Walter "Wolfman" Washington
Saturday, May 29; Broadway Oyster Bar
New Orleans musicians have become a major part of the entertainment at the Broadway Oyster Bar in recent years, with frequent appearances by Chubby Carrier, File and Tab Benoit. This year's schedule looks even more promising, and one of the highlights takes place this Saturday, when Big Easy guitarist/vocalist Walter "Wolfman" Washington and his excellent band, the Roadmasters, hit the stage.
Washington has been a strong presence on the New Orleans club scene for the past three decades -- beginning his career working with the legendary Lee Dorsey before serving as the guitarist for the late singer Johnny Adams. Washington went out on his own in the early-'80s and put together the Roadmasters. He soon landed a contract with the Rounder label, releasing the fine recordings Wolf Tracks, Out of the Dark and Wolf at the Door, among others, from 1986-91. Washington decided to move on to other labels in the '90s, and although his recordings (Sada for Pointblank and Blue Moon Rising for a European label) still showcased his unique blend of blues and New Orleans rhythms, it was tough to find them in record stores.
Washington is back with the American stalwart Bullseye Blues label, and his 1998 recording Funk in the House captures him moving in a funkier, more R&B-influenced direction. But as anyone who's had the pleasure of hearing Washington and the Roadmasters at the New Orleans Jazz Fest or at Big Easy clubs like the Maple Leaf knows, these guys are best heard live. The combination of Washington's guitar work and smooth vocals; the Roadmasters' solid rhythm section of bass, drums and keyboards; and the power and punch of the band's three-piece horn section should make the Oyster Bar the place to be Saturday night. (TP)
Those Bastard Souls
Sunday, May 30; Duck Room
The inevitable comparisons between the band singer Dave Shouse was in before, the Grifters (who are on "hiatus"), and the one he's in now, Those Bastard Souls, should be addressed immediately -- let's just get it over with and move on. The Grifters were a T-shirt-blue-jeans-and-Converse band. Those Bastard Souls are a sportcoat-slacks-skirt-and-blouse band. This is not to say that they're more sophisticated, just a bit older and, yes, more refined. Where the Grifters concentrated on electric guitars and pure rock, the Souls' music is subtler and more textured, employing violin, piano and acoustic guitar along with the electric.
Those Bastard Souls' first record, Twentieth Century Chemical, was a remarkable, understated (and underproduced) sleeper on which Shouse created a blueprint that resembled many of his compositions on the later Grifters records: thoughtful work that relied more on respect and restraint than on reverb and distortion, more on calm explanation than on frustrated ranting. On their forthcoming record, Debt and Departure (V2), out July 13, they've expanded their lineup and now sport a remarkable roster featuring Joan Wasser on violin (she used to be in the Dambuilders), Kevin March on drums (Dambuilders/Shudder to Think/Rentals), Michael Tighe on guitar (used to be in Jeff Buckley's band) and Matt Fields on bass (Red Red Meat).
When they performed in Austin a few months back, their performance was a tad underwhelming; they seemed to lack energy and push, and they were a bit flat. The new record, though, is phenomenal; perhaps it was just an off night, or I was the one lacking energy and push. Highly recommended. (RR)
Nashville Pussy and the Bellrays
Sunday, May 30; Galaxy
Ever wondered what it would have been like if Tina Turner had fronted the MC5? No? You're about to find out anyway. Not with Nashville Pussy, whose raunchy reputation precedes them (and deservedly so), but with LA band the Bellrays, who've patented their own brand of soul-punk, or "Maximum Rock and Soul," creating music that's fresh, raw and full of the youthful energy lacking in many so-called punk bands these days. And if the Turner/MC5 analogy rings a warning bell, rest assured that they're definitely not a wannabe band trying to cash in on the horrible '70s retro thing plaguing the Western Hemisphere these days. Their excellent debut, Let It Blast (Vital Gesture), transcends mere labels and genres, and their live show has received raves, most notably at this year's South by Southwest, where they were a surprise hit and garnered the highly coveted "buzz" tag. Not the past here, but the future.
For once there's actually a good reason to leave your abode on a Sunday night, and, even more, the combination of the two bands is a candidate for the coveted "show of the year" honors for the rock crowd. (GP)
Wednesday, June 2; Side Door
"Don't give up your day job" is almost always sound advice when given to a musician. For fortysomething singer/songwriter Jack Logan, it's counsel that he has kept for many years, working as a swimming-pool-motor repairman by day and by night amassing a huge store of songs, some of which he's released on albums such as Bulk, Mood Elevator and his latest, Buzz Me In (Capricorn).
But no more. Logan has left the repair business behind once and for all and hit the rock & roll road for real. That's as it should be, because with Buzz Me In Logan has finally made the album his most ardent fans knew he had in him, a mix of full-tilt rock and rootsy folk, country and blues. On one track, he's even backed by a string quartet.
To be sure, it's a long way from the lo-fi stylings of Bulk, Logan's ragged-but-right 42-song debut, which was actually a compilation of demos culled from hundreds of songs he'd stockpiled by then. (A recent count of Logan compositions puts the number at around 900.) His work since then has been up and down, hampered in no small part by the usual record-company shenanigans -- Logan's former label, Restless, declined to release Buzz Me In, prompting a move to Capricorn. (He also records for his own label, Backburner.)
Logan's songs, most of which he writes in collaboration with longtime friend Kelly Keneipp, are remarkable, but in a low-key and unassuming way. You may think you've met his characters before -- for the most part, a batch of lonesome losers and small-town dreamers -- but Logan has a way of revealing just enough of the story to keep you intrigued throughout songs like "Melancholy Girl" and "Worldly Possessions." His warm, inviting vocals have an everyman quality about them, too, as if they're being delivered -- well, by the swimming-pool-pump repairman. Logan, incidentally, is something of a renaissance man. In addition to being such a prolific songwriter and being, um, handy with tools, he's a cartoonist for Athens, Ga., weekly Flagpole, and he did his own animation work on his video for the Mood Elevator track "Neon Tombstone." So check out his set, and maybe ask him to scrawl something on a bar napkin afterwards. If you've got trouble with your pool's pump motor, keep it to yourself. Rock & roll is Logan's day job now, and good for him. (DD)
Contributors: Daniel Durchholz, Terry Perkins, Gary Phillips, Randall Roberts