Eugene Weekly : Music : 11.19.09

Swinging for the Low Road

If Eddie Vedder, Tom Waits, Mark Lanegan, the resurrected pinkie finger of Django Reinhardt and a fifth of Old Grandad whiskey walked into the machine that turned Jeff Goldblum into the fly, what stumbled out might look — or, rather, sound — a lot like Mark Growden. You get the idea: Growly baritone, chunky beats, plucked strings and an overall feeling of reconstructed old-timey blues sliding like a drunken ditchdigger off the vinyl barstool. On Saint Judas, his first studio album in eight years, the San Francisco-based singer-songwriter clops his cowboy boots over the familiar territory of a fallen white man’s Judeo-Christian blues. “I thought I saw a shooting star / It was a cigarette thrown from a trucker’s window,” Growden sighs on “Faith in My Pocket.” Sounds like the guy’s been reading a lot of Cormac McCarthy lately, but then again, who hasn’t? Ashy grey is the color of the moment. At every fork on Saint Judas, Growden swings for the low road, which gives the whole album a kind of hungover Sunday, missed-church feel. It’s nothing new, but Growden’s strong, moody voice carries it all along. His live performances, according to his hometown paper East Bay Express, “are becoming the stuff of legend,” and apparently full of a weirdness and avant-garde spirit that doesn’t quite come through on the record. Here’s to hoping. Mark Growden plays at 7:30 pm Friday, Nov. 20, at the Museum of Unfine Art, 537 Willamette St. Donations. — Rick Levin

Tongue Twisting Linguistics 

Though they perform under what is possibly the cleverest name in all of hip hop, Kentucky three-piece the CunninLynguists’ smartest move to date was to enlist as many well-known MCs as possible on their last two travel-themed releases, Strange Journey Volume 1 and Strange Journey Volume 2 (note the upgrade in cover art from the van on Volume 1 to the sexy muscle car on Volume 2). Volume 1 features heavyweights like Fish Scales (Nappy Roots), Khujo (Goodie Mob), Mac Lethal, Slug and a bunch more. The second installation, which came out Nov. 3, features E-40, Evidence (Dilated Peoples) and Sean Price. There are even a couple of Northwest MCs: Macklemore, Geologic (Blue Scholars) and Grieves, who recently relocated from Seattle to San Diego. But make no mistake, the CunninLynguists — producer Kno and MCs Deacon The Villain and Natti — can keep up with the other MCs who appear on the Strange Journey albums. It’s safe to say that some of the guests they’ve enlisted on their records have higher profiles than the individual ‘Lynguists — and in the Northwest, the melodic Southern sway that groups like CunninLynguists and Nappy Roots employ is a different species of songwriting. Which is exactly why hand-plucking MCs from all over the country to participate in Cunninlynguists’ Strange Journeys makes so much sense: It’s a way to bridge that geographic gap by dropping beats and spitting rhymes instead of apple seeds. The Cunninlynguists, Grieves, Budo, Looptroop Rockers and Tunji perform at 8 pm Sunday, Nov. 22, at the WOW Hall. $13 adv., $15 door. — Sara Brickner

Hip Hop’s (Better) Answer to the Indie Supergroup

When it comes to indie rock, supergroups are in these days — Monsters of Folk, Them Crooked Vultures, et al. — but when it comes to hip hop, it’s hard to come up with a more exciting partnership than that of Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na (above) and Blackalicious’ Gift of Gab (below), two veteran MCs who’ve proven over and over again that they deserve the space they’ve carved out for themselves in hip hop’s uppermost echelon. While both of these MCs are voracious collaborators (and hip hop on the whole is a much more collaborative genre than pop), coupling Chali 2na’s booming bass delivery and Gift of Gab’s unrivaled rhymesmithery can only result in verbal fireworks when witnessed in person. Though they haven’t put out an album together — yet — both Chali 2na and Gift of Gab have new albums rife with collabos to offer up. Chali 2na’s latest, Fish Outta Water, dropped this past July, and Gift of Gab’s second solo offering, Escape 2 Mars, hit shelves November 10. The first single from Escape 2 Mars, “Dreamin’,” features hip hop powerhouses Del tha Funkee Homosapien and Brother Ali. Meanwhile, Fish Outta Water features a whole host of guests from Talib Kweli to Damian Marley. It’s safe to say that talent travels in packs. If only Del tha Funkee Homosapien, who’s also going out on tour about now, could join up with these guys; now that’d be a show for the ages. Chali 2na, Gift of Gab, Mr. Lif and Lyrics Born play at 8 pm Friday, Nov. 20, at the McDonald Theater. $18 adv., $22 door. — Sara Brickner



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