Shows of the Week: A Visit From One of Today's Leading Ladies of Soul
Photo Courtesy of The Chamber Group
Revention Music Center, July 27
By successfully updating the classic sounds of her native Philadelphia, Jill Scott stands as one of today’s leading ladies of soul. Sponsored early on by Roots drummer Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, Scott debuted with 2000’s Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1, drawing on her background as a poet in North Philly to position herself at the vanguard of the new millennium’s left-of-center R&B artists. Scott has starred in several film and TV projects (including as Houston-born Big Mama Thornton in 2007’s Hounddog) alongside her musical pursuits, to which she returned last summer with her fifth LP, Woman. Her second straight album to top the Billboard 200, Woman shows off the full spectrum of Scott’s talents as a singer and songwriter, from the roof-raising jam “Closure” and psychedelic after-hours assignation “Say Thank You” to the uplifting hit singles “Fool’s Gold” and “Can’t Wait.” Nobody is asking “Who Is Jill Scott?” anymore.
Big Star Bar, July 29
Distant Worker’s Caribbeana interpretation of JG Ballard is unequal parts dread and jokes in the toasting tradition, more boasts than roasts, and even the jokes are half-drowned in reverb. Do you remember the 2006 State of the Union speech deploring the development of human/animal hybrids? Likewise, Distant Worker’s Animal Data album, some of the best recorded work of 2016, period, has its hybrid moments, with one foot planted in our dystopian America of drone strikes and perpetual war and unlikely personal vanity, and another in the gray-green haze of UK post-colonial dancehall vibes. The careful production touches across these eight songs describe a vision of what it would it be like on a certain island if Dr. Moreau had been a contemporary dub producer instead of a eugenicist; it’s a human-machine do-si-do of burbling rhythms, reverberating plugins, whispered slant rhymes, and genius guitar treatments that sound like a prisoner trapped in a cell with a stick. While the album is full of clues and callouts to Mark Stewart, King Tubby, Joe Strummer, Lee Perry, and Massive Attack, among others, this is music for cruising the crumbling infrastructure of the here and now, so get the CD unless you’ve got your car’s sound system retrofitted for your vinyl collection, in which case you’ll have to wait. With PLXTX, Funeral Parlor and DJ Millennial Grave. TEX KERSCHEN
Revention Music Center, July 29
So many things could have gone wrong with Steven Tyler’s so-called “country album.” Their origins as a hard-rockin’ blues band notwithstanding, Aerosmith have never exhibited much affinity for twang, outside the (admittedly awesome) 1987 Willie Nelson collaboration “One Time Too Many.” And so the skeptics came out in force when Tyler announced he was heading to Nashville to make said album, We’re All Somebody From Somewhere, released earlier this month. True, the cheese factor can be off the charts (“Red, White & You”), but Somebody is no vanity project; Tyler and collaborators including Grammy winner T-Bone Burnett and members of Cadillac Three have crafted a raft of largely solid tunes like “My Own Worst Enemy” and the raucous “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly & Me,” plus pleasant surprises like the bayou-flavored “Sweet Louisiana.” Rather than sporting a chip on his shoulder about sounding “authentic,” the 68-year-old Tyler sounds relaxed, energized and most of all like he’s enjoying himself. Give him a break — he’s earned it.
SHANE SMITH & THE SAINTS
Firehouse Saloon, July 29
A classic example of the road-dog Texas country outfit, Shane Smith & the Saints are quickly coming into their own as one of the leading groups of the post-Randy Rogers Band generation. Mixing that classic dancehall sound with Americana-rock similar to Ryan Bingham and the Old 97’s, the Austin-based five-piece recently notched their first weekend headlining spot at Fort Worth honky-tonk palace Billy Bob’s Texas; the only clearer sign they’ve arrived would be the band’s name in neon next to a Bud Light or Lone Star logo. Taking a few cues from Bruce Springsteen as well, the Terrell-raised Smith trains his keen ear for history on the group’s second full-length album, last year’s Geronimo, weaving tales of oil towns, the Alamo, runaway trains, and the titular Apache warrior into the Saints’ standout four-part harmonies and frenetic fiddle breakdowns. With John Baumann.
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, July 31
By now, you've already made your decision on how you feel about the new Blink-182, so there's no need to run through the gamut of questions about whether or not this version of the band is legit or not. A band named Blink-182 put out an album and now they're coming to town, and you're either in or you're out. Odds are good that you're in, given that the band's new album California hit the top of the charts and the uber-popular A Day to Remember are serving as direct support for the band, a bill that's had a lot of folks drooling since it was first teased a while back. Whether the dynamics between current Blink frontmen Matt Hoppus and Matt Skiba compare to the perfect chemistry of Hoppus and former Blink member Tom DeLonge remain to be seen, but at least they're playing all the classics, regardless of who originally sang them. An older band coming to town with a different vocalist and playing The Pavilion in the summer? It's all part of growing up in rock music. With A Day to Remember and the All-American Rejects. CORY GARCIA
CULTURE CLUB, BOOK OF LOVE
Revention Music Center, July 31
Who doesn’t love Boy George? By putting a Caribbean spin on trendy New Romantic synth-pop, Culture Club ranked among the best blue-eyed soul groups of their era thanks to singles like “I’ll Tumble For Ya” and the ubiquitous “Karma Chameleon.” (George’s flamboyant stage attire, manna for MTV, might have had been a factor too.) George went on to have a runaway solo hit with 1992’s “The Crying Game” and become an in-demand DJ (on-air and in clubs), columnist, fashion designer and true personality; see @BoyGeorge on Twitter for quips, bespoke birthday greetings, punditry and oh so much more. Culture Club’s reunited original lineup is now on tour behind their first album in 15 years, the fan-funded Tribes; joining them for their first Houston show in ages will be Book of Love, the NYC sibling-powered group whose lengthy run of singles, among them “Boy” and “I Touch Roses,” outdid many of their Europop contemporaries.
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