Music Tonight: There are probably several fans of the Roots Rock/AltCountry movement still recovering from seeing the genre's king, Ryan Adams, during his sold out appearance at the Taft Theatre over the weekend. And I bet a lot of them are rushing their recovery so they can make it to see/hear another giant in the field — The Old 97's — in town to perform tonight at Oakley's 20th Century Theatre. Click here to read Gregory Gaston's interview from CityBeat last year with frontman Rhett Miller about the band's most recent studio effort, The Grand Theatre Volume One.
The current leg of the 97's tour originally had the charming Those Darlins (a favorite at last year's MidPoint Music Festival whose star continues to rise fast) on board as openers, but the group had to drop out. Dedicated Old 97's fans will be thrilled to hear that frontman Rhett Miller (pictured) joins Texas Country Rock duo The O's (click here for a preview) as opening act replacements. Pulling double duty, Miller will perform solo acoustically after The O's play, then join his bandmates for their headlining set. Early word suggests Miller's solo sets — which have featured solo album songs, the 97's song "Nineteen" (he reportedly introduces it by saying the rest of the band refuses to play the tune anymore) and a cover of the Billy Bragg/Wilco/Woody Guthrie favorite "California Stars" — have been going over great, a call back to the set-up of the band's "An Evening With …" tour in 2009.
You might hear a new song or two from Miller in the opening set, as well; the 97's frontman announced late last year on the group's website that he has a new set of solo songs and further solo albums in the works. Miller's "open letter" to fans also announced that he, for now, is going in a more D.I.Y. direction for his solo releases, even launching his own label (Maximum Sunshine Records) to allow him to more easily deliver the music without the meddling of a label. To warm-up for Miller's warm-up, here's the singer/songwriter performing "I Need to Know Where I Stand" live at the Grammy Museum in ’09.
• Texas Post Hardcore quintet Memphis May Fire blaze a trail to Covington tonight for a concert at Bangarang's, the new venue operating in the building once home to beloved club The Mad Hatter. Not long after forming in 2007 in the small North Texas town of Memphis, the band blew away Trustkill Records president Josh Grabelle, who predicted the band was "on their way to something huge"; Trustkill reissued the band's self-titled EP before the year was over. The band's first full-length was due on Trustkill in 2008, but MMF was thrown a curveball when its lead singer decided to quit the band and focus on being a daddy to his newborn. The group found replacement singer Matty Mullins, who added his vocals to the essentially already completed (at least instrumentally) debut, Sleepwalking, paving the way for its release in the summer of ’09.
The band has been celebrated for its versatility and willingness to experiment and grow, offering a versatile sound that uses elements of Southern Rock boogie, Electronica and other boundary-busting additives to construct a unique — yet still blisteringly brutal — brand of Metalcore. MMF's sophomore album, The Hollow (its first for Rise Records), was released last spring to the band's best reviews yet.
Tonight's show at Bangarang's starts at 7 p.m. and features openers Watership Down, Allies Aside and For the Fairest. Tickets are $12. Below, check out MMF's video for The Hollow track "The Sinner":
Momentous Happenings in Music History for January 30
On this day exactly 30 years ago, Blues great Lightnin' Hopkins died at the age of 69 due to complications from esophageal cancer. Born Sam John Hopkins in 1912 in Centerville, Texas, the guitarist/singer/songwriter met the "Father of Texas Blues," Blind Lemon Jefferson, as a child, going on to later play guitar with Jefferson at church events. After a stint in prison, Hopkins moved to Houston before heading to Los Angeles to record tracks for Aladdin Records. There was given his nickname "Lightin'" by an exec at the record company. In the ’50s, Hopkins didn't perform live outside of the Lone Star state very often, but he recorded tons of material, which started to earn him a bigger and bigger following.
Musicologist/folklorist Mack McCormick helped bring Hopkins to much greater attention in the ’60s, presenting concerts in Texas, California and Carnegie Hall in New York, where Hopkins performed on a bill with Joan Baez and Pete Seeger. The Folk revival that was in full swing embraced Hopkins and his Country Blues style, enabling Hopkins to tour across the planet regularly throughout the ’60s and into the ’70s.
Though a respected singer and songwriter, it was Hopkins' guitar playing that had the biggest impact on popular music. Upon his death in ’82, The New York Times called Hopkins "perhaps the greatest single influence on rock guitar players."
An independent documentary film about Hopkins called Where Lightnin' Strikes is currently in the works. Check out a preview below:
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers born Jan. 30 include: Cincinnati native and a singer for Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, Marty Balin (1942); member of classic Rock & Roll bands Humble Pie and Small Faces, Steve Marriott (1947); cofounder of R&B/Pop/Funk juggernaut The Commodores, William King (1949); Genesis drummer-turned-singer-turned-Soft-Rock-icon Phil Collins (1951); Pop-turned-Country singer/songwriter (and husband of actress Katherine Heighl) Josh Kelley (1980); and Dance/Pop/R&B artist Jody Watley (1959).
While Jody Watley likely falls into the "Where Are They Now?" category for many people, the singer has kept consistently busy since becoming such a sensation in the late ’80s via hit singles "Looking for a New Love" and "Real Love."
After relatively mediocre sales in the early ’90s, Watley (who got her start as a dancer on Soul Train before becoming an original member of successful Dance/Pop group Shalamar) left MCA Records and formed her own imprint, Avitone Records, while continuing to be something of a style icon, working with several noted fashion photographers and appearing in top fashion mags. Watley spent the ’90s exploring various facets of her sound — Soul, Jazz and dance music — before developing a style that found a perfect balance. The result was a rebirth as primarily a Dance/Electronic artist; in the ’00s, Watley put together a string of club hits that did very well on Billboard's dance charts.
According to her website, Watley is currently working on her tenth solo album, Chameleon, and also her first novel. Chameleon will be the former Best New Artist Grammy-winner's first since 2006's The Makeover, which featured reworked versions of some of her hits as well as covers of songs by Diana Ross, The Carpenter and this mellow rendition of Madonna's early hit, "Borderline."