Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned
9 p.m., Juanita's. $12 adv., $15 d.o.s.
She may spend her days busying herself with being a recluse, but Grace Slick's voice still lives on in 2011. After its late '90s revival, bluesy garage rock is still thumping away and, for a number of femme-led acts, Slick's ululations lay out the vocal blueprint. And no one nods at the rock legend more faithfully than Erika Wennerstrom, frontwoman for the Austin by-way-of Dayton, Ohio, four-piece, Heartless Bastards. Sporting a contract with Oxford, Miss., superlabel Fat Possum Records and a 4 1/2 star review from Rolling Stone, the blues-garage revisionists have been building steam thanks to their smart yet rudimentary twist on accessible, full-bodied, decidedly Midwestern rock 'n' roll. The band itself is so solidly traditional and brass-tacked that there's precious few musical ideas to note — or, for that matter, really love. But as spectacularly understated as the men behind her are, Wennerstrom, again, is just as extraordinary. Live, she makes walking the line between Lucinda Williams' rootsy wisdom and PJ Harvey's unapproachable art-swagger look effortless. They're regulars in Little Rock — this week, back for their first time in little less than a year—but, with their ceaselessly upwards trajectory, you never know which show could be their last. The Bastards are joined by another blondie badass backed by a gang of guys in the Elise Davis Band and cello-and piano-laced indie pop from Conway's Don't Stop Please. JT
7:30 p.m., St. Mark's Episcopal Church. $25 general, $10 students
For nearly 60 years, the Chamber Music Society of Little Rock has provided a huge service to Little Rock's arts community, taking over St. Mark's Episcopal Church to provide four annual concerts from celebrated names of the classical community. This show marks the only concert performed with a soloist during their 2010-2011 season. A member of the prestigious Steinway Artist society, Lara Downes has performed in a dizzyingly impressive list of venues: Queen Elizabeth Hall London, the Vienna Konzerthaus, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy and Lincoln Centers, to name a few. NPR flipped over Downes after her appearance on "Performance Today" and lists upon lists of boutique magazines dedicated to classical music have compared her unique interpretive skills and an expressive, lucid technique with everything from Rachmaninov to Philip Glass. Thursday sees Downes tipping her hat to Arkansas with a special performance of "Fantasie Negre" by Florence Price, the Little Rock-born classicist, remembered as the first black woman to be widely recognized and accepted as a true symphonic composer by her white, male peers. JT
ADAM FAUCETT ALBUM RELEASE
10 p.m., White Water Tavern.
If you've recently started to attempt the frustrating, more-often-than-not-laborious task of wrenching a tune out of a guitar and slipping into the ether to peel off a few words to tack onto your new tune, then, young songwriter, stay away from this one. Adam Faucett and, more so, the music of Adam Faucett are notoriously devastating. Three weeks with Faucett's new album, "More Like a Temple," and I've given a thought or two to just trading in my instruments for a shovel and good pair of gloves. There's a very short list of area songwriters who command as much respect from both audiences and fellow musicians like Little Rock's "folk swamp soul brother." Faucett evokes a sound between Otis Redding's soul shout and Cat Power's swampy poeticism. Throw in a dash of John Fahey picking and the occasional glimpse of Rufus Wainwright vocal operaticism and you're almost there. The precise craft on display in the album's string-colored arrangements and crystalline production is strong by any standard, but as always, Faucett's melodies are the highlight: inspired, innate and effortlessly gorgeous. After a dozen-plus spins, "More Like a Temple" is far beyond just good. It may just be one of the most vital documents of a young musician to come out of town in years. Expect to hear about this album for a long while. He's joined by his backing band, the Tall Grass, and joshua, the Velvet Kente frontman who also occupies one of the rare spots on the aforementioned "shortlist." JT