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Kicking the Genre Habit

Pete Anderson's solo debut, Working Class, brings to mind a couple of local quotes. Joe Hughes has some great lines about how his goal was to be a musician, not a bluesman, and Gene Kelton claims he learned the blues from frequent ass-kickings during 20 years of playing country. There's a similar "been there, done that, still doin' it" attitude to Anderson's graduation from journeyman guitarist for the likes of Michelle Shocked and Dwight Yoakum to solo artist.

This is the widest-ranging display of diverse styles on one CD since, oh ... that Doug Sahm thing I raved about a few weeks ago. Maybe this is the start of a welcome new trend -- a deliberate rejection of categorization, as accomplished artists show how many different directions they can push the envelope. Suffice to say that the 11 songs on Working Class manage to fall into at least ten different genres, with only a dreamy instrumental cover of "Our Day Will Come" and Anderson's "Muddy Night at the Opera" sharing the label of "as close to jazz as anything else." The title track is one of the most authentic blue-collar blues-rock anthems to come down the unemployment line in a while; come the next recession, it's a song that's likely to get a lot of airplay.

Given his versatility, it's hard to say what direction Anderson's show at the Mucky Duck may take, except that his songwriting and performing make it plain that this is a man who has fun doing what he does. "Where the Crows Go" has the strangest lyrics I've heard since the last time I listened to Leonard Cohen, and Anderson's cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire" transforms that standard into an smooth traditional blues shuffle. If Anderson is touring as a solo act, "What About Me" fits the Duck's guitar-storyteller tradition like spandex, while "Somewhere a Long Time Ago" is that real, down-in-the-holler country music you'll never hear on hat radio. I'm hoping that he's at least touring with a person identified only as "Freebo" on the CD's liner notes, whose horn plods through "Stateside Charlie" like a circus elephant marching through town in the best (okay, only) blues-tuba tune I've ever heard. Innovations like that foreshadow a show that wanders all over in search of a good time, and finds it at every turn.

-- Jim Sherman
Pete Anderson plays around 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 18 at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk. Tickets are $10. Call 528-5999 for info.

Bottle Rockets -- More evidence -- along with the reunited Jason and the Scorchers and the Uncle Tupelo offspring Wilco -- that there's a strong, country-tinged (if punk influenced) contingent ready to fight the grunge and lo-fi folks for the heart of alternative rock. What that means is some fierce playing, occasional tongue-in-cheek lyrics and tunes that not only stick in your head but that you can actually remember and even repeat, sort of. It also means, with the Bottle Rockets, a lead singer who at times is eerily reminiscent of the long-gone Amazing Rhythm Aces' Russell Smith. That's high praise, by the way. At the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue, Thursday, April 13. 869-COOL. (Mitchell J. Shields)

Willie Nelson -- Granted, Willie hasn't done much to distinguish himself lately save battle the I.R.S., but at least he hasn't embarrassed himself. (Unless you count that Highwaymen thing....) Though it'd be nice if a Rick Rubin could be found to pull him back to the basics and produce a Nelsonesque American Recordings, when playing live Willie still has his incredible catalog to delve into, and he generally does just that. With dependable Asleep at the Wheel as the opening act you may not get any major surprises, but you also know you're pretty much assured of getting your money's worth. At the Houston Arena Theatre, 7324 Southwest Freeway, Friday, April 14. 988-1020. (M.J.S.)

Michael Fracasso -- The bands may have gotten most of the attention at the recent South by Southwest, but what Austin's really best at is cranking out the singer/songwriters. Or else attracting good ones. Fracasso, who came to Austin by way of Ohio and New York (where he worked the early '80s folk scene with the Roches, Steve Forbert and Suzanne Vega), is one of the capital city's best. His high tenor can be suggestive of Sweetheart of the Rodeo/Easy Rider-era Roger McGuinn, and his songs call on the tradition of Bob Dylan as much as anything else, which is a pretty potent mix. Fracasso's put together a backup band, Horse Opera, that fleshes out his tunes in a particularly tasteful way. At the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue, Saturday, April 15. 869-COOL. (M.J.S.)

Najee -- Soprano saxophonist Najee has been unusually successful for a jazz artist -- three of his five albums have gone gold -- which may be one reason some traditionalists look down their noses at him as being too "pop." But his melodic approach hasn't disappointed the crowds, and recently he's been branching out, working with Big Daddy Kane, Billy Cobham and Stanley Clarke. The result on his latest CD, Share My World, is a more eclectic sound that ranges from near hip-hop to R&B to traditional jazz. Live, that should make an interesting mix with the more radio-friendly stuff he's better known for. At Rockefeller's, 3620 Washington Avenue, Wednesday, April 19. 869-8427. (

 
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