Extended Play 5.2.07

by Jordan Green

It’s blues, blues, blues this week. We’re talking blues in broad strokes here, – the wide concept – beginning with the indigenous American idiom of jazz and sweeping forward to James Brown, founder of funk.

The Dave Fox Group performs at Mack & Mack in downtown Greensboro, kicking off the Piedmont Jazz & Blues Festival on Wednesday. Fox, who directs Greensboro College’s piano studies program, is known for deep – and adventurous – jazz. We’ve had the pleasure of hearing a rare recording of Fox’s Christian rock band from the 1970s here at the offices of YES! Weekly, and it must be said that a comparison to the Doobie Brothers would not be far off the mark.

Gypsy Grass Collective will perform at Natty Greene’s on Wednesday, also as part of the festival. The following night brings “Ladies Sing the Blues” at the Empire Room, featuring Laurelyn Dossett, Molly McGinn, Martha Bassett and others. It should be an interesting night: Dossett is most often associated with antiquated rural balladeering and McGinn is a local folksinger of more contemporary vintage. Bassett, who specialized in jazz and swing vocals, may be the most intuitive choice for the lineup.

On Thursday, New Orleans’ Gill Landry will be playing the Garage in Winston-Salem, with Charlotte’s New Familiars doing opening honors. “Take a pinch of the shuttered French Quarter, a dash of shack-distilled brew, mix it with the alleyways of Les Halles, throw in equal measures of wrong-side-of-the-tracks bars and whisky-driven night sweats,” the publicity for Landry’s debut album reads. “Fire it up with songs of loss, of dashed dreams, of devils in dresses and a twist of bitters. Shake it. Bottle it. And sell it out of an old battered cardboard suitcase.”

On Friday, trombonist and legendary sideman Fred Wesley leads a tribute to James Brown, his late and former employer, at Festival Park in downtown Greensboro. That one is also part of the jazz and blues festival. On the same night Ralph Stanley, a legend cut from a wholly different cloth, performs his God-struck, death-haunted bluegrass music at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem for the early show. Kelly & the Cowboys will play the late show.

Friday also brings the CD release party for Mitch Easter’s Dynamico, the first release in 18 years for the former Let’s Active bandleader, at the Garage. Easter’s former band was cursed with the fate of being considered something of a critics’ darling but never selling many records. Easter will forever be remembered for producing the first REM single, along with subsequent recordings for the band.

Across town at Rubber Soul, roots rock crowd pleasers Downtown Senate will be plying their trade the same night.

Modest Mouse (including ex-Smiths guitar player Johnny Marr) will be at Greensboro Coliseum on Friday.

For the true blues – straight, no chaser – you are encouraged to show up for the Carolina Blues Festival at Festival Park on Saturday (see cover story for specifics).