CRUELEST APRILS 2/22, EMPTY BOTTLE Singer and violist Nissa Holtkamp and singer and guitarist Daniel Schneider (who does double time in Pedal Steel Transmission) modestly refer to their duo debut, Novella, as an EP, but its eight tracks run a generous half hour, and in that time they hit only a couple sour notes (the irritating acoustic rock-chick number “Pony Express” and a rushed, antidramatic reading of the Keats poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”). Everything else is simple, sweeping, and gorgeous old-timey blues and balladry: on “Murder Ballad,” Holtkamp’s piercing cries mingle with those of her viola; on “Serve and Protect,” Schneider’s guitar rolls and heaves like a magic carpet. GOOD LIFE 2/22, SCHUBAS This loose outfit, led by Tim Kasher of Cursive, features several other musicians from the circle associated with Omaha’s Saddle Creek label. Their forthcoming second album, Black Out, is a real odd piece of work: Kasher’s intent on merging playful synth pop with bare-naked heartbreak balladry; when the two impulses run parallel for a while, as on the beautifully unsettling “Some Bullshit Escape,” it’s an especially effective approach. SLAUGHTER & THE DOGS 2/23, FIRESIDE BOWL Though they’ve been working the punxploitation circuit for some five years now, vintage UK punks Slaughter & the Dogs have recently mustered enough spit for not only a full-fledged reunion tour but also a new album, Beware Of… (TKO). Formed in 1976 in Manchester, they played with the Sex Pistols and the Damned, got signed and dropped by Decca, and broke up in 1978. In their waning days, the Dogs briefly included guitarist Billy Duffy, who’d go on to Theatre of Hate and the Cult, and singer Steven Morrissey (yeah, that Morrissey), but the lineup on the new record is J.P. Thullet (bass) and Noel Kay (drums) with founding guitarist Mick Rossi and singer Wayne Barrett. These old farts do frequently sound like they’re having some fun–which is more than you can say about most of their supposed descendants. CELTIC FIDDLE FESTIVAL 2/24, OLD TOWN SCHOOL Not a festival, but rather a band, featuring three star fiddlers from Ireland, Scotland, and France, respectively: Kevin Burke, who also plays in Patrick Street; Johnny Cunningham, a Silly Wizard veteran; and Christian Lemaitre, who also plays in Kornog. They’ve released two live albums, but the new Rendezvous (Green Linnet), is their first studio effort. They’re all three fantastic players for sure, but with every nuance of string and hair perfectly recorded, they seem almost entranced by their own playing. Still, give them a beautiful traditional melody, even a borderline warhorse like “The Skye Boat Song,” and they work a subtle, graceful magic. Expect lots of soloing, fairly distributed around the circle, as well as hijinks and jokes; Patrick Street’s Ged Foley will play guitar. BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE 2/26, SCHUBAS I thought these guys were gone for good, but I’m glad to be wrong. The Bay Area “band,” which revolves around front man, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Anton Newcombe, has been through at least 40 members by some estimates; on last fall’s Bravery Repetition and Noise (The Committee to Keep Music Evil/Bomp), 12 people play guitars, organs, mandolin, mellotron, drums, woodwinds, flute, horns, pedal steel, and bass, but the songs are at times langourously sparse. Like its predecessors, the album explores the sweet depths of psychedelic pop, working its way up and down through organ soul and Byrdsy jangle as if this kind of music might still mean the world to young people. CUB COUNTRY 2/28, EMPTY BOTTLE This is the side project of Jets to Brazil bassist Jeremy Chatelain; he gets help on Cub Country’s debut from his bandmates as well as members of Rival Schools, Euphone, the Lunachicks, and Orange 9mm. High Uinta High (Jade Tree) doesn’t sound much like any of those bands; as the name implies, it’s a tentative foray into alt-country and folky pop, and it’s a little stiff as that stuff goes. Chatelain’s not a particularly expressive singer, but he’s not a bad songsmith either, and the tracks are terribly well executed. It’s a pretty but shallow record, with undeniably hooky tunes that work well individually but blur into sameness over the length of an album…sounds like the Eagles, doesn’t it?

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