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April 8, 2008

Marty Stuart adapts; Two Men (& 2 Giants); Bravery on the dance floor

Saturday, April 12“Country music is what I do. If I die tomorrow, that’s what the headline will say: ‘Country Singer Marty Stuart,’” Stuart tells LEO.Stuart established himself first as a sideman for the likes of Doc Watson and Johnny Cash, then later as a solo artist. He now enjoys life as sort of a honky-tonk version of Tom Petty: an artist who looks just as comfortable standing next to the latest generation of country celebs as he does standing with the legends.“Tom Petty is someone I admire … a pretty authentic guy,” Stuart says. “He’s meat and potatoes, and he’s not about the latest trend. However, when the latest trend comes back around to him, he’s usually ahead of the curve.”Stuart values being ahead of the curve, but he wasn’t always able to get there. “For a long time, my job was to chase a three-minute country hit, and I did good at it, and then it became a hollow victory. So I went back to Mississippi and took a long look at the sustaining force of music, and tried to get in line with it,” he says.Mississippi is not just a home for Stuart. Instead, Stuart sees the Magnolia State as the launching pad for all American music.“I think I came to a realization as a Mississippian that there was a heritage that I came out of, and that I was a part of. The roots of American music, it’s one and the same as the story of Mississippi music, because the father of country music, Jimmie Rodgers; the king of rock ’n’ roll, Elvis; the first family of gospel music, The Staple Singers — take your pick of any blues singer, on and on — all came from Mississippi.”Upon returning to his musical roots in Mississippi, Stuart became aware of something else: Country music is disappearing. Each year brings the passing of another icon, and with it, another reminder that traditional country music is vanishing. A more urban and contemporary form of country music is rising in its place — one that is less about the traditions of country music and more about pop stars singing with vocal-coach-induced Southern drawls. But Stuart isn’t the fly-by-night cowboy pastiche that Nashville sells; instead, he’s the same working-class hero that his country forefathers were before him, and he will be on display Saturday at Louisville Slugger Field in all of his trend-bucking, country-picking glory (the concert follows the 2:15 p.m. game; go to www.batsbaseball.com for details).Saturday, April 12Two Man Gentlemen Band: bring their unique brand of roaring ’20s-style ragtime to Lisa’s Oak Street Lounge on Saturday.For audiences wanting a more intimate and decidedly more up-tempo affair, New York City’s own Two Man Gentlemen Band will grace Lisa’s Oak Street Lounge (1004 E. Oak St., 637-9315) on Saturday night with their unique brand of roaring ’20s-style ragtime blended with the lyrical wit of that other New York duo — They Might Be Giants. While both groups have a similar wit and bite to their lyrics, the Two Man Gentlemen Band are more indebted to Scott Joplin than Janis Joplin. This is serious old-time, wear-a-suit-and-drink-bathtub-gin music, and to top it off, it contains something that is missing from most music today: fun.“People find it very unusual when we show up and play a fun show,” says Andy Bean, lead singer and banjoist for the band.Instead of a typical morose rock bands and self-important schlocky singer-songwriters, TMGB rely on their wits and their frenetic music to win over audiences. Instead of bashing out their songs in the garage like countless other bands, TMGB instead honed their craft on the streets of New York City, where they “were full-time buskers for about 10 years,” says Bean. The result is a high-energy, two-man riot that is designed to get audiences moving and involved.“You’ve got to keep making a racket to get people’s attention,” says Bean.So far, the racket is working. TMGB’s latest album, Heavy Petting, has raised eyebrows among critics and fans alike with the band’s smart songwriting and propensity for using the kazoo as a lead instrument. But the buzzing of the kazoo isn’t limited to the CD: The band hands out the instruments at their concerts and leads audiences in high energy kazoo-alongs.“At the end of the night when we are done, it’s inevitable that the drunkest people in that are at the bar are still kazooing,” Bean says. Cover is $5; showtime is 10 p.m.Sunday, April 13“I don’t like things that sound over-produced. Sure, there are synthetic elements to our music, but you can’t lose the power of a live rock ’n’ roll band. The music is very human,” says Sam Endicott, lead singer of The Bravery.The power of a live rock ’n’ roll band is one thing that The Bravery has in spades. Combining a tough New York rock ’n’ roll edge with an ultra slick but still human sound, the band has been wowing audiences across the country with their sweaty live performances and the stirring old-fashioned qualities of their latest album, The Sun and The Moon. It’s an album that is accessible yet challenging, and remembers to put dancing back into the rock ’n’ roll lexicon, something Endicott thinks is missing in today’s super serious rock world.“We all moved to New York around the same time, and we come from a garage rock background. I’d go to these underground clubs and the DJs would combine electronic music with rock ’n’ roll. It was rock ’n’ roll starting to fuse with dance music, (and) we thought it was really cool. So we wanted to combine that with garage rock, so you could have real people play the songs. It’s supposed to be rock ’n’ roll you can dance to.”So when the band plays Headliners Music Hall (1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088) on Sunday, expect to bang your head a little and shake your hips a lot. Fiction Plane & Vegas opens the show. Cover is $15; showtime is 8 p.m. Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com