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The Curtis Burch Group

Most devotees of traditional bluegrass music know the Burch family name. Ricky Burch is a mighty fine mandolin, banjo and fiddle player, while brother Curtis is a caution on the dobro, and his wife Ruth is said to sing “like an angel.”

Over the course of their long careers, the brothers have played alongside many of the greats – and mentored several musicians themselves.

Ricky’s done time with The Southern Gentlemen, The Cross Family, and Jerry “Son!” Reed. Curtis, on the other hand, co-founded the legendary New Grass Revival, a group that helped resurrect the genre from stagnation in the 1970s, by adding elements of country, jazz and even rock into bluegrass’ rigid formula.

Besides winning a grammy for his role in Sugar Hill Records’ timeless album The Great Dobro Sessions, Curtis (and the great Norman Blake) can be heard playing “You Are My Sunshine” on the best-selling O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.

Advance tickets are only $20, and there’s only room for 100 folks at this intimate show. Call Randy Wood Guitars at 748-1930 to snag a seat. Sat., 8 pm, Randy Wood’s Concert Hall (1304 E. Hwy 80 in Bloomingdale).

Moonshine Still

This noteworthy improvisational rock group recently released a top-notch indie album produced by none other than Grammy winner Robert Hannon – who manned the boards for the smash Outkast side project Speakerboxxx/Love Below.

With a dense, sympathetic approach to rambling, organ-fueled, Southern jams in the vein of the Allmans, Widespread Panic and Memphis brethren The Gamble Brothers, (the band proudly describes their style as “Macon, Georgia music”), this young sextet virtually lives on the road, traversing the country in a specially-modified 1988 schoolbus and playing more than 175 dates a year.

Another of their calling cards are their soaring, churchy vocals, which have helped them to nab tours with superstars such as Leftover Salmon, and to win over crowds at many high-profile showcases, such as Langerado, Smilefest and the Mid Atlantic Music Experience. Thurs., Locos Deli & Pub + Fri. - Sat., Rafters Blues Bar, St. Simons Island.

Cory Branan, Ben Bowne

There’s a great Tom Waits bootleg that leaked out years ago on a tiny Italian record label. It compiled a couple of rare solo gigs by the then fledgling songwriter – on from Ebbets Field in ‘74, and the other from Denver in 1975. The illicit audience tapes reveal an artist who’s so in command of his own voice, his instruments (in this case, piano and acoustic guitar), and the crowd that it’s almost hard to fathom the energy and focus it takes to summon that out of oneself.

Branan, who grew up surrounded by music in Southaven, Miss., doesn’t yet possess the same level of intensity that Waits held in his hand over three decades back, but listening to his debut CD, The Hell You Say, it’s not too hard to imagine the day when he just might come close.

The Memphis-based roots-rocker took up songwriting after being introduced to the work of John Prine, and now lives out of the back of a Honda Civic in that ceaseless quest for inspiration and artistic alchemy that can sometimes only be found by playing dive bars and coffeehouses and sleeping on strangers’ floors. He gets compared a lot to Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, which seems to have more to do with lazy critics than his work itself, but like Oberst, he is one of a new breed of tunesmiths who toy with traditional songcraft while simultaneously respecting their elders. It’s this combination of talent, charisma and rugged good looks that landed him spots in Rolling Stone’s Hot Issue, and on the Letterman Show (quite a coup for an indie artist).

Local opener Ben Bowne was raised in Kentucky and came to Savannah by way of music meccas NYC and Austin. His recorded work sits nicely alongside the organic hip-hop of G. Love and the acoustic mood pieces of John Mayer. While a bit affected at times, he too seems determined to find a niche that suits him and run with it. Wed., 8 pm, The Sentient Bean.

Hightower, Walken

This double bill features two impressive Bay Area bands that gig frequently on the West Coast. Skate-metal act Hightower, while headlining, is the weaker of the two – simply due to a stoner sloppiness that gets in the way of their tricky (and rather technical) licks.

Walken, on the other hand, is jaw-droppingly impressive. Their song structures are crazy, filled with hyperkinetic riffing, syncopated runs, endless tom-tom rolls and unexpected detours into Primus territory. They’re so tight that it’s too bad they’re encumbered with a vocalist who seems happy to deal in clichéd poses like the old throat-shredding, evil-demonoid screaming bit. If this band ditched the singer, or forbid him to use that ludicrous Exorcist voice, they’d instantly become about five million times more listenable and unique to boot.

Still, these guys are firing on all cylinders, and their melodramatic mood shifts only reinforce how much of an influence Faith No More wound up having on an entire generation of bands who probably never even payed much attention to them in the first place. Mon. The Jinx.


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Jim Reed

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Connect Today 10.22.2016

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