Upcoming concerts with Steve Earle, AlasNoAxis and Ambulance

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The Foreign Exchange



Moorer with Steve Earle

Thursday · Bogart's

It's a rare talent that can find success in Nashville without resorting to industry compromise or audience pandering. Allison Moorer is one such exception to the rule, resolutely creating a crackling blend of Country, Pop and Soul with no broader agenda than satisfying herself and anyone who happens to appreciate what she does so well. Moorer was raised by her older sister, Shelby Lynne, after the tragic murder/suicide of their parents. In Nashville to pursue work as a support vocalist, she met Doyle "Butch" Primm, and they began collaborating on songs together. But their professional relationship took a romantic turn, and they soon married. MCA bigwig Tony Brown signed Moorer, resulting in her staggering debut album, Alabama Song, and its equally impressive follow-up, The Hardest Part. In 2001, MCA's country division wobbled, and Brown left to form Universal South, bringing Moorer in as one of his cornerstones. Her third album, 2002's Brit Pop/Soul-drenched Miss Fortune, was Moorer's third consecutive critical success which then led to Show, her first live album (and accompanying DVD, featuring appearances by Lynne and Kid Rock) the following year. Sensing that her label might be itching for something more commercial, Moorer moved to Folk/Bluegrass independent Sugar Hill for The Duel, her fifth and perhaps finest album to date, a rawer and even more emotive work than its predecessors. Success from an artist's perspective is less about hits and the bottom line and more about great work.

In that light, Allison Moorer is a blazing star. (Brian Baker)

AlasNoAxis

Thursday · Southgate House (Parlour)

For a sound so based in musical freedom, it's kinda funny that, when you think "purists," in terms of music, you think of Jazz and its die-hard "snobs." Those traditionalists might not have much patience for drummer Jim Black's AlasNoAxis, but more open-minded fans with a broader definition of Jazz will find the ensemble refreshingly unique. Black — who has played with artists like Tim Berne's Bloodcount and Laurie Anderson — formed the troupe with longtime Seattle music-mate Chris Speed (sax, clarinet, keys), Iceland's Hilmar Jensson (guitar) and bassist Skuli Sverrisson. The Rock-ish guitar of Jensson (which, fittingly, comes off like a mix of Pacific Northwest Indie Rock and Icelandic Expando-Rock) is a dominant factor on much of ANA's third and most recent release, Habyor, but calling the group "Fusion," is a little misleading. The group's sound is more akin to the adventures of Post-Rock outfits like Tortoise, leaving space for improv and untamed tangents, but still crafting actual songs that utilize melody (albeit in less expected ways) and strong, sturdy arrangements. Each instrument seems to get equal billing — Speed's measured sax (which can skronk with the best of 'em, though he only does so occasionally) handles much of the melodic work, but each member steps up when called upon. Jensson's guitar work is especially dazzling, giving Habyor the feel of some of Nels Cline's escapades or those '80s collaborations between Robert Fripp and Andy Summers. ANA's press materials say Habyor is "not Rock, not Jazz, not improv, not avant garde," but, in fact, it is all of those things, filtered through Black's exploratory compositional approach and informed by the band members' diverse backgrounds and indisputable talents. (Mike Breen)

The Foreign Exchange with Little Brother, YahZarah and The Away Team

Thursday · Rhythm and Blues Café

Those new-fangled "Internets" (to quote the leader of the free world) were key to the formation of Hip Hop/Soul duo The Foreign Exchange. North Carolina-based rapper Phonte of underground Hip Hop sensation Little Brother came across some tracks from Dutch producer/musician Nicolay on the site okayplayer.com and contacted him about a possible one-off collaboration. The resultant track, "Light It Up," became a Little Brother B-side and led the twosome to form The Foreign Exchange. The FE's debut, Connected, is a slinky, sensual amalgamation of deep, deliberate Hip Hop and atmospheric, honey-dipped Neo Soul. LB fans know what to expect from Phonte as an MC (smart, clever lyrics riffed in a calm, cool delivery), but it's the musical context that makes Connected special. While Nicolay plays live instruments (guitar, keys, bass, drums, etc.) on the album, there's an electronic vibe to the tracks that the duo renders remarkably warm and soulful. With melodic hooks sung by Phonte and a variety of guest vocalists (including singer YahZarah; Little Brother's Big Pooh also offers some rhyme assistance) and an overall fluidity that makes the album pour like a strong martini. Connected manages to sound undeniably contemporary, but the injection of a large dosage of easy-breeze '70s Soul makes it especially distinct. Incredibly, the FE's debut was created without the two members ever actually working in the same studio together (they literally met in person for the first time this summer). If you think long-distance collaborations can't result in something beautifully passionate and kinetic, give Connected a spin. (MB)

The Makers with Murder Your Darlings

Sunday · Southgate House

Together and active for nearly a decade-and-a-half, The Makers have reinvented themselves several times during their history, not from a success-driven need to parrot current trends but in a sincere and honest attempt to challenge and satisfy themselves. Erupting from Spokane, Wash., in 1990, The Haymakers made their name with fast and furious Punk tremors around the Northwest, eventually shortening that name to the one fans referred to them by anyway. The Makers became legendary for their incendiary and confrontational gigs, touring in a hearse and baiting their audiences into verbal and physical skirmishes. In 1999, The Makers began dialing back the Punk and loading up the Glam with Psychopathia Sexualis, a direction they further explored with the 2000 concept album Rock Star God. But the band knew that they had created only half a story. Two years later, the Makers completed the concept arc with the subtle yet still powerful Strangest Parade. With the desire to return to a more Rock/Garage foundational sound, The Makers have been at work on a new album but the recent departure of original drummer Jay Maker and the integration of new drummer Jimmy Maker (who is also keeping time for The Cramps these days) has slowed the pace slightly. A taste of the band's new sound can be found on their single, "Tiger of the Night," which also features a cover of the Pretty Things' "Miss Fay Regrets" on the B-side. A further taste of the Makers will come on their current tour. Brace yourself. (BB)

Son, Ambulance with Old Canes

Monday · Southgate House (Parlour)

In 1999, guitarist Joe Knapp made his vocal bow on Bright Eyes' stunning EP Every Day and Every Night. Two years later, his own expansive band/project Son, Ambulance made an auspicious debut on the O'Holy Fools split EP with Bright Eyes and on the much anticipated and well-received Euphemystic full-length later in 2001. On their impossibly mature sophomore album, Key, Knapp and Co. have created an album with the kind of depth and power that usually doesn't show up in a band's catalog until much later. Oddball musical references abound on Key; the icy Pop beauty of Talk Talk, the gritty Pop/Prog of the '70s incarnation of Pretty Things, the impressive Pop architecture of Fear-era John Cale, the churning yet reined-in passion of Morrissey and the Smiths with Johnny Marr on the piano instead of guitar. Son, Ambulance is proficient enough to stitch all of these genre references together without showing a seam and yet loose enough to collide into each other to keep it from sounding too crafted or influentially fussy. It's a fine line to walk, but Joe Knapp has succeeded in creating a contemporary indie classic and an artifact of now. (BB)

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