THE BUZZ 1/15, gunther murphy’s; 1/16 BUDDY GUY’S LEGENDS The Buzz’s debut release, Highway (Sacred Lily), opens with some mildly promising blaxploitation wacka-wacka, but it’s a downhill slide from there into some pretty pale blue-eyed soul and studied yet standard blues-rock noodling. You’ve heard every note before: the overacted Blues Brothers bellowing, the painful guitarsturbation, the beats that just sort of plod along as if the band just realized that James Brown isn’t coming back onstage after all. But hey, Buddy likes them. BALLY SAGOO 1/16, HOUSE OF BLUES Born in India and raised in Birmingham, England, where his father imported Indian music, international dance-music star Bally Sagoo is a mix master in more ways than one. After his first album, a dance mix based on the beats of the traditional Punjabi harvest music called bhangra, came out in 1990 on an Indian label, it was bootlegged all over the world; Sagoo found himself being pestered for autographs while working the nine-to-five job as a stereo salesman that he still held to please his parents. He soon quit to make music full-time, including two albums for Columbia, Bollywood Flashback (1994) and Rising From the East (1996), and his sinuous, scale- and beat-bending mixes of bhangra, hip-hop, ragga, soul, and techno have made him beloved to all those for whom multiculturalism isn’t just a day job. EIREN CAFfALL 1/20, SCHUBAS Singer-songwriter Caffall, who accompanies herself with only a lap steel guitar, does a remarkable thing for a solo artist these days–she forces people to listen by virtue of the quietness, delicacy, and sheer poignant prettiness of her music. Her melancholy quasi-Appalachian songs might be said to suffer from a certain sameness, but then so do real Appalachian songs, and as with those, it’s important to stick around for the cumulative impact. Definitely one to watch. SMALL AXE 1/21, EMPTY BOTTLE Chicago is home to a happy slew of indie-pop bands that walk the tightrope between clever and dorky, and here’s another one. But Small Axe’s debut, Wheel of (Mis)Fortune (Big Tree), is a better than decent example of the form, with pretty, clangy guitars, demure beats, and nice touches of light psychedelia. Sometimes singer Bryan Coberly stays straight while the band turns left, and though it may not be intentional, it can be quite charming. Lyrically he gets points for the lines “Last night I was at my favorite bar / When I met my future ex-wife” but loses them for comparing her curves to a car’s in the next couplet.

–Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dorothy Perry.