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DEATH BY DEADLINES

I just drove in from Austin, and boy is my liver tired. But seriously, folks ...

Every other cell of my being is just as tired as my liver, and yet I still have to write this column. Deadlines are a bitch. As for Austin, we'll have a recap--three, in fact--of last week's South By Southwest in next week's issue. In the meantime, bear with me as I make my way through events a little closer to home this week.


10-YEAR-OLD FREAKS

So much has been written about Greyhound Soul over the years that it's difficult to say anything about them that hasn't already been said: Joe Peña is a fine rock 'n' roll songwriter who writes new songs infrequently, but each one is worthy of addition to his fantastic catalog. (Aspiring songwriters, take note: It's called quality control.) His soulful voice is the sound of whiskey being distilled over gravel, with a couple packs of Marlboro Reds floating on top. He's a top-notch musician--and not just on guitar--who not only has chops, but imbues each note he plays with feeling, with emotion, with sensuality. Bassist Duane Hollis (also a Weekly employee), the only other constant member of the band, could artfully find the bottom end of a song if he were deaf, dumb and blind. And the rotating cast of musicians with whom they've chosen to surround themselves over the years have always seemed truly proud to count themselves among Greyhound Soul's esteemed ranks, each playing his heart out at every gig.

Due in no small part to the strength of Peña's songs, Greyhound Soul are a jam band for people who don't really like jam bands. Perhaps the only thing left to be said about Greyhound Soul these days is that, after a decade, it's easy to take them for granted.

We shouldn't, and the chance to show them how much they're appreciated comes this week in the form of a special 10th Anniversary Show at Club Congress. The performance will feature guest appearances from GHS alumni, and the band's 1996 debut album, Freaks, which has been out of print for about seven or eight years now, will be re-released just in time for the gig.

Show Greyhound Soul the love they deserve at 9 p.m. on Friday, March 25. Club Congress is located at 311 E. Congress St. Cover is $4. For more information call 622-8848.


RADIO RIP

When the members of the North Carolina band Superchunk started Merge Records in 1989, to put out their own records, as well as those by a few of their friends, little did anyone know that 16 years later, the label would be regarded as one of the best independent rock labels around. With artists such as Spoon, Radar Brothers, Lambchop and Richard Buckner currently residing on the label, that notion these days is difficult to dispute. This week brings a performance by one of the label's finest artists.

Portland, Ore. singer-songwriter Matt Ward--who records as M. Ward--was somewhat "discovered" by Tucson's Howe Gelb, who released Ward's debut album, Duet for Guitars #2, on his Ow Om label in 2000. Ward has been steadily attracting more attention and critical accolades for each of his subsequent albums. End of Amnesia appeared on the Future Farmer label the following year, and the excellent follow-up, Transfiguration of Vincent, his Merge debut, came in 2003. Ward meanwhile increased his profile last year when he toured with Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst and My Morning Jacket's Jim James as part of an acoustic singer-songwriters' package.

Last month, Ward unveiled his second album for Merge, Transistor Radio. True to its title, the album is a celebration of a bygone era in which radio was vital to the musical landscape. It's intended to resemble the effect of someone spinning the radio dial, stopping on a decent song no matter what station is playing it. Thus, each song takes cues from a particular musical genre, paying homage to not only radio's heyday, but, in the end, to the variety of genres that fall under the massive umbrella of American music. Yet, remarkably, it never really devolves into mere genre exercise; no song here sounds like an experiment. Instead, as filtered through Ward's distinctive voice, which can be simultaneously sandpapery and ethereal, and his gorgeous fingerpicking (his musical hero is the late guitarist John Fahey), each song manages to sound cut from the same cloth.

M. Ward performs on Wednesday, March 30 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Northfolk and Western open at 9 p.m. Advance tickets may be purchased for $10 at the venue or online at www.hotelcongress.com. They'll be $12 on the day of show. For further details call 622-8848.


CRYIN' FROM A LACK OF ATTENTION

In the mid-1980s, Kevn Kinney began fronting the Atlanta band Drivin' 'N' Cryin', whose potent blend of roots rock, Southern rock, country and punk sadly never really penetrated the public's consciousness. The group's first two albums, 1986's Scarred But Smarter and 1987's Whisper Tames the Lion (both on Island), are stone classics, despite the fact that most people--including many who would be wowed by them--have never heard them. It's a shame. And it's also a shame that the band eventually devolved into a somewhat generic hard-rock band that increasingly embraced mindless heavy metal cliches.

In 1990, though, Kinney began releasing solo albums that critics embraced the way they had Drivin' 'N' Cryin''s early material, even if they haven't found an audience much wider than said critics. (Each of his five solo albums has appeared on a different label.) His first four releases were largely acoustic folk albums that placed the emphasis on his tremendous songwriting abilities, but last year's Kevn Kinney's Sun Tangled Angel Revival (Compadre) saw him once again integrating rockin', full-band songs into the mix. You probably haven't heard it, but, again, the critics loved it.

Kevn Kinney performs at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 29 at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. He'll open for Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion (Guthrie is the daughter of Arlo, and the granddaughter of Woody). Advance tix are available for $10 at www.virtuous.com. For further details, call 798-1298.


CLAP FOR CLAPTON

Whether you subscribe to the notion that "Clapton is God," or think he's a boring Brit who has whitewashed the blues into something horribly bland, there's no denying that throughout his career, Eric Clapton has had more lives than a Buddhist cat.

In association with KXCI, this week, nine local acts will pay homage to Slowhand on the night of his 60th birthday. Scheduled to appear at the shindig are Ozlo, Tesoro, Al Perry, Loveland, Lisa Otey, Tom Walbank, Matt Mitchell, Black Leather Zydeco and The Wayback Machine, all performing their favorite Clapton songs.

The Eric Clapton Birthday Tribute hits the stage at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30. Advance tickets are available for $7 ($5 for KXCI members) by calling 623-1000 ext. 13 or by logging onto www.kxci.org. For more information, call 798-1298.


ON THE BANDWAGON

Former Arizonan and current Californian Daryl Scairiot trades in literary story-songs whose lyrics belie their rather bright sounding musical accompaniment. You'll find him filed under country/folk in your neighborhood record store, but he touches on all varieties of Americana. We predict wider recognition for him in the future.

Daryl Scairiot and the Softer Monsters perform two local shows in the coming days. They'll be at The Red Room at Grill, 100 E. Congress St., on Wednesday, March 30, along with Jason Steed. Call 623-7621 for more info. Then, the following night, on Thursday, March 31, they'll appear at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., at 9 p.m., just before the Optimist Club dance night begins. That number is 622-8848.

Finally, we received word as we were going to press that John Doe, backed by our own Nick Luca Trio, will appear as musical guests on Late Night With Conan O'Brien next Thursday, March 31. Don't forget to TiVo that sucker.

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