With the Grandsons
8 p.m. tonight
And the Wrongs
8 p.m. tomorrow
Jammin' Java, Vienna
If you've got a taste for twang and a sense of eccentric humor, Jammin' Java is serving your blend twice over this week. Two acts -- one from the South, one from the Canadian north -- offer alternative spins on folk and bluegrass, respectively, and are united in their penchant for playful live shows.
Danielle Howle is a southern storyteller whose between-song digressions burst with spontaneous humor and a thick, delicious dialect rooted in her native South Carolina. Her first CD, 1995's "Live at McKissick Museum," established her unique voice with tracks such as "Big Puffy Girl Handwriting," a song as funny as it sounds.
Since then, she's released albums on some of the indie world's hippest labels -- SubPop, Kill Rock Stars and Simple Machines. Her spicy combo platter of folk/punk music and shaggy dog tales have earned her spots opening for Bob Dylan and Gillian Welch and touring with Elliot Smith, Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco.
Howle and her regular backup band, the Tantrums, released "Skorborealis" (Daemon Records) last May, but for her Jammin' Java gig, Howle's area pals, D.C.'s own Grandsons, will accompany her. Much like the Tantrums, the Grandsons' unassuming nature and down-home skill are a great match to Howle's free-ranging, rootsy music.
Come back tomorrow and experience Pink Floyd as you've never heard it before. No, not a laser show, but the equally exciting and whole-lot-funnier appearance of Luther Wright and the Wrongs, Ontario's "ruthlessly handsome" (it says so in the press bio!) country quintet, which released a bluegrass version of the sacred rock epic "The Wall" last April.
That's right, on "Rebuild the Wall" (Back Porch Records), Wright's gang adds banjo, pedal steel, fiddle and barnyard ambiance to Roger Waters's brooding concept album. Even more bizarrely, the thing works as a genuine honky-tonk tribute that joins country heartache to rock nihilism.
On a brief cell phone call from the band's van as it crossed the Canadian border to start the current U.S. tour, Wright swore "it wasn't a joke" when he heard "Another Brick in the Wall" on the radio and started to play along, "picking it country-style." After some "free-association conversation" with the Wrongs, they decided "the album was full of great country songs" and devoted months to reworking the material.
Besides gaining notoriety for the band, "Rebuild the Wall" had the effect, Wright admitted, of instantly "adding 26 songs into our set." With two prior albums of original material and a third coming this summer, these guys are more than bricklayers. The Jammin' Java set, Wright promised, will offer a mixed bag of Wrong songs plus "large chunks of The Wall."
-- Marianne Meyer
Jammin' Java, a cozy coffeehouse with good coffee and fine chili on its cafe menu, is at 231 Maple Ave. in Vienna. Beer and wine are also available. Admission for the above shows is $10. Call 703-255-1566 for more information and to reserve tickets, or visit the Web site at www.jamminjava.com.
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