This space isn’t generally used for record reviews, but one has passed across my desk that is too earthshaking to neglect.
The debut effort by Greensboro’s Adam Thorn & the Top Buttons bursts with energy, wit and passion. It would be too simple to call this great garage rock, but the songs crackle with the same kind of loud, jangly pop intensity that propelled the early Kinks and Who.
Where’s the Freedom? is Thorn’s first big splash since the breakup of Kudzu Wish. It comes to us by way of Ernest Jennings Record Co., the New York imprint that also delivered Health’s Where You From last year. One of Health’s members, the prolific Jonathan Moore, pounds the skins for the Top Buttons and Kudzu Wish alum Tim LaFollette plays bass. Both of them contribute gorgeous, if rough-edged back-up vocals of the shoop-shoop variety to this album.
It seems almost counterintuitive that the album’s two covers, the soul classics “Expressway to Your Heart” and “People Get Ready,” bracket this effort, but there they are – irrepressible romantic anxiety leading to a tempered expression of social uplift. They play 2 Art Chicks on June 9. Catch ’em before another decade or two has passed.
I’ve also been hearing rave reviews of the Avett Brothers’ new release, Emotionalism. David Butler, host of the “Sunday Morning Rehab Show” on WQFS, tells me he considers it their Sgt. Pepper.
Honorable mention goes to the Two Dollar Pistols’ Here Tomorrow, Gone Today, a flinty and disillusioned set of honky-tonk songs by my old Chapel Hill friend, John Howie. I used to work the door while John tended bar at the Cave. I always think of it as an invaluable education.
… The main lesson being, always be gracious about handing over a couple bucks at the door because if the musicians don’t get paid the music dies.
On that note, Big Sam’s Funky Nation from New Orleans, led by the former trombonist for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, kicks off festivities on Thursday at the Blind Tiger in Greensboro. The following night the downtown art-rock scene holds a fete with Dan Deacon and the Video Hippos, two acts from Baltimore, at, yes, 2 Art Chicks. They’ll be joined by North Carolina audio projects Ear Pwr and Faster Detail.
On Friday in Winston-Salem, Ten Years After (you might have heard about their legendary performance at Woodstock back in ’69) plays at Ziggy’s. On the Americana tip, Tennessee’s Everybodyfields play with Texas songwriter Beaver Nelson at the Garage.
Back in Greensboro on Saturday, songwriter Rodie Ray will be plying her trade at Tate Street Coffee. Possum Jenkins will celebrate the release of their new CD at the Garage the same night.
The Bass Mountain Music Park in Snow Camp holds its Memorial Day weekend bluegrass festival from Thursday through Sunday. Highlights included the Circuit Riders, IIIrd Tyme Out, Cherryholmes, the James King Band and Rhonda Vincent & the Rage. Lou Reid will also be there, with his band Carolina. Let me urge caution before you get excited, based on Elvis Costello’s recent appearance at MerleFest. I don’t think this is the founding member of the Velvet Underground we’re talking about here.