There's plenty of great blues to be had around town pretty much any day of the week: Beale Street, the Center for Southern Folklore, Wild Bill's, and Huey's are all reliable sources for the region's greatest roots music. But this week Oxford, Mississippi, shames them all. The place to be is that little college town's the Library -- a music venue, not a building on the campus of Ole Miss. The date is Friday, February 21st. The entertainment? Well, first there's Handy-nominated rabble-rouser Willie King, whose latest, Living in the New World, brings clenched-fist protest to a juke-joint party. Then there's one-time Sun Records icon Little Milton, one of the music's greatest elder statesmen, whose upcoming album will attempt to cross him over, Solomon Burke-style, through collaborations with the likes of Lucinda Williams. Then there's the king of the chitlin circuit, Bobby Rush, who may well be the planet's greatest entertainer. You should start practicing your hoochie dance now.
Let me share with you my favorite Oneida lyric, from their aptly titled album Come On Everybody, Let's Rock: "When I do business I do it in Japan/I am signing contracts that I don't understand/But it don't matter when the deal is done/I'm getting higher than the rising sun." Now that, my friends, is rock-and-roll. It's the perfect commingling of monkey business and illicit pleasure, and it's not so much smart as it is streetwise. As rock-and-roll bands go, Oneida is so good it's almost depressing. Well, it's depressing if you've ever thought about starting a band of your own. You have to ask yourself, Dude, if after nearly a decade and a battery of truly fine records, these guys aren't full-fledged, arena-sized rock stars, is there any hope left in the world that ANYONE can become a full-fledged, arena-sized rock star?
On top of being fantastic musicians, the boys in Oneida are fantastic, and fantastically energetic, showmen. There is a growing consensus that they may very well be the best band playing in NYC these days. Better still, there aren't too many crowds they can't please. Say you're way into indie rock: Oneida pens clever, self-aware lyrics and melodic rock symphonies. Say you're way into punk: Oneida is louder than a bomb blast. Say you're a metalhead: Did I mention that these guys are loud? Say you are a classic-rock nut: Drawing on such influences as Foghat, Blue Cheer, and Deep Purple, Oneida is classic rock. They are, quite frankly, one of the best straight-ahead rock bands touring these days. If you miss them, that's just too bad for you. They'll be at the Hi-Tone Café on Tuesday, February 25th, with Memphis' own Lost Sounds. For those who like to rock, it don't get much better than that. --Chris Davis