Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned
By John Tarpley
9 p.m., Juanita's. $16 adv., $20 d.o.s.
Unless Neil Young or Patti Smith makes an unlikely trip back to town or Warren Zevon or Townes Van Zandt reanimates and zombies up to a local mic, Little Rock isn't likely to see a show from a greater Great all year. "Wait: if this guy's so 'Great,' then why isn't he famous?" For decades, the Alejandro Escovedo story has been that his talent has far outweighed his renown and his deserved mainstream success has been elusive, inexplicably. His consolation prizes aren't awful, however: "Artist of the Decade" by alt-country magazine No Depression, a demi-god in his native Austin and nearly unanimously adored by critics, musicians and others in the peanut gallery from collaborator Bruce Springsteen to fellow Texan George W. Bush, who kept Escovedo in his iPod during his presidency. In short, if you know Escovedo, you probably love him as much as I do and you'll be there. If not, and you're open to a new favorite singer, clear out your Thursday night plans.
6 p.m., Wildwood Park for the Arts. $20.
KUAR celebrates Arkansas Heritage Month and the 115th anniversary of the Civil War during this year's installment of "Arkansas Flyer," the annual, twang-tinged music revue/comedy show/storytime hour/big ol' barbecue. The night, emceed once again by Amy Garland, the local songcraft and host of "Backroads," the terrific radio hour (KABF, Friday nights, 5 p.m.), features country swingers extraordinaire The Salty Dogs as house band, Fayetteville folk duo Still on the Hill's banjo and violin Ozarkia, Arkansas State University professor Gwendolyn Twillie spinning Civil War yarns and the return of the Invisible Radio Theater, performing old-time radio sketch comedy. The night kicks off at 6 p.m. with a barbecue dinner catered by Capitol Smokehouse.
10 p.m., White Water Tavern. $7
"He's the best singer/songwriter I ever threw out of my studio." Steve Earle, quote factory he is, spit that one out about Malcolm Holcombe, the rough and tumble Appalachian folk singer. His grumbled, minor-key confessionals command a resounding reverence and stir up more than a few welled eyes. During his last visit to White Water Tavern, the crowd sprawled out on the floor, unable, I like to think, to stand up and take it all in. Holcombe's rustic, primal finger-picking is astonishing enough; pair it with the manner in which he sings, eyes rolled into the back of his head, convulsing as he channels a certain ancient rumble and, yeah, it can sometimes be too much to take in all at once. But why the hell does he have to play the same time as Alejandro Escovedo? Looks like it's going to be coin flip time this Thursday.
KEITH SYKES WEEKEND
8 p.m., The Arlington Hotel, Hot Springs. $50.
The songwriter whose collaborations with John Prine, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell and Jimmy Buffett is the namesake of what's starting to look like an annual Hot Springs tradition. The Keith Sykes Weekend lands yearly in the Arlington Hotel for two days of songwriting shop-talk, Bloody Marys and gigging. This year's bullpen includes Roger Cook, whose songs have been performed by Elton John and Neil Diamond, amongst others, and who made what we estimate to be a bajillion dollars when he wrote "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" for Coca-Cola; Buzz Cason, the Nashville songwriter whose track, "Soldier of Love," was famously covered by The Beatles on the "Live at the BBC" album; Jed Zimmerman, a young Memphian and Sykes protege; Grace Askew, a young folk-soulstress making waves in that world; Delta Joe Sanders, another mud-soaked Memphian, and rootsy Little Rock lady Shannon Boshears. Tickets are available at KeithSykes.com.