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This week in Little Rock we’re “taking it easy” (but not too easy, mind you). With a great lineup of laid-back country/folk rock bands, it will be hard not to get your fill of whiskey inspired/heartbreaking/sin-toting/woman-chasing songs — some of the traditional persuasion, some a bit more quirky.
On Monday at The Revolution Room check out The Benevento/Russo Duo. Formed in 2002 when drummer Joe Russo was offered a Thursday night residency at New York City’s Knitting Factory, the band is made up of Russo and Marco Benevento. Russo mainly plays drums and guitar with Marco on keyboards (often mixing it up with a Mellotron or a Wurlitzer).
The music is smooth, vocal-free rock. Think Mogwai during its mellower moments. The CD itself has excellent cuts but be prepared to drift during the show. Kids from the ADD generation might find themselves wandering. Jazz and jam band enthusiasts should find themselves enthralled.
On Tuesday at Juanita’s, it’s Manchester Orchestra. Paste magazine featured the band in its January issue and it’s been compared to The Weakerthans, Neutral Milk Hotel and The Magic Numbers. But take Paste’s advice to heart when they say, “Make no mistake, Manchester Orchestra is a pop band.”
In that sense, Manchester Orchestra lacks the creative genius of bands like Neutral Milk Hotel. There’s no major risk in the group’s sound but there’s also nothing wrong with it either. They are a “tightly-knit musical force” without a doubt and a good start to the rocking week.
Friday serves up the bulk of the musical meat. At The Treehouse it’s American Aquarium from Raleigh, N.C. Surely the long lost sibling of Whiskeytown and Roger Hoover and the Whiskeyhounds (with perhaps a bit less whiskey in their systems) their country/rock vibe is made up of guitar, bass, keyboard and viola.
American Aquarium has been described as “North Carolina’s Ryan Adams through cigarette-and-coffee sermons” and these sermons are delivered with force.
Duking it out for top country-rock dog on Friday will be Drag the River, Kevin Kerby and Battery and Chad Rex, all at the White Water Tavern. Kerby, well known on the Little Rock circuit, is a classic country crooner. With paper mill references and on songs dripping with husky vocals, he is the perfect addition to a show headlined by Drag the River, whose songs “Beautiful and Damned” and “Calloused Heart” could not be more down-and-out if they tried. It’s no surprise they’re buddies with Lucero. “Me and Joe drove Out to California…” is straight out of the Springsteen/Mellencamp fakebook.
Chad Rex is from Kansas City. Fighting the all-encompassing Paul Westerberg comparison (despite the fact that he wrote a song called “A Song for Paul Westerberg to Sing”), Chad’s music is soft, simple and carries that same age-old/lived forever feeling as the rest of the lineup.
This Friday also features another edition of Acoustic Sounds Cafe with singers/songwriters Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart. Earle and Stuart met in Nashville in the early ’90s as solo performers. By 2001 they were married and performing as a duo.
Earle got her start touring in her brothers band; Stuart was on stage playing in his dad’s band by the age of 15. Stuart saw some time in the limelight (appearing on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in The Dukes and playing gigs with Neil Young) but now he and Earle “rough it” for the sake of their art.
Earle kindles a little of the sweetness of Emmylou Harris and Stuart backs it up with twangy, James Taylor-esque vocals. They’ll be appearing with blues/folk singer Bob Piephoff. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. The cafe is at 600 Pleasant Valley Drive in the Second Presbyterian Church. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors.
The last band in Friday’s parade o’alt/country/folk/rock is The Munks at the Afterthought. With a heavy line-up of local Little Rock musicians playing viola, harmonica and pedal steel, among other things, their sound may really be “beyond description” (but let’s try anyway). A little bit of jazz (Theolonius if you will), a little bit rock (again with the Costello), a little, tiny, bit country (pretty sure it’s the harmonica).
Finally there’s that quirky element I promised. Next Wednesday at Sticky Fingerz check out The Avett Brothers. They’ve got their country/folk/bluegrass roots covered. The boys were inspired by an early meeting with Doc Watson and the band first began to take shape in 1998 when Scott Avett would gather other acoustic bluegrass and country musicians to their porch to have a jam session called “The Back Porch Project.” By 2000 the Avetts and guitarist John Twomey had recorded an album and they began touring.
Their sound has, strangely, compared to the Everly Brothers and the Violent Femmes but somehow the comparison is right on — especially in songs like “Backwards With Time” and “Talk on Indolence,” which add a perfect “quirky” element to a group that might otherwise be shelved with other decent but dull alt-country artists.
Other shows to catch include EMO-tional rock with This Day and Age and Rookie Of The Year, Rory, and Aaron Harvey at Juanita’s on Saturday as well as Need To Breathe on Wednesday … At Whitewater on Thursday, its local acoustic songstress is Adriane Allyn and on Tuesday check out local Noah Glenn. Sweet songwriting with a Nick Drake/Brian Wilson vibe, Glenn’s instruments include mandolin, toy piano, melodica, glockenspiel, banjo, ukelele, tambourine, handclaps and vocoder — all played by Noah. I think I’ll attend just to see the logistics of the show. He’ll be joined by The Jibes and Dying Breed.
Join Cat at her “Cat on the Prowl” club blog at www.arktimes.com/arkansasblogs/prowl/ for daily reports on the night scene. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.