LOCAL YOKELS: Local new kids on the alt-country block, Fourkiller Flats, have just released a five-song self-titled demo CD that they're sending out as a calling card to labels and anyone who's interested. (Are ya listening, Bloodshot?) My only complaint is that it's too damn short.

The five-piece band--singer/primary songwriter/guitarist Jim Cox, guitarist Neal Bonser, guitarist/mandolinist Jim Peeken, bassist James Stanley, and new drummer Bill Green (replacing Wise Folk Malcontent's Andy Gardner, whose drumming appears on the disc)--is probably best compared with Wilco before they became obsessed with Brian Wilson, but that simply doesn't do them justice.

Cox and Peeken are natural songwriters, and Cox's gravelly voice suits the material like a freshly pressed Armani. Highlights include the bouncy breakup ode, "Cat Song" ("You can take the cat, and I'll take the sofa/You can take the records you bought for me, they don't sound the same/You can take his name, I'll try to take it lightly"), which earns bonus points for name-checking the Buffet Bar; and the gorgeously wistful "Tip Me Over," which, like the rest of the disc, is anchored in Bonser's tasteful guitar licks. Bonser (who, in full disclosure, also works as an Account Executive here at The Weekly) is that rare guitarist with chops to spare, but whose playing is always appropriately understated, never bombastic or show-offy. He simply has a knack for always playing the right note.

If your curiosity is piqued, you've got two chances this weekend to check out Fourkiller Flats for yourself. The band takes the stage of the Winsett Performing Arts Center, 316 N. Fourth Ave., as part of the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association's Monsoon Madness series of free shows at 8 p.m. on July 21, following Steven Floyd's performance at 7 p.m. You can call 624-5004 with any lingering questions. Then they'll take the middle slot--in between openers The Electric Illuminators and headliners the Last Call Brawlers--the following night, on Saturday, July 22, at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. The show starts at 9 p.m., and you can call 670-9202 for more information on that one. Whichever performance you choose to attend, be sure to bring along an extra five bucks to buy the CD--you'll want it.

STICKY SWEET: Capricorn Records is one weird label. Known primarily for its peddling of college-friendly dance and jam bands like 311 and Widespread Panic, the imprint inexplicably saw something it liked in Athens, GA's Jucifer, a true anomaly on its roster.

After meeting at a Nirvana show, the girlfriend/boyfriend duo of guitarist/vocalist Amber Valentine and drummer Ed Livengood started Jucifer, eventually releasing their debut album, Calling All Cars On the Vegas Strip, on their own Crack Rock label in 1998. And while it didn't get the promotional budget of radio-friendly fare like 311, Capricorn eventually re-released the album after some additional knob-twiddling and remastering.

The result is a dark, sensual, and enjoyably messy and noisy affair that has drawn comparisons to everyone from Big Black, Black Sabbath, The Pixies, Portishead and The Melvins. Aside from the occasional detour--the strummy and pretty "Hero Worship" for one--the band pretty much sounds like its name: the clashing of the ominous and evil of Valentine's dense and overdriven five-string guitar and Livengood's ferocious skin-smacking with the sticky-sweet sensuality of Valentine's purred vocals floating above the din. Toss in the odd turntable-scratching and analog synth, plus oodles of soft-loud dynamics, and you're somewhere close to getting it. It's an inspired contradiction that works like a charm.

Jucifer appears at 9 p.m. on Monday, July 24, at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave. along with openers the Annie Hawkins Band. Cover for this all-ages show is $5. Call 884-0874 for futher details.

MINERAL RICH: Portland, OR, high school buddies Koji B. and Max Skewes shared an unholy affinity for both Tom Waits and The Pogues, so when they found themselves at London's infamous Filthy McNasty's pub on their last night in the city on a 1997 backpacking venture, and a wasted Shane MacGowan (ex-Pogues frontman) stumbled in and pulled up a stool next to them, the boys knew their fate was sealed. Upon arrival back in the States, the two found some willing friends and The Dolomites were born.

So what do they sound like? Well, they sound exactly like The Pogues, to be honest. In fact, they sound more like The Pogues than the last couple of Shane-less Pogues releases. If you thought that Rancid shamelessly rips off The Clash (which they do, but hey, if you're gonna pilfer someone's sound, you might as well steal from the best), then The Dolomites up the shameless rip-off ante with their debut album, A Hogshead of Whiskey, recently released on Walking Records.

The good news is that if you were a fan of the MacGowan-era Pogues, then there is absolutely no way you won't enjoy The Dolomites show at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, July 25, at the Double Zero, 121 E. Congress St. The Electric Illuminators get things underway, and the cover is a paltry three bucks. Call 670-9332 for more info.

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