By Kris Wernowsky
By Chaz Kangas
By Joseph Hess
By Julie Seabaugh
By Mike Appelstein
By Rachel Brodsky
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
Deep Perswaytion Orchestra
Friday, Jan. 8; Way Out Club
Although Le Cameal considers this supergroup to be more in the vein of classic GTR than of Asia or Damn Yankees, the Deep Perswaytion Orchestra is a supergroup nonetheless, featuring members of Free Dirt, the Atomic Fossils, Plaid Cattle, Three Merry Widows, Tin Horn, Pallo Hide and Fran. Le Cameal, a.k.a Merv Shrock, and his Deep Perswaytion Orchestra feature guitars (four of them), bass, drums (two drummers) and random noise. On the group's four-song demo, recorded by Mike Martin at his Broom Factory, the Deep Perswaytion Orchestra roams from freak-o country-stoner rock to loose, meandering Rock rock, with quadruple-guitar gymnastics filling the space with acoustics, feedback, a touch of twang and distorted chords. Songs seem to stretch forever, and the result is curious enough to dictate that you visit the Way Out just to see whether they can fit all those people on the tiny stage. (RR)
No surprise that Dar Williams, Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell got together and made an album. The three East Coast singer/songwriters have been working the same coffeehouses, performing each other's songs and abetting each other's recordings for years. They are the chief exemplars of the post-post-Dylan malaise, troubadours who've never known deep American folk traditions, whose influences have grown as insular as their audience, limited to each other's lyrical impressionisms and maybe a Joni Mitchell album.
On Cry Cry Cry (Razor and Tie), the trio tackle cover songs by near- contemporaries -- Michael Stipe's "Fall on Me," Buddy Mondlock's "The Kid," Robert Earl Keen's "Shades of Gray" and (to fulfill their duties as '90s folkies) a song with an angel, Ron Sexsmith's "Speaking with the Angels." Their solo recordings have never shown such consistent and diverse material, and as songwriters all have proved capable of more than they've accomplished as performers. Shindell is the least well known of the three but also the most gifted and original. Once a seminary student, he writes with gnostic mystery and humility, sings with appealing grit. Kaplansky, on the other hand, is a singer/songwriter in the Shawn Colvin vein (she supplied harmonies for Colvin's debut, Steady On). She studied and practiced psychology and tends to write like a Ph.D.-turned-poet, with a heavy hand and a reluctance before harder psychological truths. But her voice can fly, and she's recorded at least one keeper, Bill Morrissey's "West Texas Blues," on her best record, The Tide.
For Williams the pop road called, and who can blame her for taking it? She said all she could say on her first album, The Honesty Room. Her message material has grown literal and obvious, directed at those who share her innocuous beliefs in holistic feminism. The results are, at best, politically charged songs with neither stimulation nor shock, trumped-up espousals of peace and ecology; and, at worst, prep-school doggerel masquerading as lyricism. Rather than challenge her audience -- in the tradition of Dylan or Mitchell -- Williams strokes them. Whether the sprightly genius behind her early song "When I Was A Boy" -- a dead-eye dissection of gendering -- will return or further dissipate remains to be seen. (RK)
Wednesday, Jan. 13; Blueberry Hill's
It's a wonderful problem we have here: When winter arrives, the number of national recording artists coming through town slows to a frozen trickle, and we're left to hibernate with local musicians. It gives us a chance to turn our gaze inward. And, lo and behold, there's Chuck Berry playing at the neighborhood bar. St. Louisans, remember: Chuck Berry plays his guitar about once a month at the Duck Room. And you -- you live 10 minutes away, and you've never seen Chuck Berry. Pshaw.
"Maybelline." "Roll Over Beethoven." "Back in the USA." "School Days." I repeat: Chuck Berry performs once a month at the Duck Room, dummy. Witness the man who inspired Elvis, the Stones, the Beatles, the Modern Lovers, the world. One of the cornerstones of 20th-century American music. Right here in your backyard. If you don't see him, you will regret it. (RR)