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Dry Branch Fire Squad

These bluegrass legends have been at it for more than a quarter century, and have made one heck of a name for themselves as an innovative and entertaining group by tackling everything form contemporary ballads to Old-Time standards and “front porch” favorites. They’re also known for their witty, country humor and stage banter that comes across more like classic Appalachian storytelling. Plus, as if the music wasn’t enough of a draw, there’s a great BBQ joint next door that’s usually open just before the shows. If you haven’t tried this way cool ALL-AGES listening room only about 15 minutes from downtown Savannah, you don’t know what you’re missing! To charge $20 advance tickets, call 748-1930, or visit www.randywoodguitars.com for more info. Thurs., 7:30 pm, Randy Wood’s Concert Hall (1304 E. Hwy 80, Bloomingdale).

The Brenda Earle Trio

This internationally-known NYC-based pianist/vocalist/composer/arranger is making her debut in this area at this brand-new listening room and dessert bar. She’ll be accompanied by a crack rhythm section from Charlotte, N.C., on sets that incorporate jazz, Brazilian music and classic pop. In addition to standards, she also puts her own spin on obscure or previously “un-jazzed” numbers by the likes of Suzanne Vega, The Police and the Finn brothers (Crowded House, Split Enz), and draws inspiration from everyone from Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson to Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach. The Washington Post thinks she’s one of the most promising new artists in her field, and between her enchanting vocals and delicate phrasing on the keys, I think she’s plumb dreamy. Fri. - Sat., 8 pm, Kokopelli’s Jazz Club.

2006 Hinesville Blues & BBQ Festival

It seems like every city in the South is getting into the Blues & BBQ business, and Hinesville’s no exception. This free street party features opening act Wizdom, a Hurricane Katrina survivor who lost her home in the storm, and now views herself as an “ambassador” for other displaced Gulf Coast musicians. Local legends The Eric Culberson Blues Band headline, with a set of tough-as-nails electric blues that’ll please even the most dyed-in-the-wool Albert Collins or Freddy King fanatics. Free to ALL-AGES (donations accepted). Food, soft drinks and beer available on-site. Sat., 8:30 pm, Bradwell Park (Hinesville).

MiwaGemini, The Never

Creepy, ethereal, hushed, and completely captivating songwriting and guitar-playing chanteuse whose voice gets compared to both Tom Waits and Bjork — which is a simultaneously hilarious and somewhat apropos description. She’s earning a lot of critical praise for her debut indie CD, and is hard at work on a follow-up, when not playing high-profile rooms like Joe’s Pub in NYC.

The Never are a phenomenal indie-rock, chamber-pop unit from N.C. with dreamy, melodic hooks. They’re touring behind an indie concept CD that’s packaged with an elaborate children’s storybook and which is drawing effusive praise from all corners. This will be their second time playing this unpretentious venue, and anyone interested in ambitious, low-key indie rock with a flair for the dramatic should definitely check out this enticing double bill. Plus, it’s an ALL-AGES show, so all the kids who are always complaining that no cool bands come to town (that they can actually get in to see) should put their money where their mouth is and show up, know what I mean? Mon., 8 pm, The Sentient Bean. 

The Packway Handle Band

This solid and innovative acoustic quintet boasts great 3 and 4-part vocal harmonies, plenty of original tunes that hold up well against the old standards, and as if that weren’t enough, they have been named Athens, Ga.’s Best Bluegrass Band for the past 4 years in a row by the readers of Flagpole Magazine.

They play and sing the old-fashioned way — into just 2 powerful ambient condenser mics, and they’re not afraid to drop some gospel tunes into their bar sets as well. They’ve played with everyone from Dr. Ralph Stanley to Confederate Railroad, and seem well on their way to becoming a major name on the festival circuit. Fri., 10 pm, Murphy’s Law. 

“Restoration Jazz Benefit” w/The Howard Paul Trio

This historic house of worship continues to fund its expensive, ongoing building restoration with inventive, arts-related fundraisers. This time out, local 7-string guitar whiz Paul (and his always-impressive combo) play a variety of traditional jazz tunes that will both dazzle and captivate. The show is held in conjunction with the nearby Telfair Art Fair, and all proceeds from the $10 admission fee will benefit Trinity UMC “the Mother of Savannah Methodism.” Sat., 5:30 pm, Trinity United Methodist Church - ALL AGES.  

2nd Annual Rock The Dock Fest w/Bobby Lee Rodgers, Junkyard Angel

Despite the fact that the frontman and songwriter of The Codetalkers lives in Savannah, it’s extremely rare that either Bobby Lee Rodgers or his band play a local gig. In the past few years, the only chance folks in this area have had to catch their critically-acclaimed take on jazz and jam-influenced pop and rock has been courtesy of the Savannah Music Festival, which booked the group a few times back when they were augmented by the legendary avant-fusion guitarist Col. Bruce Hampton (of the Aquarium Rescue Unit). Meanwhile, guitarist and banjoist Rodgers —who’s gigged with the likes of Grammy-nominated blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin and Widespread Panic and The Dead guitarist Jimmy Herring — graced the stages of Bonnaroo, Vegoose and other large, eclectic music fests.

Now, the former Berklee College of Music professor plays a rare duo show (backed by Codetalkers drummer/percussionist Tyler Greenwell) to benefit this church’s Youth Group Outreach Program. Also on the bill is Junkyard Angel, a great roots-rock combo made up of both Savannah and Athens-based players, featuring the well-known singer/songwriter Stewart Marshall (of Stewart & Winfield fame). Tickets are $10 and refreshments will be available. Audience members are encouraged to bring chairs to this outdoor show. Sun., 5 pm, St. Thomas Episcopal Church (Isle of Hope) - ALL-AGES. 

2006 Savannah Seafood Festival w/Tracy Byrd

This year’s annual street party coincides with the Inaugural Grand Prix of Savannah, the 7th and final round of the 2006 ChampBoat Grand Prix Series. For those who don’t care too awfully much about frighteningly fast watercraft, there’s plenty of arts & crafts vendors, food and drink — plus a surfeit of live musical entertainment. The fun begins at 9 am each day. A complete schedule of events can be found online at www.riverstreetsavannah.com, but dig on these highlights:

Friday at 8 pm, free Shag lessons are followed by a set of beach and dance music by The Rickey Godfrey Band. The evening’s entertainment winds up with reggae artist Zerby at 10:30 pm. Saturday at 6 pm, local Southern rockers Jason Courtenay & Hazzard County open for country music star Tracy Byrd. Li’l Malcolm & The Zydeco House Rockers close out the night with a Louisiana dance party at 10:30 pm. Assorted activities and events will continue through Sunday evening. Free to ALL-AGES. Fri. - Sat., various locations along River Street.

Southern Alliance For Clean Energy Benefit Party w/The Fundamentals

Proceeds from this funky, dance-oriented concert and party help support the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting responsible, healthy energy choices throughout the region. The band is a stripped-down 4-piece version of the well-liked local 13-piece R & B cover group The Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love. Reduced to the essentials (get it?) of two guitars, bass and drums, they pack a whallop on rock, soul and R & B tunes from days past. For those who have never had the chance to catch the Bullets at one of their rare public gigs, now’s a good chance to get an idea of what they’re all about. True, there’s no horn section, or keyboards, but the intent remains the same, if not the specifics.

The venue itself, The Walker Mansion is a roomy, posh, historic home that’s been turned into one of the coolest rental facilities in the downtown area. It’s cozy enough to feel like a house party, and large enough that folks can spread out and dance, nosh, or simply mingle with ease. Admission is $20 per person, and space is limited. For more info, call 201-0354. Sat., 8 pm, The Walker Mansion (911 Whitaker St.).

The Train Wrecks

(CD Release Party)

Not much is known about this combination live gig and celebration, but one thing’s for sure — this is the Savannah-based Americana quartet’s debut release. The group, which features guitarist/harmonicat Jason Bible, drummer Markus Kuhlmann, bassist Eric Dunn and dobroist Stuart Harmening have become one of the more entertaining bands on the area bar, restaurant and festival circuit. Hopefully their recently-completed album will retain much of the loose, unpredictable spirit that shines through their twangy, raucous live shows, which blur the lines between rock, folk, country and blues, and appeal to most anyone who enjoys watching devoted players give it their all. Sat., 10 pm, Murphy’s Law. 


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Jim Reed

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