Rusty Zinn, Ministry

Smooooth might be the best way to describe the way this 28-year-old singer/guitarist blends '40s and '50s West Coast swingin' blues with just a hint of sweet home Chicago. Rusty Zinn's guitar tones and playing are as clean as his attire, and his vocals -- though a tad vanilla -- have an unblemished sheen that might do him well in a second career as a backup man in a doo-wop band. Fascinated with the blues as a teen (particularly Jimmy Rogers and Luther Tucker, the latter of whom would become a mentor to Zinn), Zinn took up the guitar and was soon backing touring artists in his hometown of Santa Cruz, California. He hit the road with harpist Mark Hummel, and it was during an appearance with him that Zinn met Fabulous Thunderbird front man Kim Wilson, who, impressed with the young guitarist, invited him to play on a solo record and join his band. The work eventually brought Zinn to the attention of Black Top Records.

Confessin' is Zinn's second and most recent effort, and it represents a wide range of styles. From the shuffle of "Messin' with My Bread" and the Sunday-go-to-meetin' of "Don't Let It Be in Vain" to the torchiness of "Confessin' About My Baby" and the rave-up "Your Turn to Cry," Zinn maintains a control on the mostly original material, which, while it never surprises or excites too much, does have a high level of comfort and warmness. Nice work from keyboardists Bob Welch and Jimmy Pugh and the vocal group The Gospel All-Stars adds a richness to what's here. A promising talent, Zinn may want to consider messin' things up a bit, which he may very well do live. After all, a little dirt never did hurt anybody. (Bob Ruggiero)

Rusty Zinn performs Friday, August 27, at 9 p.m. at Billy Blues, 6025 Richmond. Cover is $8. Call (713)266-9294.

Ministry's leader, Al Jourgensen, is a rock star in an industrial world that often lacks personality. He likes the fast lane, straight talk and leather pants. His ubiquitous cowboy hat skews the image a bit, but 16 years after Ministry's debut, Jourgensen and co-conspirator Paul Barker are still generating controversy. To wit: Kmart won't sell Ministry's latest record, Dark Side of the Spoon. The 'mart's decision has nothing to do with the bad heroin joke of a record title (Jourgensen was arrested in 1995 for heroin possession). It's because the album has a picture of a naked, albeit obese, woman on the cover. Oh, the horror. With one semi-hit single, "Jesus Built My Hotrod," and two pretty good albums, The Land of Rape and Honey and Psalm 69 -- all of which run together in a blur of screaming, screeching and frenzied drums -- Ministry is sort of the grandparent of the Family Values Tour. Maybe those thirtysomething guys in black jeans and leather jackets will bring their kids with them to soak up the heavy-metal guitars as they meet industrial beats, spooky-voiced vocals and evil iconography. I can hear it now: "But Dad, I like Rob Zombie better." (David Simutis)

Ministry performs Monday, August 30, at 8 p.m. at Aerial Theater, 520 Texas. Tickets are $22.50.

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