Jimmy Griffin is the definition of a St. Louis rock & roll lifer. He almost broke into the bigtime with the early-'90s pop-metal band Kingofthehill, played lead guitar in the final incarnation of Nadine and continues to rock the cover-band circuit with Tiny Cows. The Incurables, however, marks his first time out as a bandleader. This group uses the same players as the Jason Hutto-fronted Walkie Talkie U.S.A., of which Griffin is also a member. (Both men take turns playing Keith to each other's Mick, depending on whose band is headlining.) But where Walkie Talkie goes for buzzy, driving power-pop, the Incurables sticks to a slower pace and a more open feel that splits the difference somewhere between the classicist pop of Wings and the low-slung story-songs of the Wallflowers. Griffin is known first and foremost as an axe slinger, and while there are a handful of hot licks scattered throughout the disc, he keeps the focus on the lyrics. His voice has a sweetly ragged quality, and the songs are more often melodically whispered than expressly sung. It's a style that works perfectly on a song such as "Hotel Nowhere," which has barroom piano and upright bass that manages to mix elements of jazz and soul before turning into a country weeper. The band goes for broke on closing track, "The Last Day of the Rest of Your Life," as the slippery guitar lines and heavy piano chords threaten to turn into the oceanic coda of "Layla" although that wouldn't be a bad thing. Christian Schaeffer 8 p.m. Sunday, September 30. Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 6504 Delmar Boulevard, University City. $7.50. 314-727-4444.