By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
By Chaz Kangas
By Allison Babka
Pretty Little Empire
Pretty Little Empire heads straight for the gut. At a recent show an old '70s-rock fan told the band its set had touched his soul and that he would be straying from his well-worn rut to support the band in the future. It's not uncommon for the quartet to provoke such strong reactions; notoriously chatty St. Louis crowds fall silent at the first rich chords of vocal harmony. Occasionally performing with the Skekses' Elly Herget, Pretty Little Empire works the many traditions of rock & roll to charming and occasionally devastating effect, with frontman Justin Johnson's taut stage presence leading a consistent effort of uncommon sincerity.
9:30 p.m., Copia Urban Winery & Market
Union Tree Review
Union Tree Review has been busy lately — aside from playing myriad shows at Foam, Off Broadway, the Billiken Club and even the Pageant, it christened the first St. Louis Secret Sound Festival and played An Under Cover Weekend as the Postal Service. The band leased a space on Cherokee Street last year, which serves as a home and studio — last month the band debuted a single-take video for new song "44" shot in the space. (CW)
Midnight, Copia Urban Winery & Market
BEST AMERICANA (TRADITIONAL)
Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three
Pokey LaFarge doesn't just crank out Southern-tinged songs with hearty doses of soul, ragtime and blues — he's an encyclopedic fount on the genres' histories, and his great respect for it permeates every note. This year's Jack White-produced seven-inch, "Pack It Up" b/w "Chittlin' Cookin' Time in Chetham County," showcases the band's deep roots and far-reaching faculty. This spring he provided a boon to both his band and the genre he loves when he made an appearance on NPR's All Songs Considered "Tiny Desk" concert series. (RFT)
Rum Drum Ramblers
The Rum Drum Ramblers is a throwback to what Greil Marcus called "the old, weird America." Its second album, Mean Scene, out earlier this year, rambles through old-time country, jazz, blues and soul, carried by Joey Glynn's sonorous upright bass, the twang of Ryan Koenig's guitar and, especially, Mat Wilson's husky vocals and near-encyclopedic mastery of a century's worth of popular — and unpopular — music and guitar stylings. It's easy to compare the Rum Drum Ramblers to fellow nominee Pokey LaFarge — and, indeed, Glynn and Koenig comprise two-thirds of LaFarge's South City Three — but the Ramblers is a little looser, a little more freewheeling, the sawdust on the floor of the honky-tonk. (RFT)
Consider Lacie Mangels one of the luckiest singer-songwriters in town: She snagged three-quarters of the Linemen and formed Prairie Rehab after singer Kevin Butterfield left town. But if her bandmates' past gives some credence to the young frontwoman, she still more than earns her keep on this year's excellent Philology album. Mangels is a keen songwriter with a poet's sense of how her words hit your ears as well as how they sink into your heart. The instrumentalists in Prairie Rehab frame her songs with well-appointed country and folk accoutrements, and this partnership has resulted in some graceful and emotionally mature music.
6 p.m., The Over/Under Bar & Grill Patio
With a rotating lineup of St. Louis hillbilly and honky-tonk elite, Colonel Ford comprises a core membership of former Rockhouse Ramblers Gary Hunt, Dade Farrar and John Horton. The classic country supergroup brings a passion to artists like Buck Owens and Harlan Howard. No two shows are alike, especially when two-thirds of Uncle Tupelo — Jay Farrar and Mike Heidorn — show up for duty on slide guitar and drums. But it's Hunt and Dade Farrar who are the driving force. Hunt provides a solid guitar backbone punctuated with classic twang, while Dave Farrar's rich, heartfelt vocals and upright bass antics make them worth seeing, regardless of who else enlists for the night. They honor the music that inspired them and bring joy with the heartache.
Alt-country wouldn't have happened without the country outlaws of the '70s. Take two members of one of the genre's pioneers, the Bottle Rockets (Brian Henneman and Mark Ortmann), add long-time musical friends Kip Loui and Tim McAvin, throw in their collective love of Waylon, Willie and Merle, and you've got Diesel Island. Henneman's vocals are heartfelt on cuts like "(Don't Take Her) She's All I Got," and the band rips up "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" just like Waylon Jennings did before them. The song, like the band, is an alternative to Nashville's sleek flash. These boys make honest, rocking, agitated tales of regular Joes on the edge, letting loose with the regimented stomp of Ortmann's drums and the primal scream of guitars. (RW)
BEST SOUL/R&B (SOLO ARTIST)
Filling roles as a trumpeter, trombonist, arranger and producer, it's little wonder that Lamar Harris' schedule is packed with appearances at the city's most-respected clubs. Nor is it a surprise that something new is always percolating. His last album, Groove Therapy, functioned as just that: Jazzy songs flowed easily from one to the next, leaving infectious head-bobbing in their wake. Of course, there's more to come from this soul man about town: The Here and After, an album that Harris describes as a fusion of jazz, soul and electronica, is on the horizon. (RFT)
9:45 p.m., The Over/Under Bar & Grill Patio
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