul, funk, R&B, blues, etc. (although I guess if you listen hard enough you can hear whispers of black influence in indie rock no matter how white it sounds). What I mean is black as in dark, ominous, haunting, subliminal, all that good stuff. The Black Swans have black in spades. The Columbus, Ohio, group pulls out the folk-rock, Americana coloring book, but they shade in the pictures of backroads, tumbleweeds and twilight with nothing but black and gray Crayons. Glooming guitars shuffle down dirt paths with crooked violins while Jerry DeCicca’s sunken, eerie voice creeps along like kicked-up dust. He sounds like Desire-era Bob Dylan or Randy Newman if he did the soundtrack to Deliverance instead of Toy Story. Overall, the music is moody and evocative; hopefully, no one will get them confused with the other Black bands. The Black Swans play with Baitball at 9 pm, Wednesday, March 12, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+ show. $5. — Jeremy Ohmes