The Bo-Keys have quite the resume. When you listen to Rufus Thomas' "Do the Funky Chicken," that's Bo-Keys keyboardist Ronnie Williams playing the piano. When you listen to Isaac Hayes' Hot Buttered Soul, that's Bo-Keys drummer Willie Hall laying down the beats. Sax player Jim Spake has backed everyone from Ike Turner and Al Green to Jerry Lee Lewis and Screamin' Jay Hawkins. And if the awesome wah-wah guitar at the beginning of Isaac Hayes' "Theme from Shaft" has ever put a grin on your face, you've got the Bo-Keys' effects-obsessed guitar player Skip Pitts to thank for it. The Bo-Keys may have come into existence as an ad-hoc backing band for "Mustang Sally" author Sir Mack Rice, but the group has evolved over time into their own thing. The Royal Sessions, the Bo-Keys' first CD, for Yellow Dog Records, is a rock-solid example of (mostly) instrumental soul in the spirit of Booker T. & the MGs. Their sound is a little more laid-back and a little less urgent than the Stax bands they pay homage to but every bit as funky. Let's call it a cocktail groove. The CD-release party for The Royal Sessions is scheduled for Saturday, November 8th, at 9 p.m. at the Blue Monkey's Midtown location on Madison. Word has it that certifiable soul royalty Carla Thomas will be making a special guest appearance. You can't beat that. -- Chris Davis
A couple of middle-American bands in local clubs this week are eminently worth checking out. For starters, alt-country icons The Jayhawks will perform at Young Avenue Deli Saturday, November 8th. I lost track of these Minneapolis country-rockers after their solid early-'90s stretch of albums --Blue Earth, Hollywood Town Hall, and Tomorrow the Green Grass --and after co-founder Mark Olsen split. But they've kept on, reportedly in a direction that's more classic rock than country. In their day, they were like Uncle Tupelo's more reserved and more melodic big brothers, playing their Gram Parsons fixation straight instead of with a punk-rock chaser. With singer-songwriter Gary Louris still leading the way, I imagine they still put on a fine show. Toronto roots-rockers The Sadies will open.
Also this week, over at the Hi-Tone CafÇ, Oklahoma's The Starlight Mints will perform Tuesday, November 11th, with La Guardia. Following fellow Sooners the Flaming Lips, the Starlight Mints are an eclectic alt-rock band with a strong psychedelic bent, which you can hear on their fine new album Built for Squares. --Chris Herrington