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March 4, 2008

Sight Unsound: Perserverance pays off for Jackson Browne

Best suited: Jackson Browne, a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, plays the Brown FridayFriday, March 7Though Jackson Browne has presumably been living well off of the royalties from the Eagles’ greatest hits (after a lawsuit, of course), there is much more significance to this legendary songwriter than having co-written “Take It Easy” with Glenn Frey.In the 1960s, Browne was a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, briefly backed up Tim Buckley, famously collaborated with Nico, and secured a publishing deal for his ever-expanding catalogue of highly in-demand tunes.By the early ’70s, Browne was making albums of his own, scoring radio hits and mentoring up-and-comers such as Warren Zevon. But world events and personal tragedy caused Browne’s material to become increasingly introspective and thought-provoking as that decade unfolded.For most of the 1980s, his chart success continued, but Browne alienated a segment of his fan base with his noble but controversial involvement in various crusades for social and environmental justice.Since the ’90s, however, Browne has remained active, enjoying his position as one of rock’s premier elder statesmen.Throughout, Browne has endured with dignity and assurance. And it is to his credit that this Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee is back on the road delivering a nearly three-hour acoustic set replete with all the hits and misses of a long career.Browne appears at the Brown Theatre (315 W. Broadway, 584-7777) on Friday. Tickets are $56, and the all-ages performance begins at 8 p.m. Visit www.kentuckycenter.org.Friday, March 7Tift Merritt is a writer of short stories and a capable surfer. But she is also a soulful songbird best known for sexy-smart lyrics and lovely pop melodies. Miss Merritt returns to Louisville Friday to celebrate the release of her latest LP, Another Country, with a mini-set at ear X-tacy (1534 Bardstown Road, 452-1799). The 6 p.m. performance is free and all ages are welcome.Tuesday, March 11With a sound that evokes Big Brother & The Holding Company, The Band and even Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, it is safe to say that Grace Potter & the Nocturnals possess certain classic sensibilities.Much of the Nocturnals’ timeless feel is owed to the massive (and apparently rockin’) vinyl record collection that Potter’s parents had on hand during her formative years in Vermont. Potter was so transfixed by the power of all that good music that she set out to assemble a slightly transcendental blues/rock band of her own when she came of age.After several years of relentless touring and issuing independent discs, the Nocturnals are finally catching fire. Of late, they were picked up by Hollywood Records, appeared on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and will be stopping by this weekend’s high-profile Langerado festival in Florida before coming to town.For Tuesday’s performance at Headliners Music Hall (1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088), Potter and company will be paired with the always delightful Benevento-Russo Duo. The BRD are a favorite on the jam-band scene and always transmit a variety of acid jazz, rock and punk from the stage. Doors are at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 12Over the last few years, Matt Thiessen has seen his Canton, Ohio, garage band blossom into an international sensation. Hardly an overnight success, Relient K has been hard at it since 1998.“We were inspired initially by every band that sounded like Blink 182, including Blink 182,” Thiessen tells LEO. “But we’ve matured a bit and have since learned a lot from older bands like the Who and the Beach Boys. Still, we are primarily a rock ’n’ roll band influenced by both punk and piano,” he says.To be sure, Relient K is not your average pop-punk ensemble. Their well-crafted melodies float around lyrics that are both smart and spiritual.As Thiessen explains, “I grew up going to church and my faith was always important to me, so, when we started the band, I knew that in terms of subject matter, I wanted to touch on that part of my life. Addressing big questions like where we came from and what we are doing here is much more interesting to me than writing about girls and cars or whatever.”This approach has certainly set Relient K apart from its peers. And, accordingly, the band is now huge in Christian as well as mainstream circles. But, refreshingly, the often-serious content of the group’s lyrics is tempered by the quirky sense of humor and non-preachy demeanor of its members.“Every human being is flawed. And I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes all I have is doubt. So, coming across as realistic and honest is essential,” Thiessen says. Because of their many hit singles and gold albums, this Ohio garage band has also been afforded the opportunity to produce cartoons (“The Woodland Forest” series) and books (“The Complex Infrastructure Known as the Female Mind”).But, as tested road warriors, live shows are what Relient K does best. Luckily for us, they return to town next week for an intimate show with a new drummer in tow.Relient K plays Headliners March 12. Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com