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C.J. Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band 7/4, Fitzgerald's This second-generation zydeco star could have more trouble with his father's ghost than Hamlet--if he were the sort to be preoccupied with that crap. But his incorporation of bits of jazz, funk, and R & B indicates a slight overeagerness to please the masses rather than a rebellious attitude, and on last year's The Big Squeeze (Alligator), his obvious regard for tradition and his killer accordion work mostly save him from far worse crimes.

Candye Kane 7/4, frankie's blue room; 7/5, Fitzgerald's This good-time belter's declarations of pride in her class (working), her sexuality (bi-), and her size (extra large) are warm and witty, and her band's deft fusion of lounge jazz, rockabilly, country, and blues keeps things rollicking without detracting attention from the diva. If popular music had its own pride parade, Kane could ride on the same float as such amply built blues goddesses as Koko Taylor and Big Mama Thornton--she'd be the one waving the rainbow flag.

Robin Trower 7/5 & 6, House of Blues Why not? He's no more superfluous now than he ever was.

Velour Motel 7/5, Lounge Ax I was never able to work up much genuine enthusiasm for Galaxie 500, so for me to say this local quartet is less stupefying than many of that band's other descendants is admittedly faint praise. But the chiming guitars and crooning organ on Velour Motel's new Wolcott do conjure a lonely loveliness, and certain lines do have a nice rueful edge, particularly "Everyone wants someone to save / Even when they can't save themselves."

Lotus Crown 7/8, Metro On their new Chokin' on the Jokes (Reprise), Jimi Shields and company hide eerie little electronic surprises just below the surface of their XTC-esque pop and psychedelic meanderings. To some ears the record may sound unfocused, but it's at least as good as XTC's own Dukes of Stratosphear stuff--and on the epic album-closing chantstrumental "Beginnings," it could even be called hypnotic.

Handsome Family 7/9, Lounge Ax; 7/11, Schubas I've spent a long time trying to figure out why Chicago so drastically underappreciates its very own Handsome Family. Possibly it's that lyricist Rennie Sparks, who's also a performance artist, writes dense, monologuish story-songs that are hard to hear properly over music. Or maybe it's that Brett Sparks sings in a desolate monotone that makes Leonard Cohen sound like Mike D. But the band's latest release, Milk and Scissors (Carrot Top), comes closer to capturing the lean, lovelorn soul of old-time country than any of the thirtysomething other neocountry records I've waded through this week, all of which seem hell-bent on creating the equivalent of Lakeview yuppie blues.

Backsliders 7/10, schubas Yeah, I'm sure they're fun live. But couldn't they at least steal from primary sources instead of Jason & the Scorchers? --Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): C.J. Chenier photo by Paul Natkin/ photo Reserve.

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Agenda Teaser

Galleries & Museums
Monet and Chicago Art Institute of Chicago
February 11
Performing Arts
April 08

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