Dirt on the Angel
Two hours northwest of our city in a secluded hamlet by the Sound, ex-Texas rocker Danny Barnes has embraced the tranquility of isolation while retaining the public's ear for his world-class musicianship. Once the spirited leader of Austin punk/bluegrass squadron the Bad Livers, Barnes split from his home state six years ago, yet remains steadfast to the landscape of the American music he found there. On this second solo disc, Barnes recruited a celebrated supporting castincluding Seattle jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, Stones/Allman Brothers keyboardist Chuck Leavell, and banjo/accordion maestro Dirk Powelland sticks to his literate, come- irreverent brand of songwriting that wafts from solitude ("Life in the Country") to certitude ("Dirt on the Angel") to latitude ("Bluegrass Suicide") to attitude ("Get It While You Can") to just-plain cooking ("Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy"). Barnes has a countrified baritone that scrounges from Kris Kristofferson and Roger Miller, and he's a clever instrumentalist who keeps his banjo's nose out front on nearly all of the 15 tracks. Mixed in with a pair of exceptional covers (the Faces' "Ooh La La" and a marathon interpretation of Beck's "Loser") are an Exile on Main Street-ish beg for forgiveness ("Water Wagon"), a Frisell-influenced slow-dance instrumental ("Kitchen Floor Waltz"), and a silly salute to a baseball journeyman ("Trinidad Hubbard") that ridicules the player's bunting but nods to his luck with women. SCOTT HOLTER
Danny Barnes plays Tractor Tavern at 8 p.m. Thurs., Oct. 16. $20 adv.
TRÄD, GRÄS OCH STENAR
Ajn Schvajn Draj
Thank heavens for old hippies who actually use electricity. Under their late-'60s Swedish predecessor incarnations Parson Sound and International Harvester, as well as their more familiar later name, the fried, stomping Träd, Gräs och Stenar were and are usually plugged in and rampaging, even during their open-air fests, which take place anywhere and everywhere in and around Scandinavia. The band members reunited some years ago under the Träd, Gräs aegis, and their reputation has skyrocketed among the Terrastock/loud space rock crowd. This album, released last year, showcases a quartet that, a couple of oddball songs like the title track aside, is considerably more restrained and elegant three decades on, but no less aimed at tripping out via slow-motion apocalypses. "Under Korkeken" and "Utgang" are songs of looming mood and threat laced with entrancing beauty, while "Duvan" are "Ringring" are anthems for people who hate anthems, heroic without being self-important. Guitarists Bo Anders Persson and Jakob Sjoholm could probably fit into Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Sigur Rós, but they sound like they're having too much fun for that. The band's tendency towards strong coversearlier days provided striking takes on Dylan and the Stoneshasn't died either, with the Fugs' "Nothing" getting a merrily strange a cappella run-through. If you're going to do the weird Euro-prog song-title humor thing (à la Amon Düül II's "Dehypnotized Toothpaste"), do it the way these folks do, calling one improv-into-steadily-resolving-structure piece "The Return of the Oppressed (A Love Story)"though you don't have to speak Swedish to think "Do Fortyrcktas Aterkomst (En Karlekshistoria)" sounds even better. NED RAGGETT
Träd, Gräs och Stenar play the Crocodile Cafe with Kinski and Sushirobo at 9 p.m. Fri., Oct. 17. $8 adv.
A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar
Thanks to MTV Unplugged, America has seen the future of Las Vegas, U.S.A., and its name is Chris Carrabba. True, if A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar, Carrabba's third release under the Dashboard Confessional aegis, is any indication, the singer/ songwriter is bound for far more glory than a headlining slot at the Luxoror even the cover of Entertainment Weeklycan provide. Carrabba's good looks make the hunky Floridian a natural for daytime TV, as do his lyricsmini-soaps unto themselves. And his impressive command of acoustic guitar-saturated emo-lite makes the Bard of Boca Raton a natural for the next Friends theme song. Television is mostly illusion, though, while Carrabba, like Vegas, is reala fact he proves again and again on A Mark. Take the closing of album opener "Hands Down": "But you meant it/And I knew/That you meant it, that you meant it, that you meant it/And I knew/That you meant it, that you meant it." Clearly, Carrabba knows when somebody means it, because he means it, too, even more than the legions of teens that transform his live performances into mass sing-alongs mean it. And the kids mean it so much that their desert-bound parents are sure to catch on sooner or later, especially given the fact that Carrabba's very vocal delivery evokes a kind of suffering that most Vegas-goers can relate to easilythe kind that comes with constipation. Savvy grown-ups don't call Carrabba "the Celine Dion of emo" for nothin'. Then again, Celine Dion didn't make the comedy record of the year. Carrabba did. If he learns a few card tricks and masters a handful of impersonations, he's set for life. ROD SMITH