CLEAVING TO TRADITION: You know how sometimes you'll hear a song or a record that you could swear you've heard before, even though you're certain you never have? Y'know how it's immediately somehow recognizable, and therefore comforting?

That's the feeling I got while listening to Broke Down (Philo), the latest release from singer/songwriter Slaid Cleaves. Maybe it's the resemblance his songs bear to another of my favorites in the genre, Peter Case (producer/multi-instrumentalist Gurf Morlix has worked with both, as well as Lucinda Williams and Robert Earl Keen), but it's hard to resist Cleaves' rough-hewn yet lyrical approach to his storytelling, backed only by the most spare instrumentation (i.e. no frills here--only what needs to be).

He even pulls an ace out of his hole in the form of the Woody Guthrie-penned dirge "This Morning I Am Born Again," for which Cleeves provided music. Similar to the effective experiments between Wilco and Billy Bragg, the song transcends simple addition. Guthie's lyricism + rock stars-in-waiting willing to take the time to discover him > most anything you'll find in this week's Rolling Stone.

As TW contributor (and No Depression maven) Linda Ray puts it: "If all singer-songwriters were that good, you wouldn't mind that there are so dang many of them." Well said.

Slaid Cleeves appears at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 23 at Plaza Palomino, located at the corner of Fort Lowell and River roads. Advance tickets are available at Antigone Books, Brew & Vine, City Grill, Enchanted Earthworks and Hear's Music, or charge by phone at 297-9133. Same number for more info.

BOOGIE NIGHTS: If there were a retirement policy at the TAMMIES awards, the first band to be ruled out of competition would have to be Funky Bonz. For three years and running the Bonz have cornered the market on boogie-shoes-wearin', ass-wigglin' fun. They've just re-released last year's Sexy Little Nun EP with two extra tracks and redubbed the effort 2001: A Funk Odyssey. The two new tracks were produced by Nick Luca (who also guests on self-explanatory send-up "Placebo Addict") at Wavelab, as opposed to the original four tracks, recorded with Jim Pavett. The Luca-produced tracks are grittier, less slick than the Pavett ones; essentially the juxtaposition shows heads and tails of the same coin: If you came to dance to a live band, you'll find yourself in the right place.

Funky Bonz plays at 9 p.m. Thursday, June 21 at Plush, at the southwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Sixth Street. Call 798-1298 for details. The band will hold court at 9 the following night, Friday, June 22, at O'Malley's, 247 N. Fourth Ave. For more info call 623-8600.

LEGALIZE IT!: The very mention of New Grass Revival strikes longing in the hearts of bluegrass fans everywhere. Any bluegrass album released present-day is likely to feature a guest appearance by ex-NGR mandolinist Sam Bush, and banjo player Béla Fleck has gone on to widespread fame with his genre-bending Flecktones. But when was the last time you heard the name John Cowan? Known primarily as the voice behind the wizardry, Brother Cowan has forsaken his rootsy roots lately, delving headfirst into blue-eyed soul territory (albeit with one eye on the farm). His latest, self-titled album rounds up such familiar names as Karla Bonoff, Jerry Douglas, Ronnie McCoury and yes, even ol' Sam Bush.

Check out John Cowan when he takes the stage of the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 27. Support act Def Hefner will open. Advance tickets cost $10, available at all Zia locations. For more information call 798-3333.

ALL YOUR BASE BELONG TO US: Something tells me irony is at play here. Throttlerod's new disc, Eastbound and Down (nice Dukes reference, boys) on Under Dogma Records, features a snapshot of that needlepoint pillow we all usta toss on our Naugahyde couches circa '76. A blatant attempt at cashing in on the neo-Nashville Pussy tip (yeah, they rock), but the question is: Does anyone care anymore? Apparently so. Germany's Daredevil magazine says: "You can tell the love to Lynyrd Skynyrd and a good pull out of the bottle." Who the hell am I to argue with that crazy German syntax?

South Carolina's Throttlerod appears along with Sunshine at 9 p.m. on Friday, June 22 at Double Zero, 121 E. Congress St. Discounts for anyone bearing a Confederate flag may or may not apply. Questions? 670-9332's your antidote.

APOLOGIES TO LITTLE PEOPLE: Press kits are notorious for their hyperbolic flights of fancy. The package sent out for Burning Brides' latest, Fall of the Plastic Empire (File 13), is clearly an attempt to achieve that fabled "next level" of puffery. To wit: "The Brides embody the full-on rock of Black Sabbath, the dynamic songwriting of The Pixies with all the melodic beauty of Husker Du". They go on to claim "sexual energy -- WITH the Pete Townshend [sic] acrobatics" as their own. I'm sorry, but they fall shorter than Billy Barty being tripped.

In truth, I'm being harsh. Yes, the majority of songs are pure and blatant rip-offs of someone, be it Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, or aaach. Mmmm-chmmm. Excuse me. Achh.

OK, wait a second. There really are good songs on this record. Like, for example, number 4, which rips off The Posies and Arcwelder. Penultimate track, number 9, is a blatant Built to Spill-into-genera-rock tumble. Did I mention I really like these songs? Really, I do, because the beauty of a song is that, formulaic as it may be, if it hits your ears just right, it's yours.

Burning Brides and Cherry Valence play at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 26 at 7 Black Cats, 260 E . Congress St. Lost? Call 670-9202.

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