Close Enough

Lately, Amy Grant's been showing a side of herself forgotten of late, one that is more personal and revealing, not to mention distinctly less slick. Obviously, there are limits to the breezy pop of more recent Grant hits like "Baby Baby" and "Lucky One" -- the chief complaint being that such radio-friendly fodder isn't well suited to introspection. By the time Grant had begun preparing to record her latest CD, Behind the Eyes, close friends and music industry peers were hinting that it might be time to dig deeper. It is a challenge Grant has embraced.

But in the end, just how close you feel to Grant after listening to the songs on Behind the Eyes will likely depend on how much you know about her 14 previous releases, particularly those made between 1978 and 1988. During that period, she was the top-selling artist in Christian contemporary music. Interestingly, none of Grant's latest batch of tunes is overtly religious, a fact that may disappoint some longtime devotees. Not to worry, though: Issues of faith still enter the picture as she addresses the pain and struggle people endure for seemingly no good reason, and how it will someday make sense within the bigger picture -- spiritual or otherwise.

The newer material also represents a considerable musical evolution for Grant, who lives near Nashville with her husband, singer/songwriter Gary Chapman, and the couple's three children. Grant is now dabbling (ever so slightly) in Cajun music, funk and blues; she's even rocking out on occasion. Despite the changes, though, the singer remains as elusive as ever about the details of her personal life, leaving fans continually guessing at the significance of her words. But what good is stardom without a little mystery?

-- Alan Sculley

Amy Grant performs at 8 p.m. Monday, May 11, at Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. Tickets are $29.50 to $60. For info, call 628-3700.

Patty Larkin -- Patty Larkin decided to go organic on her latest outing, setting aside the notion of returning to a full-bodied folk-pop sound and settling on a more unconventional approach: no drums, no keyboards, all music created with stringed instruments -- and that includes the percussion sounds, which were created by tapping, thumping and/or sampling said stringed instruments. A transplanted Wisconsin native who cut her teeth on the Boston folk scene, Larkin also dispensed with an outside producer and recorded at her home on Cape Cod. The result is Precious Fruit, which boasts an abrupt intimacy that plays well to the singer/songwriter's wry, literate lyrics. As such, it's the closest you'll come to Larkin in the flesh on any album -- that is, until her forthcoming live disc is released in succeeding months. At 9 p.m. Thursday, May 7, at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk. Tickets are $15. 528-5999. (A.S.)

Pete Droge -- It's been a breathless and bumpy haul for Portlander Pete Droge since he was dubbed post-grunge's peach-fuzzed Tom Petty back in 1994. That year saw the release of the singer/songwriter's debut, Necktie Second, and its deceptively caustic folk-rock romp, "If You Don't Love Me (I'll Kill Myself)," along with plenty o' hype and stadium gigs opening for the likes of Petty and Melissa Etheridge. But Droge -- a wisp of a man with a boy's complexion and a soulful lumberjack's pipes -- had the hard luck of falling in with Rick Rubin's ill-fated American label, which followed up the excellent Necktie Second with a miserable effort in promoting the even better successor, Find a Door. Now, Droge is on the Epic subsidiary 57 Records, and, judging from his searing showcase at this year's South by Southwest Music Conference, he's feeling recharged. The proof is in Droge's 57 debut, Spacey and Shakin, a raucous, rootsy, full-band affair that makes ample use of his blazing backup unit, the Sinners. Together, Droge and the Sinners are a live act of exceptional grit. On Wednesday, May 13, at Instant Karma, 1617 Richmond Avenue. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $6. Gerard Collier opens. 629-3700. (Hobart Rowland)

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Hobart Rowland
Alan Sculley