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Music

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.

Most musicians have been playing instruments for years. Ramune Nagisetty of Portland-based indie-pop trio Rocket 3 picked up the guitar just a few years ago. “I went out and bought an electric guitar,” Nagisetty says. “It was President’s Day. I found it fairly easy to play.” 

Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin are both solo singer-songwriters. They also happen to be in a relationship, but don’t always have time together since they have separate projects. For now, however, the songbird couple has discovered a solution to this problem.

The Jan. 16 Eugene Symphony concert at the Hult Center opens with some of the 20th century’s most powerfully dramatic music: the “Four Sea Interludes” from Benjamin Britten’s mighty opera Peter Grimes. This performance of one of the greatest English composers’ most popular concert works misses by just a few days cashing in on Britten’s centenary celebrations, but we don’t need no stinkin’ birthday excuse to enjoy his music.

Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley

Chain and The Gang is an “anti-liberty” group, jokes Ian Svenonius. This doesn’t mean Svenonius takes personal freedom lightly. “We’re a little bit perverse,” says Svenonius, formerly of legendary D.C. punk bands Nation of Ulysses and The Make-Up. “We’re not interested in playing out this one idea of prescribed rebellion.”

“I don’t think most of my songs sound that much like Beach House,” says Meagan Grandall, primary songwriter of Seattle-based duo Lemolo. “But if they do to some people,” she adds, “then I’ll take that as a compliment.”