James Jackson Toth 

9 p.m. Friday, September 12. Billiken Club, in the Busch Student Center on the campus of Saint Louis University, 20 North Grand Boulevard.

"Cocaine and bourbon, pinball and pool," sums up James Jackson Toth — or nearly sums up, as the former lo-fi, acid-folk leader of Wooden Wand pawns his last bag of 'shrooms for a walk on Lou Reed's wild side and a bender with John Lennon slurring in his ear. On this year's solo debut, Waiting In Vain, the New York-born songwriter (now living just outside of Nashville) fleshes out his desperate portraits of barfly schemers and dope alley dreamers with the sweetest, piano-based country soul strolls and a beggar's banquet of Stones rock. Toth's drawling sneer cuts through the dark mood like a glinting blade; when he sings, "I am the lie in disbelief" and "the rage in tragedy," you don't have to wonder if it's a put-on. His fictions feel fierce and earned.

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