For years, Charlie Wood has been one of the jewels of Beale Street, his ongoing residency at King's Palace Café providing one of the most consistent and perhaps the most distinctive live musical experiences to be had on the famous strip.
People think of the blues and of Beale as being guitar-driven, but Wood is a piano man - or organ man, to be more specific. His accomplished, witty playing is rooted in jazz and blues but with echoes of rock, pop, and even gospel. As a singer and lyricist, he has a light, cerebral touch. The result is regional roots music that traces its origins less to a Mississippi bluesman like Muddy Waters than to a more urbane showman such as Arkansas' Louis Jordan.
With drummer Renardo Ward and guitarist Gerard Harris completing his trio, Wood provides sharp, snappy good-time music that stimulates the body and the brain. You can see it live most nights at King's Palace, and you can also hear it on his new album, Somethin' Else, which opens with a dizzy burst of solo piano and unfolds into a series of stylistically varied takes on Woods' jazz/blues template. On "Memphis," an autobiographical ode to his Bluff City base, Wood opens with "I heard a gray-haired old musician say/That on the vaudeville circuit back in his day/They said the two worst nights you could ever play/Were Sunday night and Memphis" and goes on for five more minutes of funny-because-it's-true observations on his hometown and his place in it. "Memphis" is the highlight of Somethin' Else but only the beginning of its treats.
Wood celebrates the release of Somethin' Else Wednesday, August 31st, at King's Palace. Doors open at 6 p.m.; music starts at 7 p.m. - Chris Herrington
In the late 1970s, Dwight Yoakam strapped a guitar on his back and left his old Kentucky home for the underground music scene of Los Angeles. When the lanky picker got to California, he fell in with the punk crowd and often played with the Blasters, Phil and Dave Alvin's revered rockabilly train wreck. That association most likely accounts for Yoakam's frayed vintage aesthetic and his ability to take traditional honky-tonk sounds and make them fresh and furious. His latest release, Blame the Vain, proves he's aged like good whiskey. The album - in spite of its odd bits of spoken word - is souped-up Bakersfield country in the spirit of Wynn Stewart, Merle Haggard, and Yoakam's professed hero, Buck Owens. Catch him at Sam's Town on Saturday, August 27th.
Vending Machine and Augustine? Now that's a show, my friends. Vending Machine's Robby Grant writes intensely quirky songs packed with images from a 6-year-old's daydreams. Augustine's stately reinvention of Brit-pop should mix with Grant's singular sound like a chocolate guitar slathered in peanut butter. Not so long ago, I went out on a limb suggesting that Augustine might be the best band in town, and for now I'm sticking by that claim. See them at the Young Avenue Deli on Saturday, August 27th at 9 p.m. - Chris Davis
I have an anger-management problem, but I don't punch holes in walls or yell at people over petty grievances. My problem is that I can't get angry, no matter what happens to me. I'm too nice and too forgiving. That's why I like hardcore. Bands like the So-Cal punk-metal outfit The Warriors get me all riled up in a way that no one person can. Their music starts with a soft little drumbeat and then suddenly a heavy guitar chimes in and the lead singer screams "ARGHHHHHHHHHH!" I'm sure he's saying something, but I don't know what and it really doesn't matter. It's that raw energy that gets me going.
A lot of hardcore bands sound the same, I will admit, with many vocalists singing like they're constipated and trying to channel Satan. But the Warriors are different. Their vocalist screams like a girl. Think Kittie, only with a less manufactured sound. At first, his prissy attempt at sounding tough annoyed me, but the more I listened, the more I related. After all, I am female, so why should a girly scream annoy me? I just began pretending he was a girl.
That may not be so easy live. But check it out for yourself at the Complex as the Warriors join Summer's End, Set Your Goals, Cut the Tension, and Donculis on Friday, August 26th.
- Bianca Phillips