CHRIS SMITHER: Roots musician.
With the exception of Tony Trischka last year at Acoustic Sounds Cafe, singer/songwriter Chris Smither — appearing there on Friday, March 11 — might be one of the most exciting acts that the venue has booked.
He comes highly recommended from those in the know, and we gave a listen to his 2003 CD release, “Train Home.” What we found were 11 songs (seven covers, four originals) that relied almost solely on the songwriter and his cast of back-up musicians to create a perfectly simple album that touches on folk-blues and roots of the American musical landscape. Examples can be found in his cover of Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row,” skillfully broken down to its lowest common denominator with guest slide guitarist and background vocalist Bonnie Raitt. We took a special liking to a snazzy, eerie version of Dave Carter’s “Crocodile Man,” that incorporates African-inspired American rural instruments like the diddley bow and goat toes (a new one on us, but we checked — there is such a thing). “Candy Man,” a raunchy Mississippi John Hurt song, is perfectly crafted by Smither, delivered in Hurt’s cunningly simplistic style, showing Smither’s respect for the artist — in fact, Smither contributed to “Avalon Blues,” a tribute of various artists to the influential bluesman.
Jeff Ray, a Minnesota-based folk-rock artist who brandishes a steel-body National resonator slide-guitar is touring in support of his album “June Generation” and will open at 7:30 p.m.
Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for students.
Former truck driver, Vietnam Vet, farmer and a certified MENSA member Watermelon Slim (Bill Homans) performs at Cajun’s Wharf on Saturday, March 12. He’s played music for 30 years, writing a war protest album in the early ’70s (while on active duty, we note), and appeared during those three decades with Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker, Champion Jack Dupree and others. He kept his day job as an industrial waste hauler, but after a near fatal heart attack left to pursue music full-time. Better late than never, so it goes, because only six months after retirement and the release of “Up Close and Personal,” Watermelon Slim was recognized by the Blues Foundation in Memphis with a 2005 W.C. Handy Award nomination for Best New Artist Debut.
His website says that he got the name from the fruit he had previously harvested; there’s no indication whether he’s an environmentalist with socialist tendencies. He’s both literate and real, a potent combination for a blues artist. Slim will perform starting around 9 p.m., and cover is $5.
It’s not too early to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day for the Arkansas Celtic Music Society, who will be presenting the traditional band Rosheen, from Quebec City, on Saturday, March 12, at the Flying Saucer. The show starts at 7:30 p.m.
All members are French-speaking Canadians, as you may guess by the names — Lynn Vallieres, Michel Henault, Francois Guilbault, Francois Matte, Gregoire Painchaud, Christian Pare, Kattialine Painchaud — and all come with an impressive musical education background, both in their country and overseas, including from Africa and, of course, Ireland. They combine this worldly experience to create a unique Franco-Celtic sound with their long list of instruments, including recorder, bodhran, guitar, keyboard wooden flute, bass, tin whistle, violin, mandolin and drums.
Tickets are $15 at the door.
Get ready to shake a tail feather because Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers will appear at Juanita’s on Monday, March 14 ($6). Their live shows are known to combine rockabilly, surf a’ go-go, cowpunk country and ’grass. Skinny potty-mouthed harpist Col. J.D. Wilkes leads the Shakers with vocals and monkeyshine, and on the band’s website it says it’s been hand-picked to open for SXSW main act Robert Plant on March 15.
Opening at 9 p.m. will be British transplant Spottiswoode and his Enemies, an equally bizarre group that brings spooky gospel, R&B and South of the Border tendencies to the stage. Their new single, “Youngest Child,” is getting airplay.
Also on Monday, March 14, the Monday Jazz Project at the Afterthought will feature Astral Project’s tenor and soprano saxophonist, Tony Dagradi. He’s in town for his college, Loyola of New Orleans, recruiting students from area high schools. He’ll be backed Monday night by Joe Vick, Dan Sieckman and Dave Rogers. The music will start at 8 p.m., and cover is $5. The whole cast of Astral Project will be at the club on April 11. Advance tickets are $10 at the club or at Capitol Keyboard, 13401 Chenal Parkway. Tickets on the day of the show will be $15.
We caught the chicks of whisky-drenched stoner-metal New York City group Bottom a few years back when the Vans Warped Tour came through town. In the grueling heat, the trio exuded heavy, brass-knuckled metal with their sweaty hair plastered to their foreheads, belting it out with possessed, otherworldly energy. There’s nothing faux or pretentious about the group; they don’t use the “chick band” label to promote themselves. Their shows are a combination of pulsating guitar, powerful drum licks and bashing bass with guttural growls punctuated by banshee howls. Check them out at Downtown Music on Wednesday, March 16. Also appearing are Red Giant Eldemur Krim and the band we love to asterisk, Sh*tfire. The all-ages show starts at 8 p.m., and cover is $5.
For fans of the Orlando, Fla., metal band Trivium, they’ll be making a stop through Little Rock on the way to Austin’s South by Southwest Conference with tour mates 3 Inches of Blood, The Agony Scene and Still Remains at Vino’s Brewpub on Tuesday, March 15. The lineup is part of the Roadrunner label’s “Road Rage Tour.” Music starts at 7 p.m.; admission for all ages is $8.