Eugene Weekly : Music : 1.29.09

Plucky Lass

Lindsay Mac’s press material likes to make sure you know she’s the girl with the cello strap, the curly-haired lass who holsters her cello onto her body with a shoulder harness and stands while playing. No bow, usually, just a percussive pluck, strum or slap. 

Sounds like a shtick, right? Until you realize Mac is insanely talented. With both hands slapping away, she smashes the notion of cello as a staid, sit-down instrument. Why shouldn’t the instrument move along with the sassy girl who’s making music with it? 

Mac’s new record, Stop Thinking, was released last fall, and it’s already getting played everywhere, including our national airspace; American Airlines is playing it on their flights. Audiences from folk festivals to Carnegie Hall have enjoyed the unforgettable cello prowess of this classically trained musician who turned her back on her training and found her own way.

And her own voice. She swoons, croons and whispers, and rants her way through lyrics that could have been written in Ani DiFranco’s notebook. Her songs crackle with an assertive but cynical flame: “Here I am between the Barbies and the Broncos / Between sugar sweet and bitter blue / I’m nothing if not true” she snaps on “Barbies & Broncos.” 

You might see her categorized as folk, which is apt only insomuch as she plays an acoustic instrument. Her songs have a life of their own — jazzy and liberated, percussively poppy, bowed riffs fill in space created by rhythmic slaps and her athletic voice. Mac is truly an original and a talented performer who is completely in control of her career.

Lindsay Mac plays at 8 pm Thursday, Jan. 29, at Sam Bond’s. 21+. $8. — Vanessa Salvia

This Band is Not From Arizona

After the first couple of listens, I was ready to completely shred Arizona’s latest record, Glowing Bird. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the Music Critic’s desk: The songs grew on me. Dealing with slow-to-develop albums is the bane of music reviewers on a tight deadline. Should I honor that initial reaction (since that’s how most concertgoers will experience Arizona if they get to Indigo Girl Amy Ray’s solo show early on Monday) or should I go with the afterthought? 

For what it’s worth, I’m banking on Arizona’s staying power. They are, after all, a Brooklyn band transplanted to the small mountain town of Asheville, N.C., where they were “inspired by their natural surroundings” to record a darker, folksier version of their indie rock beginnings. Despite the heavy clichés involved in the preceding sentence, Arizona used the move to its advantage, crafting chunky pop songs in the key of Appalachia. To be sure, Glowing Bird is not without its weak spots. But what ultimately hooked me were the stronger chops on the waltzy “Balloon,” the backwoods chamber-rock of “Ghost” and the eerie progression of the title track, among others. Overlook these bearded dudes at your own risk. Arizona opens for Amy Ray at 8 pm Monday, Feb. 2, at WOW Hall. $15 adv., $18 door. — Chuck Adams

Fearless Flutist

One of the best things to happen to the UO — and to Oregon music — this year is the arrival of Molly Barth. One of the world’s greatest flutists, Barth became a major star in the new music world with the eighth blackbird, the acclaimed sextet from Oberlin College whose charismatic memorized performances of contemporary music won wide acclaim and awards, including a Grammy. After a decade of touring with the ensemble, Barth and her percussionist-sommelier (there’s a job description for ya) husband found Oregon an ideal location for their interests, and within weeks she had star gigs with the Oregon and Eugene Symphonies, FearNoMusic and more. You can hear why her arrival has so excited new music fans at her upcoming recital, when Barth will be joined by various UO colleagues  in music by Beethoven (his lovely Serenade for flute, viola and violin), Villa-Lobos (one of his famous Bachianas Brasileiras), the great 20th century composer Toru Takemitsu, contemporary flutist composer Matthias Ziegler and more. 8 pm Thursday, Jan. 29, Beall Hall, UO. $10. — Brett Campbell

Throw ’Em a Bone

When you’ve got the blues, it sure feels good when people come along and give you a helping hand. That’s exactly what’s happening this Friday when Cozmic Pizza presents the Al Rivers and Friends Benefit Concert

A couple of months ago, Rivers won the Rainy Day Blues Society’s first local International Blues Challenge and will represent the society at an international competition that is taking place in Memphis, Tenn., the first week of February. Donations from this event will help pay for Rivers’ trip. Artists who will perform with Rivers at the benefit include The Shade Tree Mechanics, Jerry Zybach, Adam Scramstad, Joanne Broh, Dino Allbaugh, Natty O’, Ben Rice, Theo Halpert and Doctor Jobydiah Grizwald.

With his less gravelly Joe Cocker-meets-Bruce Springsteen vocals, Rivers’ ditties have an appropriately weary quality that draws you into the stories he’s telling, while some of the dirges manage to sound surprisingly funky at times despite their sorrowful tales and slower pace. Sounding every bit like the sort of music you hear playing over a road trip film montage, Rivers’ sad tunes definitely merit the attention they are receiving. The Al Rivers and Friends Benefit Concert takes place at 8 pm Friday, Jan. 30, at Cozmic Pizza. $4-$10 don. — Brian Palmer



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