Jonathan Edwards with George LaVigne
Friday · Madison Theater
If Folk/Pop singer/songwriter Jonathan Edwards had never performed another note after producing the 1971 hit "Sunshine," his place in musical history would likely be secure. The two-minute masterpiece's propulsive pace, infectious melody and veiled protest theme ("He can't even run his own life/I'll be damned if he'll run mine") were instantly accessible to a broad audience at the time, making "Sunshine" one of the year's breakout smash singles. Ironically, Edwards included "Sunshine" at the last minute after an engineer inadvertently erased another song intended for his eponymous solo debut. Proof of the song's appeal is its current playlisting within Oldies formatted radio stations and Classic Rock stations alike. (For those who tune in Sunday evenings to Mary Peel's Jelly Pudding show on WOFX, you're familiar with another Edwards classic, "Shanty," best remembered by the line "Gonna lay around the shanty, mama, and put a good buzz on.")
As it happens, Edwards has maintained a fairly consistent recording and performing career in the 35 years since "Sunshine" went Top 5. In fact, before "Sunshine," Edwards was with a Blues/Rock outfit known as the Headstone Circus (which became Sugar Creek), which had a decent following in this area. After his debut solo album, Edwards concentrated on more traditional Country music, but then abandoned music after buying a farm in Nova Scotia. By the mid-'70s, Edwards returned to his career, recording a trio of albums, singing backing vocals for Emmylou Harris and joining Bluegrass sensations the Seldom Scene. Since 1990, Edwards has released an album every three or four years, the last being 2001's Crusing America's Waterways, a live companion album to the 13-week PBS series which featured Edwards as narrator and performer. In addition, Edwards, who also paints (you see his work at jonathanedwards.net), has recorded an acclaimed children's album (Little Hands), toured as the lead in Broadway's Pumpboys and Dinettes, produced albums by Cheryl Wheeler and scored the John Savage movie The Mouse.
Edwards, currently living in the Virgin Islands, tours infrequently, so don't lay around the shanty when the "Sunshine" boy strolls through town. (Brian Baker)
DJ Suv with Ryan Mack and J. Lettow
Saturday · Clique Lounge
If there's one consistent thread throughout the career of veteran, influential Jungle/Drum N Bass hero DJ Suv, it's his unflinching versatility, sonic diversity and, as a result, innovation. And his approach has only gotten more progressive as his career proceeds. Born Paul Southey and hailing from the adventurous Dance music hub of Bristol, England (which also spawned beat renegades like Massive Attack and Smith & Mighty), Suv was ushered into the musical universe in the late '80s as a member of Fresh Four. In the early '90s, Suv connected with citymates DJ Krust, DJ Die and Roni Size to found the Full Cycle label, which became the main outlet for the heralded "Bristol sound." Suv also joined his co-label founders as a producer/sound sculptor in the collaborative Reprazent, which brought him — and particularly Roni Size — to the forefront of the movement, even resulting in crossover success thanks to the deft mix of the various members' influences (Jungle, Dub, Hip Hop, Reggae, Pop and beyond).
Size became the "star" of the group, but Suv remains widely celebrated due to his adventurous style, showcased in his collaborations, solo output and remix and production work. He has spun all over the world and his music often reflects that global reach, as Suv has been known to incorporate all sorts of ethnic musical flourishes into his sound. While known mainly as a Drum N Bass champ, it's his boundary-busting, reconstructionist approach within the genre that has made him legendary. His switched-up time signatures have become trademark variations of DnB; Suv has been quoted as saying his solo debut, the EP Freebeat, was a message to other artists in the field to not be afraid of expanding on the expected formulas and themes.
Suv's Dub and Ragga inspirations (which, coupled with his madcap exploratory approach, led to him being dubbed the "Lee Perry of Drum 'N' Bass") got some company on 2001's Desert Rose (his debut long-player). On Rose, Suv went even further in his mixology, blending in Spanish, Brazilian and Moroccan musical adornment. More recently, he released Follow the Sun, which spawned the amazing, Jazz/Latin-laced single "Do You Remember Me?," featuring ear-tickling vocals from New Zealand vocalist Tali.
What's in store for Suv's performance at Covington's Clique is anyone's guess, as he seems to pick up musical influences like most people pick up refrigerator magnets when they're on vacation. Regardless of where his most recent explorations have landed him, expect a surprising, engaging set. (Mike Breen)
Criteria with Smoking Popes, thistle and Black Sunday
Tuesday · Mad Hatter
One of those increasingly irrelevant glossy music magazines recently did a round-up story about Rock musicians who have Ph. D.s or other lofty higher-education credentials. The gist being that, although we all know that most rockers are illiterate buffoons, there are actually a few who aren't dumber than rocks! The fact that the singer of the Offspring is included in the bunch is an interesting case study; as owner of a Ph. D. in microbiology, is the planet best served by Dexter Holland putting his mental skills towards writing songs like "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)"?
Of course, it's a personal choice and it's a decision Stephen Pedersen can relate to. Pedersen came up in the fertile Omaha music scene and was a member of Cursive until 1998. He split just as international attention was building for Omaha music, thanks to the strong scene built around Saddle Creek Records. Pedersen was forging his own new career, having enlisted in Duke law school. But he couldn't stay away from the creative process, forming The White Octave, which put out a couple of albums in the early '00s. Pedersen graduated and landed a sweet lawyer job, working for the large, nationwide Kutak Rock firm in Omaha.
Being back around his musical friends in Omaha must've been like dangling a donut in front of a fat-camp graduate, because in no time, Pedersen had formed Criteria. The "band" was initially just Pedersen, who crafted his 2003 debut album En Garde in his basement, playing most of the instruments himself. He soon formed an actual band and began playing around his day-job hours. The debut came out on Initial Records, which folded soon after it was released, but buzz around the band had grown to the point that major labels became interested. A deal with RCA was reportedly squashed when Pedersen told them they had to pay off his student loan debt. Ultimately, it seemed a no-brainer for Criteria to hook up with Saddle Creek and that's just what the band did. With Pedersen quitting his law-dog job to tour, the label reissued En Garde and also released Criteria's sophomore effort, when we break, last year.
When we break is an adrenalized detonation of urgent, intense Rock, mixing winding Built to Spill-like melodies and vocals with slanted, Fugazi-esque guitar and rhythmic dynamics. Criteria's sound shares traits with some of the Punk/Pop that charts today, but Pedersen and Co. approach music in a more expansive, far less cookie-cutter way: The lyrics are smart and emotionally direct (without being tween diary fodder) and Pedersen's voice is remarkably sturdy, at times showing an almost Freddie Mercury-like range. The legal world's loss is the Indie world's gain. (MB)