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February 19, 2008

Sight Unsound: Shannon’s rites; Guv’nahs tear up the South

Saturday, Feb. 23Shannon Wright often seems to have one foot out the door of the music biz.Given her considerable composing and performing talents, that’s just one more reason you should check her out while you can. And it doesn’t hurt at all that her upcoming appearance is accompanied by a gathering of much of the local progressive indie pantheon. But let’s keep with the headliner, who’s from Atlanta. Almost a decade ago, Wright shifted from leading the punkish Crowsdell to a career phase that has emphasized her piano and singer-songwriter capabilities.Last year’s album Let In the Light offered breathtaking examples of what Wright has been doing since. Opener “Defy this Love” at first sounds like one of the generation of post-Tori Amos piano chicks (think Regina Spektor or Nellie McKay), but the emotions won’t let up — or let the listener off easy. There’s no Broadway aspiration underneath the track.Precision, instead of extravagance, brings on the powerful undercurrent of emotions. Similarly, the chunky march that follows on “St. Pete” is all in service of the song, but the song isn’t in service of the singer’s ego.Everything must come to an end/Let’s stay as long as we can, she sings (in “They’ll Kill the Actor”). But Wright recently told LEO that when she considers any future recording, “I don’t foresee it happening, frankly.”Paradoxically, she’s got great memories of the sessions for her last disc.She discusses Kyle Crabtree (of Shipping News) contributing on drums, or how much she admires producer Andy Baker’s ear. The ability to bring out the honesty in a song is, she says, what brings her joy. It’s a little disconcerting to hear her recount this “really fun process” when the results stand out for the use of odd chord changes or insistent repeated beats and phrases (as on the darkened Zen of “Don’t You Doubt Me”).You’ll also get Todd Cook, Rachel Grimes, Joe Manning and Michael Heineman, in their moonlighting guise known as King’s Daughters & Sons. Just a few weeks ago, another of Louisville’s musically adventurous vanguard — Tara Jane O’Neil — signed up to contribute to the bill at The 930 Listening Room (930 Mary St., 821-3373). This will be a rare event, whether or not Wright later takes her toys and goes home.The show’s at 9 p.m., and tickets are a bargain at $8 (door). If you realize what a bargain that is and how much you should be paying, consider that the show’s been designated a donation site for LAVA House (www.thelavahouse.org), so feel free to bring along good clothing, art supplies, tools or gift cards that you can spare. Saturday, Feb. 23Dirty Guv’nahs are a sextet out of Knoxville with a swift-building reputation for Stones-gone-Southern raucousness.“We see ourselves as a new brand of Southern rockers,” says singer James Trimble. “Our sound … has a different kind of swagger.”But don’t go expecting some kind of fusion that you have to work to understand. “We’re from the South, and we don’t want to come on as something we’re not.”So they take pride in the comfort of knowing how to play a raw set at a bar — contrast, say, with the “We’re just prepping for the arenas” sound of The Black Crowes. Indeed, a song like “Blue Rose Stroll” is centered on an undeniable punch, but melody constantly percolates from the piano, the multiple guitars and all the other corners of the arrangement.“We’re trying to create a full-on show, and that’s been lacking in a lot of music today,” Trimble adds, with a surly but spot-on comment about how acts will sell their souls for the increasingly meaningless label “radio friendly.”There’s no discussion of numbers sought with their self-released disc from late last year; instead, Trimble talks about fun with stage dives and the pride of a spreading reputation for a great live show. “We pack out all of the bars in Eastern Tennessee,” he adds. “Our last couple of shows were just electric.”For their part, The Loft is bootlegger-friendly. Singer John Banzhoff encourages live taping, recording or any other kind of documentation by the audience.“We knew other bands that we liked who did it,” he says. “It doesn’t hurt us in any way. These tapers, they’re a big community.”More than 60 of this Nashville band’s shows have been posted on www.archive.org, giving The Loft fairly accurate reference points, not to mention material for an as-yet-unreleased live album.Opening for the Drive-By Truckers, Gov’t Mule and Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes has branded The Loft as Southern rock, a tag the group embraces as it continues to spread its sonic wings.“We’re definitely a Southern rock band,” Banzhoff says, “and proud of it.”Saturday night’s bill at the Pour Haus (1481 S. Shelby St., 637-9611) also includes John Baxter & the Bottomfeeders. The show starts at 9 p.m. Contact the writer at tlx@aol.com