Eugene Weekly : Music : 6.14.07

Riding in Like a Valkyrie

The immediate, defining aspect to Jana Hunter‘s music is its languid fluidity. Like a dose of opiates latching onto a bundle of brain receptors, Hunter’s dusty, sultry voice locks in perfectly with her drowsy, bucolic melodies. With her new album, There’s No Home, Hunter shakes off the lo-fidelity, ad hoc cocoon that encased her debut full length, Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom, and springs forward with a collection of crisp, cohesive and thoughtful new songs.

Aided by the efforts and resources of neo-folk superstar Devendra Banhart, this native Texan first found critical acclaim with the Banhart-assembled Golden Apples of the Sun compilation and then the Banhart/Hunter split record on the Troubleman Unlimited label. Early last year, Hunter’s debut marked the inaugural release on the Gnomonsong record label, which was co-founded by Banhart and his songwriting partner Andy Cabic (also of Vetiver).

There’s No Home’s country-western aesthetic undoubtedly lends a wispy nostalgia to the overall mood of the whole album — track three, “Valkyries,” sails along with a dulcet slide guitar melody, and the album’s halfway point, “Bird,” bounces by with multi-layered harmonies and wistful lyrics. But it is Hunter’s unique, plaintive voice that distinguishers her music from that of her peers. Somewhere between Chan Marshall and Chrissie Hynde, Hunter’s husky and nearly seductive croon can dip with the sassy moxie of The Detroit Cobras’ Rachel Nagy or chill with a calming whisper reminiscent of Banhart himself.

Hunter’s new record is brusque. But the tunes are concise, and they capture just enough mysterious prettiness to haunt your brain for days. Do not miss her intimate Eugene performance. Jana Hunter plays at 9 pm Tuesday, June 19, at Wandering Goat Coffee Company. Donations. — Steven Sawada


Is That Your Real Name?

Even though it’s been 17 years (gawd, has it been that long?) since John Doe released his debut solo CD, Meet John Doe, I still have a really hard time separating him from the bohemian punk that was X. While you can see the genetic potential of punk in X, they couldn’t be confined to that pigeonhole and couldn’t care less; they were too artsy to be punk, too unbridled for the new wavers, and their collaboration with producer Ray Manzarek (The Doors’ keyboardist) gave them surprising street cred at a time when punks and hippies were arch-enemies. When X morphed into the Knitters for 1985’s Critter on the Road, fans glimpsed the future as Doe and crew tried their hands at folk and country. It’s that path Doe has trod with his solo career.

His latest, A Year In The Wilderness, starts out with the gritty roadhouse blues of “Hotel Ghost,” with guitar gravitas provided by Knitters guitarist Dave Alvin. “The Golden State” shines, featuring the vocals of Canadian relative-newcomer Kathleen Edwards. Her sweet and slightly twangy vocals are the perfect foil for Doe’s big-hearted honesty. He moves through rain-soaked ballads as easily as the several rugged rock numbers and strums acoustic on “A Little More Time,” also with Alvin.

As usual, Doe pulls in his friends to help him out, this time featuring the voices of Jill Sobule and Aimee Mann, guitar by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and pedal steel by Greg Leisz.

John Doe and Dan Jones play at 9 pm Thursday, June 14, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+ show. $12 — Vanessa Salvia


Reggae Roots

1979 was a good year — the Sony Walkman was launched, Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first female prime minister, Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize, my mother gave birth to me and reggae musician Eek-A-Mouse had his first big hit with “Once a Virgin.”

Now, 28 years later and with more than 15 albums credited to his name, Eek-A-Mouse seeks to educate the public on the origins of reggae music and the exploitation of Jamaican artists.

Born Ripton Hilton on November 19, 1957, in Kingston, Jamaica, he began to make a name for himself in the 1970s when the popularity of Bob Marley and Rastafarian music was at a high. As the ’70s came to an end, it was time for a name change, and Hilton began the ’80s as Eek-A-Mouse — the name of the racehorse he always bet on.

The ’80s started off badly for reggae fans, after the death of reggae icon Bob Marley, but Eek-A-Mouse didn’t let the tragedy keep him down. He continued making music that honors his Jamaican roots — playing regularly at the Jamaican music festival Reggae Sunsplash and teaming up with reggae duo Michigan and Smiley. He has more recently been featured on Christian rock group P.O.D.’s album Satellite, lending his vocals to the rock-reggae track “Ridiculous.” Above all else he has tried to stay true to his Rastafarian beliefs.

“As I continue to present this original music to the fans, and the world. I will remember, and respect those that have made reggae music what it has become,” he says on his website. “Music from the downtrodden underprivileged people of Jamaica, a little island in the sun of the West Indies. I love reggae because reggae is me the ‘EEK.’ “

Eek-A-Mouse appears at 9 pm Tuesday, June 21, at Taboo. 21+ show. $15 adv., $17 door. — Deanna Uutela


Temperature Rising

“I got the fever” is a phrase that, like the music of the band currently singing it, The Young Immortals, sits at a juncture of musical genres and subgenres. It could indicate hormone-driven strains of hair metal, à la Poison, or ’60s pop harmonies, à la Big Star. It could belong to a sultry siren or an ironic indie band.

In short, it’s a pretty nonspecific line to make into the hook of your big single, but isn’t that how it always works? And it is, for The Young Immortals, a hook. (So is the picture on their MySpace page of one band member caught mid-air and mid-kick, actually.) “The Fever” is a song that deserves all the words I overuse in music previews: jaunty, peppy, synth-decorated, owing something to jangly Britpop and something to the showmanship of ’80s bands (you can just hear the potential for onstage charisma in singer Jacob Ray’s voice). Clearly, it’s not just me affected by this sorta-’80s, sorta-’90s pop rock; The Young Immortals recently won a battle of the bands at the Crystal Ballroom in their hometown of Portland, and they got a song on a Starbucks compilation. As a result, “The band receives dozens of emails per day from strangers who have heard ‘The Fever’ at Starbucks” or on Starbucks’ XFM station, says the press release for the band’s Eugene show. That may sound like small change, but dozens of emails a day is nothing to scoff at for a wee band trying to make a name for itself.

There are two other tunes on The Young Immortals’ MySpace page: a slighty slinky thing called “Motive” that’s just asking to echo through a large performance room, and “Hot For Sarah,” a jokey, simple ditty sprinkled with a playful tambourine. The band’s first album, When History Meets Fiction, is due out July 1, and immediate after its release, a sprawling summer tour is in the works. But first: Eugene. The Young Immortals play with The Dead Americans, The Filthiest People Alive and The Co-Stars at 10 pm Saturday, June 16, at Diablo’s Downtown Lounge. 21+ show. $6. — Molly Templeton