BLONDES 2/5, HEARTLAND CAFE This trio of light-haired ladies has been harmonizing at Chicago cabarets for years now–some of Sarah Motes’s compositions on the group’s self-released debut, Try, date all the way back to 1989. At times the cheese is overwhelming, but gutsier tunes fall somewhere between the Roches and the Go-Go’s–and I gotta love any song that starts with the line “I gave my fat clothes to a drag queen.” ENRIQUE IGLESIAS 2/5, HORIZON Niche marketing is, if nothing else, democratic. Born in Madrid and raised in Miami, 23-year-old crooner and songwriter Enrique Iglesias has borrowed band members from Billy Joel and Elton John, sold more than 13 million records worldwide, won a Grammy, and been named the world’s sexiest man by People’s Spanish-language edition, all without much help from the Anglo audience. Too bad for us, because this kind of sappy, string-soaked stuff sounds a lot better when the rs get rolling. This show, in support of Iglesias’s third CD, Cosas del Amor (Fonovisa), benefits Hispanic American Commitment to Education Resources (HACER), a Ronald McDonald House scholarship fund. BIG ASS TRUCK 2/6, MARTYRS’ This Memphis quintet’s fourth album, Who Let You in Here? (Peabody), features some better-than-average songwriting–“Hands of a Working Man” in particular rides an infectiously lazy groove and smoothly shifting dynamics. But singer Robby Grant’s Robert Plant-style ululations are shameless, and the band’s seventh-generation Stax funk is spiked with just enough turntable trickery to be irritating. JIMMIE LEE ROBINSON & JOHNNIE MAE DUNSON SMITH 2/6, the HIDEOUT Links to Chicago’s postwar blues tradition are increasingly few and far between, so it’s important to enjoy the ones the city can’t bulldoze. Guitarist Robinson has never gotten comfortable on the nostalgia circuit: though his music maintains the classic flavor, his lyrics about gang troubles and historic preservation demonstrate that there’s no rosy Blue Chicago veil over his eyes. Dunson Smith, who like Robinson got her start on Maxwell Street in the 40s, wrote hundreds of blues songs and played drums for Jimmy Reed. Last year, when the city condemned her decrepit west-side home, boarding it up with her possessions still inside, she came out of a quarter century’s retirement to holler with Robinson on the old strip one more time. While the right hand sweeps away these artists’ history, the left hand pats them on the head: this show, sponsored by a grant out of North Carolina, is part of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events’ “Winter Break” festival. BLEED 2/9, SCHUBAS The underbelly of the white-soul revival suits me better than its flabby backside: if Big Ass Truck would kill for a third of the grace in Steve Cropper’s pinkie, Bleed would crawl over broken glass to get half the skank in Iggy Pop’s toe jam. The Milwaukee trio’s debut, Tales of the Handsome Creep (Fireman Pressings), is actually a respectable lurch in that direction, all Old Style and not a microbrew in sight.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Jimmie Lee Robinson photo by James Fraher.