September 16, 2008

Family affairs, ’Becca’s blast, creative folding

Thursday, Sept. 18

The second generation of Garza musical hermanos, the one that goes by the name Los Lonely Boys, came out of West Texas a few years ago, earning recognition straightaway with a major radio hit (“Heaven”). The trio (guitarist Henry, bassist Jojo and a drummer named … wait for it … Ringo) have just released their third studio disc, Forgiven.

The new set quickly displays an extra kick of richness to their confident sound: The influences, from Hendrix and Clapton, are now in service of tighter numbers. Jojo says the brothers are consciously looking to keep songs from being too easily stretched out as they’re written, a task that all of the brothers took to and recorded.

“You’re trying to make songs that are able to be on TV or that can hit the radio waves,” he says. “Expanding the song changes what was put down on record. You almost want to wait two or three years and then go back and revisit these things.”

They’ve just finished touring with Los Lobos, one of their primary influences and musical mentors who impart lessons on assimilation and independence. But the Garzas don’t have to look any further than family to find out what a unique blessing it is to have one foot each in traditional styles and contemporary rock.

Their father was their first frontman. He taught the boys his trade: conjunto music, typically played with accordion, standard rhythm section and a string bajo sexto, which he played with his ’70s family band The Falcones. Jojo remembers coming back from a trip he made alone with their mother, only to find brothers and father taking up a full band’s instrumentation … except bass. “I was like, ‘Well, alright, I’ll give it a shot.’ Except we didn’t have a bass. But Henry had learned to tune one of the guitars an octave below regular tuning to make it sound like a bass, and put four strings on it … it was cool.”

The brothers want to go further with their improvised instrumentation and arrangements: “To be able to take the traditional conjunto instruments, and to begin playing rock and roll on them — it’s a unique way of getting to new sounds. But we definitely feel like doing songs of our dad … ones that he wrote with his brothers. We want to do a tribute album to them.”

Dave Barnes opens the Brown Theatre show (315 W. Broadway, 584-7777). Tickets are $32.50. Doors open at 7 p.m.


Sept. 18-19

Work, work, work. Rebecca Williams has it all worked out. Lots of gigs (including a couple of residencies) isn’t necessarily overexposure — at least, not this early in her career. 

Base from her face: Indian Hills songstress Rebecca Williams values the cover song, some of the time
Base from her face: Indian Hills songstress Rebecca Williams values the cover song, some of the time

Originally from Indian Hills, Williams is an enthusiastic Louisville native (“Everyone I know who’s left and come back has said the same thing: ‘It’s a hometown.’”). For the last three years, she’s hit a lot of local stages honing her craft and performance skills — both solo and with a band. She refers to herself as a perfectionist, and it’s not at all surprising. Compared with many songbirds taking their early steps, Williams pretty much ran headlong into anything that smelled of opportunity. Open mics for a long time, but for her first gig, she coaxed her way into an immediate residency. 

Any one of a dozen covers might also be carefully inserted into a set. Williams isn’t an out-and-out fan of doing someone else’s song when she could be honing her own. But then she saw the value of covers: “I wanted to diversify the group I was playing to … to get their attention, I’d have to play songs they’d know. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have at least one ’90s pop song as a guilty pleasure. So I do Ace of Base’s ‘The Sign,’ or Meredith Brooks’ ‘Bitch’ — and people go nuts! I love people turning around and saying, ‘Is she really playing that song?’”

Williams’ originals can often merit the same level of attention. “Pistachios” is a hard-strummed break-up song (“It’s fun to play … not so much a revenge song as much as one where I can let out aggression.”) that stands out with its point of view: the voice of the jerk who left the singer feeling betrayed. The sad and contemplative “Through These Walls” (available at myspace.com/rebeccawilliams in a version recorded in Williams’ kitchen, because that’s the room where the piano fit) successfully negotiates familiar singer-songwriter territory, but “The Astronomer” and  “When You’re Gone” are bold in their lyrical and melodic choices. If you’re ready to enjoy a hardworking musician pushing ahead and taking chances, look around and you’ll likely see Williams scheduled at any number of places. This week, her dates include Java Brewing Company (2910 Frankfort Ave., 894-8060), Thursday at 9 p.m., and 60 West Bistro (3939 Shelbyville Road, 719-9717) Friday at 9 p.m.


Sept. 18, 20

When a band springs out with a track as lively as “What ’R You Waiting For?” — sounding like a slightly wired Wilco — it seems a clear indication that it’s getting better with the years. But if you’d prefer to see your indicators through beer goggles, it looks like you’ve got some good opportunities coming up. Slackshop — Messrs. Bartley, Greenwell and Donley — are hosting a couple of free events to celebrate the release of their new disc Folding Nothings Into Everythings. First up is a listening party at The Monkey Wrench (1025 Barret Ave.) Thursday at 9, with no cover. A slightly less formal affair is planned for 7 p.m. on Saturday, when the vintage clothing store Nitty Gritty (996 Barret Ave.) is opening up the garage at the rear of the building, offering up free beer and a set by the band.