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MOFRO

MOFRO

Fresh off a well-received slot at the Bonnaroo Festival, the MOFRO nucleus of John "JJ" Grey (vocals, harmonica, guitar, organ) and Daryl Hance (guitar, Dobro) are concocting something a bit different in their north Florida home: a mix of Sly Stone and Lynyrd Skynyrd, with a little Tony Joe White thrown into the swampy boil. And these boys aren't backwoods poseurs either. A recent episode of Animal Planet's Jeff Corwin Experience featured Grey hunting native poisonous snakes.

Like their debut record, Blackwater, the band's upcoming Lochloosa (named after one of the duo's favorite fishin' spots), features raw, deep music that veers from funky R&B to kick-ass country blues. The extra-fuzzy bass is turned up loud, while organ notes drop in like relatives visiting after church. Oddly, MOFRO's music sounds both menacing and back-porch-party-friendly. Grey -- like the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach -- coaxes growls and noises out of his throat that you would never think could come out of a white boy with questionable facial hair, but come they do. -- Bob Ruggiero

MOFRO's JJ Grey
MOFRO's JJ Grey
Piebald
Piebald

Friday, June 25, at Club Meridian, 1503 Chartres, 713-225-1717.

Piebald and Jealous Sound, with Northstar and Spitalfield

If you've ever sat in your third-period trigonometry class and daydreamed that Ben Folds would hook up with the guys from Weezer to record an album (and, really, who hasn't?), then boy, do I have a band for you: Piebald! Don't let the third-wave ska-style name throw you off -- they're a peppy, punky, piano-flecked foursome from Boston that's kinda emo -- their best song is called "Holden Caulfield" -- yet goofy enough to avoid coming off like bellyaching buffoons. Some purist Piebaldies have complained that the band's just-released fifth album, All Ears, All Eyes, All the Time, trades in the sloppy hardcore crunch and time-signature craziness of old for a more polished pop-rock sound. True, perhaps, but grow up -- Piebald has.

Jealous Sound is an emo supergroup -- members of the L.A. quartet have previously logged time in Knapsack, Jawbox, Shudder to Think and Sunday's Best -- without the superwhine. Unfortunately, they're also without the supersongs. If Jimmy Eat World ever pulled a hamstring, I'd stick Jealous Sound in the lineup, but beyond that, I wouldn't give 'em much playing time. -- Michael Alan Goldberg

Thursday, June 24, at Fat Cat's, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-5263.

The Damnwells and Juliana Hatfield

New York City's Damnwells created quite a buzz with their debut EP, PMR+1. With songs that sound familiar yet thankfully nothing like the stereotypical "New York band" du jour, the Damnwells are probably the closest thing the music industry has right now to the Replacements.

On their latest album, Bastards of the Beat, the Damnwells, led by singer-guitarist Alex Dezen (his sister Cameron, also a singer-songwriter, lives in Houston), continue their tradition of smart, straight-ahead pop-rock with alt-country leanings. Drummer Steven Terry was an original member of Whiskeytown, and you can hear shades of that band as well as Ryan Adams's solo stuff, Wilco, the Jayhawks and even a hint of Bob Dylan. The band has toured with Cheap Trick, Rhett Miller and Twilight Singers, and is currently opening for Juliana Hatfield.

Hatfield seems to have everything going for her. She has an interesting girly voice and a cooler-than-thou attitude, and she carries plenty of indie cred, courtesy of her stint in the on-again/off-again Blake Babies. Still, on every one of her solo albums, she's managed to disappoint. Her latest, In Exile Deo, is no exception.

At least it starts off right with "Get In Line" -- probably her most emotive song to date. "I'm dying from a lack of love and affection / Get in line / I'm giving myself away," she seethes over dark guitar loops and a slight shuffle. A less serious but equally fun "Dirty Dog" has Hatfield explaining, "You can flip me over from behind / That would be all right / But I'm not down with the dirty dog." Her official bio says the song's about, ahem, "personal boundaries."

Hatfield's real talent is to sound vulnerable while using her voice to cut through a mash of guitars, yet In Exile Deo spends most of its time on vocal mismatches like the draining "Tomorrow Never Comes" and the clumsy "Because We Love You." It's missteps like these that ultimately prove the album another frustrating waste of Hatfield's potential. -- David A. Cobb and Sander Wolf

Wednesday, June 30, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.

Cooder Graw

I first ran into Cooder Graw in Lubbock in 1999. These pleasant, well-mannered Amarillo outlaws were rehearsing during happy hour at the Bluelight on Buddy Holly Avenue. With their "It's a Loud Country" slogan, they reminded me of the original Joe Ely band. They'd been together about six months and didn't have a record or any merchandise, and they were doing it the time-honored hard way: one West Texas gig at a time. Fresh, eager, energetic and yes-ma'am-no-sir polite, they seemed to have no concept of how unlikely -- and how hard -- it would be for a band with a name that dumb to make it from a place that far from Anywhere-That-Matters.

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