Fat Possum rolls over and plays live

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T-Model Ford



The Fat Possum Mississippi Juke Joint Caravan

Thursday · Southgate House

For some people, the Blues is an appetizer that they consume with a beer or two (preferably something light), nothing too taxing or distracting, maybe little more than some lame band's umpteenth lame version of "Sweet Home Chicago." For others, the Blues is an important historical musical chapter, and the listening experience takes on the air of academic pursuit as the aficionado attempts to connect the dots of various eras of Blues to one another in a larger picture. And to a select few, the Blues is a church. The love of it is a religion, and the roots of it are as ancient as pain and as real as the need to exorcise that pain through voice and guitar and song. It is for that latter group that the Fat Possum Mississippi Juke Joint Caravan rolls into town. Fat Possum, of course, is the Blues imprint of legendary Punk label Epitaph Records, and it is no ordinary Blues label. Its roster is rife with artists who breathe the Blues like oxygen and feel the Blues like it was the 15th round of a Muhammad Ali fight. T-Model Ford plays a sweltering, raw vision of the Delta Blues that seems touched by every one of his 75 years (although he's not entirely sure exactly how old he is). Guitarist Kenny Brown and drummer Cedric Burnside are generally found on a stage backing up Cedric's legendary grandfather, R.L. Burnside, who prefers to stay a little closer to home now that he's nearing 80. And Paul "Wine" Jones, at almost 50, is the youngster of the group, playing a syrupy take on the rural Delta Blues, pushed through some of the electric guitar's more modern conveyances (like the wah-wah pedal, for instance).

For these men, the Blues is not a choice to be made. The Blues is a living entity that chose them to do its work. Take a seat on the bench and open your hymnal to any damn page you please. The men of the Juke Joint Caravan are guaranteed to know the song. (Brian Baker)

The Shantee

Friday · The Mad Frog

Hailing from the state capital just up the road, The Shantee is a Midwestern Jam quintet with a whole vanload of homegrown success and potentially a whole lot more to look forward to. Although the band has been together for nearly 10 years, they've built their fan base on the regional touring circuit, recording sporadically but deliberately. The Shantee's 1998 debut album, Lands Unknown, recorded when they were still college students, was a potent introduction to their soulful blend of Folk, Rock and Pop. It was three years before the group went back to the studio for Hydration in 2001, another solid example of their burgeoning musicianship and uncanny ability to translate their live experience in the studio. With another three years behind them, The Shantee have another self-released gem for the merch table, this one a four-track EP, produced by renowned boardsman David Z, entitled Four Now. The Shantee's decade of hard work, dedication and tight musicianship has attracted a fiercely loyal audience (check the message board at theshantee.com for an endless and appropriate discussion of the band's divinity and an FTP server where fans can download live Shantee recordings), and it really does seem as though it's just a matter of time before some savvy label realizes that The Shantee has created a groundswell of support for themselves just as a certain Mr. Matthews did with his Band just a few years ago. And things turned out pretty well for them in the long run. P.S.: The Shantee Web site mentions new member Robb McCormick, so show up and welcome him properly into the Shantee family. Bring a dish to pass. (BB)

Heidi Howe with Len's Lounge and The Hiders

Saturday · Jack Quinn's

Louisville-based singer/songwriter Heidi Howe is the kind of musician who puts her activism where her art is. A few years into her musical career, Howe decided to see what she could do to connect her passion for music with her concern for the environment. In 2002, Howe released a CD to raise awareness for the group, EarthSave International. A tour — hooked up through connections with like-minded activists — took the message and Howe's Americana-flavored Country/Folk/Bluegrass sound across the country (Howe's grassroots networking also led to an invitation to contribute a chapter to the book, Softly on This Earth, set for release later this year). Howe's advocacy continues with her freshly released CD, Give a Hootenanny!: Twangy Tunes About Lovin' the Earth, which was recorded with help from a grant from the Kentucky Arts Council. Though essentially a children's album, the CD-cover recommendation that it's "for ages 1-101" is spot-on, especially if you're keen on well-written, well-played Americana music. The album's theme shouldn't be too hard to infer from the album title. Howe, who vocally sounds like a mix between Neko Case and Victoria Williams, espouses the virtues of being eco-friendly in her playful, clever lyrics. Folk music has a rich tradition of playing to the kids, from Woody Guthrie's numerous kiddy ditties to "Puff the Magic Dragon" (um, assuming it's not about smoking weed), and Howe's Hootenanny! fits perfectly into that lineage. On the disc, Howe addresses alternative forms of transportation ("On My Bike"), positive self-image and healthy eating ("I Love My Body," "Good for You"), recycling ("Recycle Reuse Reduce") and other general earth concerns in terms that children will understand and in a way that won't have parents rolling their eyes (OK, maybe a little on "Good for You," which personifies doomed fruit like Anna Banana and Nate the Grape). Musically, Hootenanny! scurries through trickling Bluegrass, saucy Country Blues and straight-up, vintage C&W and Howe and her back-up band deliver with an organic grace and expertise. Howe shows herself to be a wonderful children's music creator, but a couple of songs on Hootenanny! dig a little deeper and should have listeners scrambling to venture deeper into her discography. Howe's songwriting strength is on full-display with "Just Like the Earth," a moving, dark ballad, and "You're It," a rich and rollicking song about love. Though "You're It" doesn't seem particularly geared towards the kiddy set, its "All You Need Is Love"-type theme is indicative of Howe's ability to write inclusively, without alienating anyone (except maybe Republicans). Her charm and musical command transcend age (and most other) boundaries. (Mike Breen)

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