Nashville Pussy 7/11, Lounge Ax The “Nashville” signifies only a bit of outdated hometown pride–this fledgling four-piece fronted by ex-Nine Pound Hammer guitarist Blaine Cartwright and his ax-wielding wife, Ruyder Suys, recently moved to Athens, Georgia, to be better appreciated. Their output so far is too scant to have reached my ears–though their new single is being pushed by fellow southerners Man or Astroman?–but a condensation of tantalizing reports makes them out to be a “southern-fried Motorhead with tits.” Oh yeah, and bassist Corey Parks (little sister of Minnesota Timberwolves forward Cherokee Parks) stands six-foot-three without heels and occasionally breathes fire.

Verbow 7/11, Metro, Borders on michigan “Fan Club,” the first song on Verbow’s new Bob Mould-produced Chronicles, is an overpassionate meditation on the fleetingness of rock fandom. But cello or no cello, what the album as a whole best illustrates is the fleetingness of the competent but unremarkable guitar bands of the alt-rock era. Points off for blaming the victim, guys.

Big Rude Jake 7/12 & 13, House of Blues Big Rude Jake have hobbled themselves out of the gate with the cover art for their Blue Pariah, which threatens to pigeonhole them–wrongly–as cigar-smoking-hep-daddy wannabes. Their music is actually quite likable, in some spots paying a cinematic and besotted homage to Tom Waits, in others betraying a marked Devo influence, and sometimes veering right off well-trod trails toward Buzzcocks blues or Friends of Dean Martinez-style lizard music. Unfortunately, they open for the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Robbie Fulks 7/12, Empty Bottle It says something about the state of the Nashville goop machine these days that Fulks is still hawking his wares to the rock crowd–playing the Empty Bottle, recording with Steve Albini, wheeling and dealing with David Geffen–because his sparse, lonesome croon is as purely country as early Merle Haggard. What’s really refreshing is the absence of the ironic mask worn by so many young country and rock artists alike, lest they be mistaken for somebody who (gasp) gives a shit.

Storm & Stress 7/12, Lounge Ax On its Touch and Go debut, this Pittsburgh trio puts forth not quite Sturm und Drang catharsis but something far more tense and anxious. In the apparent structurelessness, it may be hard to tell when they’re done warming up and have actually started playing, but as with stress, the effect is cumulative. Patience will be rewarded.

Laja 7/13, Arnie’s Idle Hour, Harvey I have no complaint with this Chicago singer-songwriter’s buttery, lush voice or her swingy lounge-blues tunes. I only wish the arrangements on her cassette, I’m Not Jivin’ I’m Jamin’, were less zealous–sassy saxes get stuck in sticky strings, backup singers trip over high piano notes, and the end result is that Laja has to work harder to be heard than a lady ought to.

Sumo 7/13, Elbo Room, rock around the Block festival This large, loose collection of Chicago musicians plays weekly at Elbo Room, where they’re apparently trying to beat Poi Dog Pondering’s record for most people crammed onto a small stage at one time. What they do up there is not quite funk, not quite acid jazz, and not quite hip-hop, but there are elements of all those things on their new CD, recorded live one night in January. Sometimes the improvisations catch fire and sometimes they just sputter, but overall Sumo promises a sweaty communal good time–provided that decent drummers show up.

–Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Nashville Pussy photo by Marty Perez.