Those Darlins routinely get labeled as a cowpunk or alt-country band, but that's mainly because they hail from Tennessee and drop the
"g" from the last word of their excellent name. Actually, darlin', what the fab foursome of front women Nikki, Jessi, and Kelley Darlin and drummer Linwood Regensburg are is a trashy garage rock band with more in common with Joan Jett and the Ramones than Dolly Parton. The Darlins' second full-length album,
Screws Get Loose,
expands the group's range from the stoner blues of "Mystic Mind" to the girl-group grabbiness of "Tina Said" and "Boy," and the songwriting quality is uniformly high throughout the tight, tough, 11-song set. Fellow Nashville garage band Natural Child are along for the ride.
- Dan DeLuca
Bright Eyes, M. Ward, and Dawes all have flirted with Americana roots rock during their careers, but only as a jumping-off point to their own explorations. On
The People's Key,
which Conor Oberst has hinted may be Bright Eyes' swan song, Mike Mogis' occasional pedal steel is the only vestige from 2005's
I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning,
their rootsiest and best album. It rarely quivers with anger and self-doubt like old Bright Eyes; instead, it rocks out about mystical and spiritual questions. Opening are Dawes, with their Laurel Canyon harmonies, and M. Ward, shorn of Zooey Deschanel, the she to his him in
She & Him,
and shorn of Oberst and Jim James, his partners in Monsters of Folk. But Ward's impressive guitar skills and understated singing can hold their own.
- Steve Klinge
You can't really miss with Natasha Bedingfield, who brings her "Less Is More" tour to the TLA this weekend. The British singer (a native New Zealander) has established a niche with her sunny pop songs (consistent with her Christian music background). But her haunting ballads, such as "Unwritten" and "Soulmate," are really indelible. Then again, she's also a favorite studio guest of Rascal Flatts. As they say, it's all good. Kate Voegele, who has played singer-songwriter Mia on the TV series
One Tree Hill,
will play herself as the opening act.
- David Hiltbrand
He's the guy whose Hammond B-3 organ put the sonic bounce in the Small Faces' 1967 hit single "Itchycoo Park," and who stood (literally) behind Rod Stewart in the band's second incarnation, the Faces, a few years later. Keyboardist/singer Ian McLagan (a.k.a. "Mac") has spent the decades since then recording and touring with everyone from Dylan to the Stones to the Black Crowes. A few years back, McLagan's often underrated interpretive skills hit the mark with
his inspired take on songs written by his former bandmate, the late Ronnie Lane. There, the aforementioned "Itchycoo Park" became a standout all over again, transformed from a psychedelic pop ditty to a dreamy ballad evoking innocence and its loss. McLagan's most recent album, the emotionally raw but ultimately upbeat
Never Say Never,
was released in 2008, after the sudden death of his wife, Kim (who, as many a British Invasion fan will recall, was Who drummer Keith Moon's wife first). A longtime resident of Austin, Texas, McLaglan has emerged from the sidelines to become a terrific front man, usually playing with his Bump Band and engaging audiences with solid vocals and witty onstage banter. He'll play the intimate Tin Angel Friday with just his trusty piano and support from one Bump Band member, bassist/singer Jon Notarthomas.
- Nicole Pensiero
Not since Courtney Pine has a British saxophonist made such an impact on jazz as Soweto Kinch. There's a gentle, somber quality to his reedy sound that's perfect for his snazzier songs' acid jazzier interludes, yet these are without the usual slickness or fuss that genre can bring. Albums such as
Conversations With the Unseen
The New Emancipation
- the latter the highlight of this 2011 tour - are high-wire balancing acts of sublime mood changes and tense, avant-garde howls. The only thing as riveting as his post-bop sax styling (think Eric Dolphy) is Kinch's improvisation as an MC, an informal, even awkward, manner with the microphone that gives him a distinctly cutting but raw silken sort of savoir faire. Kinch's arrival in the States is a long time coming but certainly worth the wait. Talk about waiting, when was the last time you saw or heard Philly's premier rapper, The Last Emperor? The onetime Overbrook High attendee dropped an album in 2003 -
Music, Magic, Myth - and
a ton of singles, then left town to tour the world. This opening slot for Soweto Kinch - the venue's 2011 season finale - is a welcome return and a funky, fitting close.
- A.D. Amorosi