A.A. BONDY Former Verbena front man A.A. Bondy is an angst-ridden guy making countryish music—like Ryan Adams, at least back before Adams went the way of the Dead. Bondy’s latest, When the Devil’s Loose (Fat Possum), often sounds like the sort of album everyone’s been wishing Adams would get back to making: bedroom intimate despite being recorded in a studio, it’s warm, deeply melancholy, and awash in reverb, full of lonesome themes (rivers, moons, deliverance, human bondage, a woman who’s gone and not coming back) and real songs. Elvis Perkins in Dearland headlines.
JOHN FOGERTY In 1973, after the breakup of Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty turned to his love of vintage country for his first solo album, The Blue Ridge Rangers, chipping away at his contract by covering classics from the likes of Hank Williams, George Jones, and Jimmie Rodgers and playing all the instruments himself. I’m not sure why, 36 years later, he chose to cut another record under the same name. Though on Rides Again (Verve Forecast) he’s surrounded himself with excellent players—guitarist Buddy Miller, drummer Jay Bellerose, multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz, bassist Dennis Crouch—the music lacks the energy and grit of, say, Fogerty’s 2007 solo album Revival (Fantasy). I don’t mind hearing him do solid renditions of Ray Price and Buck Owens, but his covers of John Denver’s “Back Home Again” and Rick Nelson’s “Garden Party” (with Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit, no less) are the kind of empty, predictable, feel-good boomer bullshit he ought to be above.
HALF RATS Lafayette, Indiana, has been producing old-fashioned party-centric rock ‘n’ roll for the better part of the decade—the Romance Novels, Eric & the Happy Thoughts, the Sweet Sixteens—and as representatives of that fertile scene the Half Rats are as good as any. Think of the sock-hop deep cuts Dick Biondi plays on WLS when he’s not besieged by Abba requests from lame-o suburbanites, and you’ll get the idea. In fact, Sir Biondi would probably be able to sneak the heartbroken girl-group number “Johnny Savage” or the surfy teen-boy plea “For the Sake of Love” on the air between the Gentrys and the Shangri-Las. Ever since guitarist-singer T.J. Brock moved to Chicago and joined CoCoComa earlier this year, the Half Rats have been less active, but thankfully they’re playing some midwest dates with Shannon & the Clams, an Oakland band smitten with the same sort of vintage sounds. With local boys the Yolks on the bill too—they released a high-energy hip shaker of a debut LP this summer—this show might be your last best chance to break out your dance moves before Chicago freezes over. The Half Rats headline; Shannon & the Clams and the Yolks open.
JUMP SMOKERS Jump Smokers‘ “My Flow So Tight (Anti-Breezy)” opens with what has to be the non sequitur of the year: the group’s lead MC, Roman, repeats “My flow so tight and the beat so sick” three times, then tacks on “Chris Brown should get his ass kicked.” Hooking what’s essentially a novelty song to a domestic-abuse incident is a tricky proposition, but I can’t help but agree with the sentiment. Apparently I’m not the only one—the track was widely blogged, and its combination of real talk and catchy electro beats helped it get steady spins on Chicago pop and hip-hop stations. “Don’t Be a Douchebag” is a clunkier attack on an easier target, but the fact that the band tosses out burns on Ed Hardy boys and at the same time gets props from B96—the radio equivalent of a dude wearing too much hair gel—is amazing. LMFAO headlines; Shwayze, Far East Movement, Jump Smokers, Paradiso Girls, Space Cowboy, Million Dollar Mano, DJ Inphinity, DJ Illusive, and DJ Ryan B. open.
PINE LEAF BOYS Though I used to love Beausoleil, I lost interest when the Cajun juggernaut started angling for a new audience with a middle-of-the-road rock-based approach in the 90s. So I’m glad to see a younger generation, like the Pine Leaf Boys from Lafayette, Louisiana, picking up the mantle of the classic bayou sound. The group suffered a setback after their sophomore record with the departure of vocalist, violinist, and accordionist Cedric Watson—who just released his second album, the excellent L’esprit Creole (Valcour)—but on their latest, Homage au Passe (Lionsgate), they’ve still got a zesty front line of squeeze box and fiddle, and they serve up soulful, careening waltzes, pumping grooves, and rowdy stomps. As you might expect given that members of the band are connected to Cajun greats like Marc Savoy and the Balfa Brothers by literal bloodlines, the Pine Leaf Boys almost always stick to fundamentals. Despite its contemporary energy, their music is hardly progressive—but I’ll take it. I think Beausoleil already proved that tinkering with tradition doesn’t always work out.
SEPTETO NACIONAL Ghost bands don’t get much older than Septeto Nacional, which established a blueprint for modern Cuban son more than 80 years ago. Formed in 1927 as Sexteto Nacional by bassist and songwriter Ignacio Piñeiro, the band shortly expanded to a septet with the addition of trumpeter Lazaro Herrera—a pioneering step, since wind instruments weren’t yet part of the music. Elaborately interlocking patterns on bass, acoustic guitar, tres, and hand percussion buoy the rich, passionate vocal melodies—sometimes composed, sometimes improvised—and the horn both complements the singers and steps out alone, juicing up the punchy, repetitive vamp of the obligatory montuno section with brash soloing. Piñeiro left in the mid-30s, and Herrera took over as leader until 1937, when the group disbanded. They began working together steadily again after the Cuban revolution in 1959, staying true to the vibrant sound of old-fashioned son, and they’ve continued to this day, albeit with more lineup changes than I’d care to count. Just as exciting as Septeto Nacional’s appearance here is the fact that any Cuban musicians at all are playing here—they’re the first group from the island to visit Chicago in six years, thanks to the baby steps the Obama administration has taken to normalize relations between Cuba and the States.