By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
George Jones at Billy Bob's Texas, January 30
It's the golden tonsils. Jones plays a packed house at Billy Bob's a couple of times a year, and each time, every soul in the crowd is transfixed. Jones' knowing cuts through the room and your skin and your bleeding heart with the clarity only a bona fide C&W veteran can muster. He's voicing the truths behind your every dire heartbreak and weary road trip and lonely night, and it's not the cut-and-paste lyrics that deliver. It's the texture and emotion in the bellowing Voice.
Return of the Grievous Angel
Those of us born after 1965 would be hard-pressed to recall the glory days of Gram Parsons and his Flying Burrito Brothers. Sure, we might know the tale of his carcass-exhuming buddies, might have heard of his intense creative affair with Emmylou Harris, might have caught wind of his boot-licking behavior with the Rolling Stones. (Mick never did like the smooth-faced Gram much.) But in one fell swoop, this tribute album proves what a friggin' excellent songwriter he was; voila, a new set of fans is born. Perhaps the most telling aspect of any tribute album is the caliber of artists that agree to perform on it. Parsons has always had more than his fair share of luminaries promoting his canon in interviews about "my biggest influences," so it's no surprise this tribute surfaced a who's-who of songwriting greats: Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams, Jeff Tweedy, Beck, and of course, the angel-voiced Emmylou. The duets featuring Harris are the scene-stealers. Chrissie Hynde and Emmylou, then Beck and Emmylou, then Sheryl Crow and Emmylou -- ah, hell, she's the best evocation of Parson's spirit anyway. But there's not a bad song on the disc; it's the kind of release (and rare tribute) that you can put on and let spin all the way through without a single irritating note.
Jets to Brazil at South by Southwest, March 19
On the tail of its rip-fueled debut Orange Rhyming Dictionary, Jets to Brazil managed to work an appearance at March's South by Southwest into its tour itinerary. It was a toss-off for them; when they took the stage at the overcrowded Atomic Cafe, former Jawbreaker frontman Blake Schwarzenbach seemed as nonplussed as someone allergic to attention. This mostly obscure band was simply unimpressed with the music-seminar concept, didn't feel as though they belonged there, and made no bones about it. But when they surged into their first song, everything changed; the crowd stood hypnotized at the continuous power pouring off the stage. The guitars sounded like hyper-melodic buzzsaws, and Schwarzenbach's voice cut through the room with earnest, raw intensity that left his former ambivalence in the dust. Tunes like "Morning New Disease" and "King Medicine" became noble, caustic anthems for the evening, soaking the band in sweat and the kids in catharsis. Jade Tree's newest band wasn't looking for a label deal, just another much-needed outlet for all that gut-knotting energy.