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Cécile McLorin Salvant has gone from rising to shooting star in the world of jazz. The New York Times has heaped praise on the vocalist, declaring her the heir to the legacy of the “Big Three,” Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. The 24-year-old French-American jazz singer won the prestigious Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition in 2010, and her first distributed album, 2013’s WomenChild, was a 2014 Grammy nominee. Now, she comes to Oregon for the first time, performing her debut concert at The Shedd Feb. 21. EW caught up with Salvant before she kicked off her West Coast tour.

Legendary British songwriter Nick Lowe has said of folk-pop musician Eleni Mandell: “She stole my band and my sound, but I’d still have her ’round for tea.” That quote is proudly displayed on Mandell’s website. Well, they say good artists copy and great artists steal. 

Getting to know Australian snotty-rockers Dune Rats via their online presence, you get a pretty clear picture of what to expect: The band’s Facebook page lists “max chillin” as an interest, describes the band’s sound as “dunecore stoner pop” and the members as “three hyperactive stoner cunts.” Digging into the music, you’ll find this all pretty apt. 

Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley.

Oh, the exuberance of youth — a time when we scoff at being told “less is more,” exclaiming instead that “only more can be more!” Why limit music to standard guitar/bass/drums? Why not cellos, violins, banjos, saxophones and horns? Why only four people on stage when you can have 10, a dozen, even 20 musicians? These are the questions that Austin-based Mother Falcon asks, and it’s this spirit the group’s sound embodies. 

Many question whether classical music can survive its self-inflicted wounds: aging, demographically narrow (read: predominantly old, white, rich) audiences; endless recycling of the same old tunes from long-dead European composers; bloodless performances in audience-unfriendly settings, etc. The answer, my friend, is blowing in the winds — Imani Winds.

Eccentric Nashville musician R. Stevie Moore has been writing music for more than 45 years, releasing 400-plus albums in media as varied as CD-R, cassette and digital download. And it’s all been done in essential obscurity. It makes one wonder: What keeps R. Stevie Moore going?

The most recent album from Amos Lee, 2013’s Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song, focuses heavily on hard times. Much of the content was inspired by Lee’s many trips across the country and the people he met along the way.

Thanks primarily to a pair of forward-looking institutions, Eugene keeps attracting visiting vanguard artists that just about any other midsized mini-metropolis would envy. This month, one of them snags three young stars who are also appearing at the big Portland Jazz Festival that annually brings some of world’s finest improvisers to the Northwest.

Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley.

Half of LA-based indie rock group Warpaint is Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman — lifelong friends from Eugene. Warpaint has always surrounded itself with talent: John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers) produced Warpaint’s debut EP; Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, REM) and Flood (U2, Depeche Mode) worked on the group’s second, self-titled, full-length album released Jan. 17 on Rough Trade Records. 

Amy Helm is still quite taken with one of the views her late father — famed drummer and singer Levon Helm — had about the deeply profound effect that music can have on people’s lives.

You might expect a band named Desert Noises to give their music a stark, arid edge, something grim and dry. In reality, though, the only thing truly dry about this Utah-hailed indie rock outfit is their hometown. By all accounts, Desert Noises is wet.

Veteran singer-songwriter Boz Scaggs recorded 2013’s Memphis at the late Willie Mitchell’s Memphis studio — a place where Mitchell once put to tape heavyweights like Al Green, among others. Memphis is almost entirely covers showing Scaggs’ deep and enduring appreciation for the broad spectrum of American music, whether it’s blues, gospel, soul or rock ’n’ roll.

Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley

Seattle surf rock revivalists La Luz are lucky to be alive. Just this past November, on the way home after a gig in Boise, the band was involved in a serious car wreck. Their van was totaled and their gear ruined. Luckily, the band members incurred relatively minor injuries. Undeterred, La Luz recouped and is now back out on the road.

When people talk about the glory years of alternative music, most of the bands that get mentioned are from the alternative rock, Brit-rock or grunge strain — Pearl Jam, Oasis, Soundgarden, Nirvana. But the alternative pop bands who came in a shade before these guys made quite the impact on the Generation X music scene too; Toad the Wet Sprocket was among the most notable. 

For a town who voted Sol Seed EW’s Next Big Thing 2013, and whose big summer concerts included Slightly Stoopid, Rebelution and Matisyahu, the Passafire-Ballyhoo! double bill Feb. 6 at Cozmic is bound to be a big show.

After joining and then replacing the great Thomas Mapfumo in the Zimbabwean band Wagon Wheels in the late 1970s, Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi became one of Southern Africa’s most popular singers, rasping his uplifting lyrics in his native Shona language, as well as in Ndebele and English, over a bubbling beat of compulsively danceable mbaqanga and other African rhythms and American R&B-influenced grooves.

What’s the most informative debut album title, you ask? Why, 2002’s Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz, of course. The title says it all, and what better way to announce yourself in the hip hop scene than that? Take three racially charged foodstuffs, slap ’em on a sleeve and call yourself Nappy Roots. Yes folks, it’s that country rap you’ve loved since Birdman, Nelly or Ludacris first pimp-slapped your brain. Jangly piano, minimalist beats, red-beans-and-rice-style hooks: It’s all you’ve ever wanted from the dirty South and more.

Ask Pete Bernhard, the guitarist and lead singer for The Devil Makes Three, what surprised him most about the band’s recently released album I’m A Stranger Here, and he’ll tell you how easy the experience was.

Look around at your next house party. Doesn’t everyone look the same? Isn’t everyone there for the same damn reason? If there’s a band, and they aren’t playing Elliott Smith covers, there’s a good chance everyone’s there to dance. Nothing else. That’s it. Dance.

The Autumn Defense features Patrick Sansone and John Stirratt of Wilco, a titanic modern rock band that casts a long shadow to escape from under. But now, with the release of its fifth studio record (out Jan. 28 on Yep Roc Records and aptly named Fifth), Autumn Defense deserves to be considered a band rather than merely a side project. 

K to the C: Kansas City rapper Kutt Calhoun is a big name in underground rap, and also a compatriot and collaborator of many popular acts on Eugene stages like Tech N9ne, Krizz Kalico and more.  In 2013, Calhoun released Black Gold, featuring appearances from aforementioned artists as well as Brotha Lynch Hung. Hip hop blog HipHopDx gives the album three and a half stars, and it debuted at number one on the Billboard’s Heatseekers Album chart.