What the Road Has Brought Together
Corinne West and Kelly Joe Phelps have traveled the same roads for years — paths deeply rutted by countless musical gypsies past — but they rarely met. In late 2009, their musical avenues meshed when Phelps performed alongside West in a series of CD release shows for her most recent album The Promise. During these shows it became apparent that each had found a true musical partner. The next path to follow: Become one as a duo.
Their partnership, built on the foundation of mutual respect and admiration of each other and their craft, led to the 26-minute, six-song EP Magnetic Skyline, recorded live-off-the-floor at Skywalker Sound (the sound division of George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch) in Novato, Calif. The songs on Magnetic Skyline, previously released on two of West’s earlier albums — the critically acclaimed debut Bound for the Living (2004) and The Promise (2009) — are innovative again with two destined-to-be-together voices soaring on the wings of their beautifully intricate but seeming effortless acoustic guitar work.
Coupled with her sensuously soulful voice, West’s insightful and provocative songwriting is an airy, free-flying vehicle, perfect for Phelps’ innovative and artistic guitar skills. A brilliant improviser, Phelps is known for his remarkable ability to reinvent a song — blending multiple influences with his own voice — every time he plays.
Corinne West and Kelly Joe Phelps play at 8 pm Friday, July 16, at Tsunami Books. $17.50 adv., $19 door. — Blake Phillips
The Eclectic Blues
Tired of pre-recorded segments and the limitations of a two-person band, Portlanders Kevin and Anita Robinson — better known as Viva Voce — decided to create a full band. For Blue Giant’s self-titled debut album, out July 13 on Vanguard Records, the pair collaborated with a handful of talented musicians: Chris Funk from The Decemberists, Evan Railton from Swords and Seth Lorinczi from The Golden Bears.
Blue Giant describes themselves as a mixture of psychedelic, country and grime. The Robinsons co-wrote these 12 songs, which sway and groove through a variety of genres. In their debut album, you can hear their indie-pop center, which is surrounded by a bluesy country twang. Songs like “Blue Sunshine” have a hint of old-fashioned country, while slower tunes like “Target Heart” are sweet and sensitive. There are also upbeat, pump-up-the-volume jams like “Wesley.” The blend of male and female vocals could be compared to bands like the New Pornographers, with smooth harmonizing and definite musical chemistry. Anita takes center stage on “Lonely Girl,” a distinctively country ballad that reveals the Robinsons’ Southern roots.
Blue Giant’s summer tour starts the day their album is released, and they’re keeping their first few shows local — Portland, Seattle and Eugene. Blue Giant plays at 3 pm Saturday, July 17, at CD World. Free. — Catherine Foss
Free Blues in the Park
After opening for U.K. blues guitar maestro Matt Schofield at the WOW Hall last month, the Ty Curtis Band is ready to kick ass again in Eugene, this time coming to Amazon Park in support of their just-released album, Cross That Line. The album’s 13 tracks include an earful of groovy numbers, cut-my-heart-out-with-a-spoon pain and the sort of sass and swagger that leaves listeners begging for more.
“What He Don’t Know” is a super-smooth blues number, while “Low Down, Broken and Blue” is rocking blues, replete with raucous drums, guitar licks and solos aplenty. And even when the song isn’t theirs — “Do I Love You Too Much” was originally penned by noted blues stalwarts Lee McBee and Mike Morgan — the Ty Curtis Band still makes sure you enjoy the hell out of it. Curtis turns in some solid vocal performances: Whether calmly narrating the story or reopening an old wound, he successfully infuses the tunes with the gravitas, joy or passion they require.
Some of these songs — such as the album’s title track — are great for listening to on the open road, and others will make you want to get up and dance, but one thing’s for sure: Outdoors, these songs are going to soar. The Ty Curtis Band plays at 8 pm Thursday, July 22, at Amazon Park. Free. — Brian Palmer
Back to the Velvets
In a “Letter to Bees,” the fifth track on Portland husband-and-wife duo The Harvey Girls’ latest release, I’ve Been Watching a Lot of Horror Movies Lately, vocalist Hiram Lucke sings of being “back to the Velvet Underground.” And this could be an effective mission statement not only for the album but the band itself.
The Harvey Girls recorded their latest psych-pop opus at the couple’s Portland home over a six-month period. The duo builds songs over loops, blip-bloopy synths, acoustic guitars, field recordings, percussion ranging from gospel stomps to world-music inspired rhythms, and vocal harmonies that range from trancelike and spiritual to bright and sunny.
Percolating to the top of all the woozy psychedelics that the Harvey Girls deftly layer are some strong pop tunes and jingle-jangle guitars that recall bands like the Velvet Underground and the Byrds as well as current indie rock demigods Pavement and fellow Portlanders the Dandy Warhols. This is when the duo is strongest and most cohesive, such as on “Monster,” the album’s standout track.
In addition, there’s a lot of Animal Collective in the Harvey Girls, who like many other bands in the current psych-folk or freak-folk movement can at their most tribal start a wild rumpus among the most jaded hipsters, causing them to dance feverishly around a campfire of cool indifference.
Harvey Girls, Wow and Flutter and Yeltsin play at 9 pm Saturday, July 17, at Sam Bonds. 21+. $5. — William Kennedy