FLACO JIMENEZ 8/2, FITZGERALD’S Buena Suerte, Senorita (Arista Texas), the latest album from accordionist Jimenez, finds the conjunto star ripping into ten spirited dance numbers with no concern at all about crossing over. That’s not the case on 4 Aces (Reprise), the terrific new rock-tinged record from the Texas Tornados, his raucous quartet with Doug Sahm, Freddie Fender, and Augie Meyers; but Jimenez remains true to his roots even while traversing non-Tex-Mex territory. Sahm’s own band was originally slated to share this bill–which more than likely would have resulted in some loose collaboration–but so long as the beer is cold and plentiful Jimenez is plenty entertaining on his own. KIM RICHEY 8/2, SCHUBAS It’s still fairly uncommon for women who work within the Nashville machine to write their own material, but Kim Richey does just that, with melodic savvy and rare intelligence and range. Though she leans toward country rock, Richey manages to escape being smothered by the usual high-sheen production; and though most of the songs on her self-titled debut reflect on breakups and their repercussions, Richey’s varied perspectives–from bitterness to newfound strength–and vivid imagery inject some new life into familiar stories. COLFAX ABBEY 8/3, EMPTY BOTTLE These Minneapolitans, enamored of the British shoegazers of yore, flip the bird to prevailing “alternative” paradigms by miring themselves in the past. There might be some nice melodies and decent singing on their album, Drop (Prospective), but I sure can’t make it out beneath all that effects-heavy guitar churning. HOWLIN’ MAGGIE 8/3, DOUBLE DOOR Fronted by former Royal Crescent Mob bassist Harold “Happy” Chichester, the Columbus foursome Howlin’ Maggie has chosen fellow Ohioans the Afghan Whigs as a stylistic model. As when RCM was aping the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the imitation is pretty thorough, but whether or not it’s flattering is another matter. It’s certainly played upon the munificence of Whigs singer Greg Dulli, who provides some vocals on Howlin’ Maggie’s debut album, Honeysuckle Strange (Columbia), and has asked the band to open on several of the Whigs’ tours. Chichester et al will also perform Sunday afternoon at the Wicker Park Greening Festival. DIG 8/3, METRO Compared with the hackneyed angst lite that fills Dig’s second stab at world domination, Defenders of the Universe (Radioactive), the teenybopper alt-rock cliches served up by headliners Possum Dixon seem almost vital. ISLEY BROTHERS 8/3, STAR PLAZA The brothers’ latest hit album, Mission to Please (Island), serves up ten silky, bedroom-oriented slow jams produced by Angela Winbush, R. Kelly, and Keith Sweat. While their de rigueur stylistic jab at chart action doesn’t break any ground, the sweet cry of Ernie Isley’s guitar and the stunning vocals of Ronald Isley–a rare example of someone who understands the swooping subtleties of Marvin Gaye–easily separate this musical family from the rest of the sultry-grind crew. Whether he’s pulling back the sheets for a woman that “Makes me wanna creep downtown / And go up and down on you” or pining for a past love on a cover of Simply Red’s “Holding Back the Years,” Ronald’s got a sensual old-school quaver to his voice that’s lacking in more contemporary soul seducers. WAGON 8/6, SCHUBAS As heard on its second album, No Kinder Room (Hightone), this Saint Louis quintet demonstrates the unfortunate side effects of the No Depression movement. I came to be a fan of both Uncle Tupelo and the Jayhawks, bands that built their music from sources at least three decades old, but Wagon is pillaging sources that are still warm–you guessed it, Uncle Tupelo and the Jayhawks. BIOHAZARD 8/7, THURSTON’S Although it’s possible that the promoters of this show moved it from the Double Door to Thurston’s because the former venue spelled the band’s name “Bio-Hazzard” in a print ad, it’s more likely that abysmal ticket sales prompted the transfer. If the Brooklyn combo’s new Mata Leao (Warner Brothers) is any indication of their live sound, it’s not hard to see why tickets aren’t selling. Anguished, rap-inflected vocals amid washed-out groove metal ain’t exactly a winning formula, but it’s all these guys know. EDDIE LeJEUNE 8/8, SKYLINE STAGE The son of legendary accordionist Iry, Eddie LeJeune, who also plays the squeeze-box, is one of Louisiana’s greatest practitioners of traditional Cajun music. While Beausoleil, the Cajun populists who share this bill with LeJeune and zydeco artist Rosie Ledet, use the accordion-fiddle-guitar formula as a base for wide musical wanderings, LeJeune never leaves home at all. His soulful Creole singing and the exuberant tunes that waltz beneath his voice combine in an untainted respect for tradition without being imprisoned by it. LOW 8/8, EMPTY BOTTLE The members of this prolific trio from Duluth don’t tamper much with their general MO–ultraquiet minimal trance pop–but on their forthcoming fourth record, The Curtain Hits the Cast (Vernon Yard), they finally seem to be stretching within its limits. Guitarist and vocalist Alan Sparhawk displays greater melodic sophistication on “Over the Ocean,” while the epic “Do You Know How to Waltz?” builds tension in tiny increments, the glimmer of a single guitar intensifying to a pale but steady glow in a sea of reverb.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Eddie LeJeune by Rick Olivier.