Music » Critics' Picks


Saturday, Jan. 19; Cicero's


Everything's new in Chuck Newsome's world. With a brand-new CD in hand and a fresh batch of even newer material in his shirt pocket, the 24-year-old guitarist and his band Smokestack are traveling the rock & roll highway, performing nightly in strange towns and winning over new fans with their groovy improvisation-based rock. "We're branching out all over now," says Newsome, who wrote several of the tunes on Smokestack's independently released debut, It's Coming Down. "It's really cool having solidified the group of songs on the CD, but now we're writing a lot of new material and debuting it at shows."

Unlike some bands that crank out new material the easy way, by reworking old ideas, Newsome's two most recent creations reflect Smokestack's ongoing musical explorations. "'Chased by Rodents' is kind of a funk-driven instrumental with lots of odd meter things going on," Newsome remarks. "I don't really write a whole lot of lyrics, but for another new song, called 'Porch,' which I wrote on the porch of my girlfriend's house, they just came straight out. It's about confusion and love, stuff like that, which is a different theme for our band. We're not always incredibly introspective."

Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., Smokestack has earned a loyal regional following throughout the Midwest. Now the band is determined to build a national fanbase. "This will be our first show in St. Louis," Newsome notes. "People seeing us for the first time are going to get a high-energy show that's filled with lots of groove. For us, rhythm is a celebration of the soul, so they're going to get a lot of groove, a lot of energy and interesting music!"

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