The Daredevil Christopher Wright

As you might imagine, there are a good many Christopher Wrights in the world, and one of them was a conspirator with Guy Fawkes in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. But according to singer, songwriter, and guitarist Jon Sunde, his band The Daredevil Christopher Wright takes its name from a person he made up for a song.

"As far as we're concerned, he's a fictional character," Sunde said in a phone interview. "But it's interesting to hear about the Christopher Wrights of the world." (What's dryly funny is that the song bearing his name has the chorus "I want to grow up to be Christopher Wright.")

The use of such a common name with the vivid "daredevil" mimics the approach of the Eau Claire, Wisconsin, trio, headlining a show on Wednesday at Huckleberry's in Rock Island.

Sunde called it "pairing the profound and the mundane," and that means searching for enlightenment in the everyday. "Trying to shoot straight at love or straight at agony or trying to expound on the concept of romance - it's too big, it's too broad, it's too strange," Sunde said.

Dent May

The debut album The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele begins with an a cappella number called "Welcome" that starts, "Welcome to my record / Welcome to the show."

The second track features vocals mimicking electronic bleeps before the ukulele actually shows up, and the lyrics begin, "Every Tuesday, and every other Friday or so ... ." The voice is clear, confident, and forward, not at all the tentative instrument one might expect with indie-pop music defined by the miniature guitar.


Drakkar SaunaHere are three things that Wallace Cochran told me in an interview last week to promote Drakkar Sauna's May 18 performance at RIBCO:

  • The old-school country duo's upcoming album (set to be released on August 1) is titled 20009, which is pronounced "two thousand-ousand nine."
  • "It's a theme record. It's about astronauts and love. Mostly astronauts and rocket travel and the failures of rocket travel in history."
  • "Jeff [Stolz] definitely brought the Louvin Brothers to our relationship, and I'm glad I could respond to that with Mandy Patinkin."

A word of warning: None of this is necessarily true. Interviews with Drakkar Sauna typically play like dry comedy routines between Cochran and Stolz, as if they were lost members of Spinal Tap. For evidence, see the e-mail interview between the band and founder Sean Moeller, who has previously featured the band on his site and is bringing them back to town for the show and another recording session.

But while the band's interview style might be self-effacing and silly, and there's undoubtedly an oddball element to the music, it would be wrong to accuse Drakkar Sauna of not taking its craft seriously. On the band's albums, indie-sensibilities are fused with old-time country in an appealingly ramshackle concoction that sounds as if it came from a time-traveling saloon.

The High Strung

On the one hand, Josh Malerman -- The High Strung's singer, guitarist, and songwriter -- sounds receptive to new ideas. When I asked whether the band will record an album of library songs -- the on-the-spot compositions generated with the help of the audience at the band's many gigs at public libraries -- he replied that generally the songs are performed once and then disappear.

But then: "We have probably 12 this year," he said. "If we recorded those 12, that's an album. I actually think that's a very good idea. Maybe we will. The more that I talk about this, I really think that we should just do that."

On the other hand, Malerman said he was perfectly happy for the trio to record with the same producer (Jim Diamond) well into old age. When the Detroit group's label suggested a new direction, Malerman said he was skeptical. He recalled that a representative told the band, "You've made three albums with this guy. Time to do something different." That was seconded by the High Strung's drummer and its bassist, but Malerman had to be sold: "I was ready to keep going like we were going until we were 80."

The High Strung will perform a Daytrotter show at Theo's Java Club on Friday, and the band's story suggests that Malerman indulges wacky ideas more than he rejects him. The group left its old tour bus in front of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, and it is probably best known, from a 2005 This American Life story, as the band that plays gigs at libraries -- full rock shows missing only booze and profanity.


The first impression of Superdrag's Industry Giants is pure punk on "Slow to Anger," barely updated for the new millennium, and the second impression is My Bloody Valentine on "Live & Breathe," with its patient, droning guitar textures. The rest of the band's comeback album is confirmation that it defies pigeonholing.

But Superdrag -- which will be performing a Daytrotter show at RIBCO on Saturday, April 24 -- isn't impressive for merely being more than competent at different genres. What's striking is that it's nearly liquid; despite the stylistic shifts, the quartet is comfortable enough in the songs that the music all sounds of-a-piece. While Superdrag never transcends its influences, it is sometimes their equal, and that's no faint praise.

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit

As part of the three-headed songwriting monster of the Drive-by Truckers, Jason Isbell was overshadowed by Patterson Hood's grim, vivid, and vernacular Southern tales sung with an inimitable, scorched voice that could become a haunting howl.

That says more about Hood than Isbell, though. Isbell wrote some the Truckers' prettiest music, but the band has never been much about pretty. Its three-guitar attack and working-class outrage meant that Isbell's songwriting and singing contributions to Decoration Day, The Dirty South, and A Blessing & a Curse got largely lost. And the truth is that his vocals are probably better suited to the Eagles than the Truckers.

When Isbell in 2007 split from the band (by all accounts amicably), it freed his songs from the Southern-rock context and gave them the space to be appreciated on their own. And following a 2007 solo debut mostly recorded with his Drive-by Truckers bandmates, the new Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - released in February - represents a clean break.

William Fitzsimmons

Most folks don't like to talk about painful personal stuff, such as a failed relationship.

William Fitzsimmons -- who will be performing a Daytrotter show on Thursday, March 19, at RIBCO -- doesn't have much choice.

"I wrote a record on divorce, so I opened the door," he said in an interview this week.

You'd never guess that The Sparrow & the Crow, Fitzsimmons' album from last year that the Boston Herald called a "near masterpiece," is about divorce on first blush. It's unfailingly delicate, intimate, and gentle musically, with folk-y lead piano and acoustic guitar lightly accented with other instruments. And it starts with the words "I still love you" and "I still need you" and what sounds like a reaffirmation of marriage vows. It absolutely does not sound like divorce.

Dirty Projectors

Editor's note: The Dirty Projectors show scheduled for Sunday, March 8, was canceled the day of the show.

Three years into its existence, the variety of acts that has brought to the Quad Cities for concerts defies pigeonholing, but they've tended to fall into two broad categories: the highly idiosyncratic and the on-the-verge. (Remember that founder Sean Moeller brought in Vampire Weekend, Blitzen Trapper, and Fleet Foxes before they were big.)

Blk JksIf you want a sense of how excited the music press is about the up-and-coming South African psychedelic rock band Blk Jks (pronounced "Black Jacks"), you only need to see the art-rock royalty that reviewers name-check.

The stuffy New York Times: "Far closer to TV on the Radio and the Mars Volta than they are to Ladysmith Black Mambazo."

The hipsters at Spin, dubbing Blk Jks a "hot new band" earlier this month: "The electro-funk experimentalism of TV on the Radio with the Afro-pop guitars of Vampire Weekend, and drop in hints of jazz, ethnic African music, and the prog-rock of contemporary acts like the Mars Volta."

If those descriptions pique your interest, is bringing Blk Jks to the Quad Cities, and fans of adventurous rock would be foolish to miss the band's performance at RIBCO on Tuesday, March 3. This is a buzz band poised to make seriously good noise.

deer-tick.jpgIf you listen to the three bands on a bill at RIBCO next week, the impression their recordings leave might mislead you.

Headliner Deer Tick released War Elephant in 2007, and it's mostly a shit-kicker. But leader John McCauley said last week: "I'm certainly not a cowboy." And: "I was so sick of being called alt-country."

So he promises that Deer Tick's forthcoming album - due out this summer - will be more of a rock-and-roll affair. One can certainly imagine McCauley rockin' out, but it's hard to imagine him with less twang.