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May 23, 2007

Here is now, new Spark, Piece of mind, Sinners like him

Noah Hewett-Ball admits his tendency to give two answers for every question, but as singer, guitarist, keyboardist and principal songwriter of Cabin, his plate’s full, so some ambivalence and freneticism are to be expected.In four years, Cabin has released an elaborate full-length, 2005’s Govern the Good Life, lost three original members, found three new players and signed a licensing deal with the Wisconsin label Machine Records.“I would say we ‘dated’ for months,” Hewett-Ball said of the band’s relationship with Machine, which began after Cabin played Midwest Music Summit in Indianapolis last year. “They’re totally genuine, and they didn’t rush us into anything.”Machine is releasing the band’s latest EP, I Was Here, a four-song departure from Govern’s dense menagerie of melancholy pop that, to date, has sold about 2,000 copies mainly by word of mouth and at live shows (see review on page 60). Hewett-Ball said he’s most excited about “Musical Seats,” the fourth track on I Was Here, and the one that marks the band at its most collaborative.“Even with the last record, I was never trying to create a niche,” he said. “If a song has a jazzy feel, I’ll exploit that.”The deal with Machine allows Cabin to own the master recordings and produce its own albums, and Machine can choose whether or not it wants to release subsequent records. “Michael Jackson can’t buy it unless he goes through us,” he said, laughing.I Was Here debuted earlier this month at the No. 7 spot on College Music Journal’s Most Added records list and entered CMJ’s Top 200 at No. 125. A nice promo kit quote from Sufjan Stevens —  “a band you need to check out” — certainly hasn’t hurt, either.Cabin performs a free in-store at ear X-tacy on Saturday (1534 Bardstown Road, 452-1799), and, before that, they play Friday night at Uncle Pleasant’s (2126 S. Preston St., 634-4147). Cost is $5. Hayward Williams and The October open the show.The band also performs May 30 at Waterfront Park (129 E. River Road, 574-3768) as part of WFPK-FM’s Waterfront Wednesday concert series. That free show begins at 5 p.m., weather permitting.•••“I have no ego when it comes to me and the song,” Peter Searcy said of his new album, Spark, which drops this coming week from Label X/Toucan Cove.The demos for Spark were cut in Searcy’s studio at his Crescent Hill home. The surroundings permitted greater experimentation and more time to flesh out ideas.“I love the process so much, and the creativity,” he said. “There’s nothing to me that’s more satisfying to me than recording. What’s better if you’re a painter: finishing your painting or the act of painting it?”Searcy’s done a lot of traveling and radio promotion leading up to Saturday’s album release show. Last month, he and Brigid Kaelin recorded at Westlake Studios in Los Angeles (where Jagged Little Pill and Thriller were made) to lay down a few songs for exclusive download through SonyConnect. There he busted out a version of the Squirrel Bait classic “Sun God.” “I thought it would be a kick for people to try to tie my past to now in a way that makes sense.”Saturday’s 18-and-over show at Headliners (1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088) costs $10. Doors open at 9 p.m. Amherst, 49th Star and Turn 3 open.•••As co-founder of Dischord Records and former drummer for Minor Threat, Jeff Nelson is responsible for enhancing virtually every punk and indie rocker’s record collection.Nelson, 45, and co-owner Ian MacKaye are icons of the music underground, forging their own niche by releasing some of the finest punk, rock and experimental albums ever made. Along with California’s SST and Chicago’s Touch & Go, Dischord, which only releases records by D.C.-area bands, helped write the manual on how to start an independent label.Nelson’s affinity for Victorian mansions and Jeep Wagoneers — he owns seven of them — compelled him to leave the nation’s capital and relocate to Toledo, Ohio.“They’re just beautiful,” he said of his fleet. “The body style had never changed from ’63-’91.”Add that to the fact he was enjoying his own tranquility after endless barrages of demo tapes. He had stopped listening to music altogether — all of it — and never wanted to play in a band. That is, until Tony Lowe made him a liar.Lowe, a Toledo singer-songwriter, mailed Nelson a three-song demo, and Nelson, who at the time was cleaning out his home in Arlington, Va., flipped over it.“Basically, I think he’s worth it,” Nelson said, adding that he’s turned down repeated offers to play in bands. “I feel guilty contributing to the glut. I am a very picky bastard.”Their new project, Fast Piece of Furniture, has a new record, Adventures in Contentment, which is being released on Nelson’s Adult Swim label. The band is heading out on a short tour that stops this coming Tuesday at the Pour Haus (1481 S. Shelby St., 637-9611). Doors open at 9 p.m., and admission is $5 for this 21-and-over show.•••He was kicked off a tour with Rascal Flatts for being too loud, but Eric Church has a habit of turning setbacks into advantages. The North Carolina product has earned critical acclaim as a songwriter for Sony Tree Publishing, and now for his own country album Sinners Like Me, which features a cameo by Church’s hero, Merle Haggard.“At the time it was a fate thing,” Church said. “He was on Capitol Records with me, and when we turned the song (‘I Pledge Allegiance to the Hag’) in, I just casually said, ‘Man, it would be great if we could get Merle to sing on it.’”Thing is, Merle won’t sing on your record unless he’s a fan, so Church sent him a couple of tunes and the man himself agreed. “To have Merle Haggard like your stuff is thanks enough as far as I’m concerned. We sent the tracks out to California and he knocked it out in one take.”Naturally. Church has said in the past that he’s a “craft guy,” meaning song first, and all the other trappings of music fall by the wayside. That outlook hasn’t changed.  “I don’t have all the answers for what is a No. 1 song. If I hit No. 3 or I hit No. 5, I’m trying to decide if I’m gonna care,” he said. “As long as people buy the record, I don’t know that it matters that much.”Church plays Saturday at Coyote’s (133 W. Liberty St., 589-3866). Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $12, and there’s an added $5 charge at the door if you’re age 18-20. Contact the writer at mherron@leoweekly.com