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Charlie Robison, Casting Crowns and Billy Joe Shaver

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THURSDAY 8/11

GEOFFREY CANADA
1 p.m. Statehouse Convention Center. $25, $100 for group of up to six.

For the last two decades, Geoffrey Canada has led Harlem Children's Zone, a massive project in New York City that aspires to break the cycle of poverty by offering charter schools and preschool, parenting workshops and health programs for impoverished families. Canada is a superstar of the school reformer movement, and he figures prominently in the film "Waiting for Superman." While I've only seen bits and pieces of the film, it seems that its basic thrust is that the future could be rosy and every child could get a great education if only we got rid of those awful teachers unions. I am also generally suspicious of any film praised in the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal as a "stunning liberal expose of a system that consigns American children who most need a decent education to our most destructive public schools." Nobody is questioning that millions of American kids are denied a decent education. But all the merit pay, standardized testing and busted unions in the world can't compare to solid parenting, a stable home life and safe neighborhoods. A book signing will follow the lecture.

FRIDAY 8/12

CHARLIE ROBISON
9 p.m. Revolution. $12 adv., $15 door.

The last 10 or so years seem to have been transformative ones for Charlie Robison. After debuting in the mid '90s, he signed with Sony/Columbia and released several rollicking albums that had one foot planted in a hardcore honky-tonk tradition and the other in Hammond-heavy, Allman Brothers-style Southern-rock. Many of his earlier tunes were a bit on the raunchy side, exploring the evergreen themes of girls, partying and hell-raising. By 2008, his marriage to Dixie Chick Emily Erwin had ended, and though the split was amicable, Robison's pain was evident on his most recent album, 2009's self-produced "Beautiful Day." Unlike other divorce albums – "Hear, My Dear" or "Blood on the Tracks" – "Beautiful Day" sounds wounded and real and without indulging bitterness. On "Down Again" he recounts the roller coaster feeling familiar to anyone who's been through a bad break-up, while the soaring guitar sounds like a liquor-loosened Richard Thompson stumbled into the studio, grabbed a guitar and let it rip. Robison is cut from the same stained denim cloth as fellow Texas troubadours Robert Earl Keen (who plays Revolution Sept. 16) Pat Green and Jack Ingram.

AMASA HINES
10 p.m. White Water Tavern. $6.

New local band alert! Amasa Hines is made up of Joshua from Velvet Kente plus the dudes in Romany Rye, those being Judson and Josh Spillyards, Whitman Bransford and Ryan Hitt. They're joined by Norman Williamson on saxophone and, every now and again, trumpeter Rodney Block. Romany Rye is the band that includes California singer Luke MacMaster, and pursues a very shaggy, flannel-y, CSNY kinda vibe, heavy emphasis on the Y. Velvet Kente, you already know, right? If not, well, what's the hold-up? Anyways, Amasa Hines is named after the Spillyards' great-great grandfather, and got started when the guys were all just hanging out and jamming. Now, they've got a steady gig at Ferneau on either Friday or Saturday when the Romany Rye guys are in town. With one song already in the can, Amasa Hines is eyeing a return trip to the studio to get another song or two to fill a 45. Headliners Graham Wilkinson & The Underground Township will play more reggae-ified, bro-friendly jams than you can shake a Bob Marley lighter at.

SATURDAY 8/13

CASTING CROWNS
7:30 p.m. Magic Springs' Timberwood Theater. $22.50-$55.

OK, as of yet I have no hard evidence to back up this theory, but just hear me out: I believe that somewhere in this great nation of ours, there is a gleaming, ultra high-tech subterranean laboratory where a crack team of researchers and scientists creates sounds that are systematically engineered to cause listeners to sway side to side with their hands in the air while praising the Lord. Call it the NORAD of CCM. I also believe Casting Crowns to be one of the biggest projects, er, sorry, "bands" created in this top-secret, strategic Christian music nerve center. Anyways, Casting Crowns has sold like a zillion records of soaring, dramatic praise pop, the perfect soundtrack for all those super important, emotional moments in your adolescence, like that time at Centrifuge camp, when you met this really awesome girl Sarah, who's from Alabama and you really liked her, but your friend Brandon liked her too and you guys had this really tense conversation about it while you walked along the beach in Panama City but you both agreed that you met her first so you should get to tell her you like her and then later you finally worked up the nerve to tell her and you went to the worship hall for the Casting Crowns show to find her but she was already there, swaying side to side with her arms in the air next to that backstabber Brandon!

CHARITY VANCE
7 p.m. Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts. $15-$50.

Performer. Songwriter. "American Idol" contestant. Teen-ager. Charity Vance is all of these and more. The Little Rock native has been in the spotlight since she was a young'un, singing the National Anthem at Verizon Arena and at Riverfest and whatnot. Also, she moved to Nashville recently. That's right: The Music City. In one of her latest interviews, Charity said some things that might be useful to you in your life if only you could stop being such a cynical jerk for one minute (Charity didn't say that part because she would never judge you; I'm saying that, but I'm saying it from a place of love and concern). Among them: She wants to bring a lot of hope to people and take them away; her inspiration for songs comes a lot from nature, and from both cloudy and sunny days; fear can defeat you (if you let it) or it can push you to success; her all-time favorite performer is Celine Dion. When you go to her website her song "Walk in the Park" starts playing and it sounds really good. But you know what also sounds good? Opening about 15 browser tabs, all playing "Walk in the Park," that's what. It holds up! It's just that kind of song, where you can listen to it once, or you can listen to it 15 times, or you can listen to it 15 times all at once and it sounds awesome all three ways!

MONDAY 8/15

BILLY JOE SHAVER
8 p.m. Revolution. $15 adv., $20 d.o.s.

If you grew up in the '90s in a small Southern town, you might be forgiven for thinking country music sucked. For many of us, the overpowering slickness of Nashville was crammed down our throats, sometimes quite literally, in the form of a Garth Brooks cassingle. Well now that we got this Internet where you can learn about and listen to anything ever recorded, there's just no excuse (aside from having bad taste) to dismiss country music outright. Hard as it is to believe now, classic country was tough to find 20 years ago. Slick pap dominated the airwaves and Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and the like were nowhere to be heard on most commercial country stations. Technology has largely corrected that aberration, but if for some reason you still think country sucks, go listen to an album from 1973 called "Old Five & Dimers Like Me," by Billy Joe Shaver. If you remain unmoved, then you just don't like good music. Sorry, but it's true. Shaver is beyond influential, with something in the neighborhood of 210 artists known to have recorded one or more of his songs. Cash had a hit with "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal," while Waylon Jennings' outlaw country steez was heavily inspired by Shaver's songwriting. Another thing: a couple years back this guy insulted Shaver's wife and threatened him in a bar outside Waco and he shot the dude in the face and then left. And the jury acquitted him. The guy lived, but still. Hell, when Shaver first tried to turn himself in in Austin, the cops wouldn't even book him. The term "living legend" was coined specifically for folks like Billy Joe Shaver. You don't want to miss this show.

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