Make Some Noise for the New Year


Where to go and what to hear.

by John D

Lucinda Williams

For those of you looking for an album of the month, i.e. the album I can’t stop listening to and the album I am listening to as I write this column, there is not one. There is a good reason for this. It seems that every music publication, critic, and just about everyone else has released their “Best of 2012” lists. I am instead jumping from list to list and trying out some artists that I might not have otherwise been exposed to. The interesting thing is that many of the lists I have come across reflect my own choices for the best of 2012.

One of those bands is The Alabama Shakes. The Shakes have continued to generate buzz and praise capping off 2012 with Grammy Nominations for Best New Artist, Best Rock Performance, and Best Packaging. I am not sure if Best Packaging reflects on the band as much as it does the graphic artist that designed their album cover but the first two nominations put The Shakes in “the big time.” Unfortunately for us when the band returns to the states they will be touring out west so it will be a little while before we get to see them again.

There is a lull in touring with many acts during the Christmas/New Year’s period, but what is coming to Birmingham is certainly worth seeing. I expect to hear a lot of shows announced mid-January for the rest of the winter season, but here is what is confirmed so far:

Patterson Hood (co-founder of The Drive By Truckers) is doing the solo thing. In last month’s column I discussed his album, Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance, which is, I think, one of the best new albums of the year. Oddly enough I have not seen it on anyone’s “Best Of 2012” list. I will attribute that to the fact that it came out late in the year. Hood, fresh from opening for The Alabama Shakes in Europe, will be playing the Alys Stephens on January 12th (alysstephens.org). Buy tickets now as once the show gets closer, tickets will start to sell pretty quickly.

Also appearing at the Alys Stephens Center is singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams (January 23rd). Williams, known for her mix of country, folk, and rock, will  eschew full band backing this go around and instead play a more stripped down version with just one backing guitar player. I can think of no better place to see a show like this than the Jemison Concert Hall at the Alys Stephens Center.

Guster, the alternative rock band from Boston, will also be sticking to an acoustic set when they play a show at WorkPlay on January 8th (workplay.com). The 8th is also the date they release their most recent album, which just so happens to be a live acoustic album recorded from a tour in 2012. The band seems to enjoy the unplugged approach and the backing of a string section that they will be bringing with them. Unfortunately for us in Birmingham we just get the string section (in some of the bigger cities the band is playing with a full symphony backing them). Maybe next time around, but even so this will be a great show to sit back, relax, and enjoy music you know performed in a different way.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (1/19 at Bottletree) is a 180-degree change from the shows listed above. This three-piece from New York can be best described as rock band, or at least that is where they start out. The group has never let the label “rock and roll” constrain them and have worked with the late Elliot Smith, Beck, all the way through to Solomon Burke and R.L. Burnside. This is the kind of show where you will be hot and sweaty and not until the bands stops will you realize you are exhausted from dancing all night long.

Also of note, the city’s newest venue, Iron City Live, has already started booking acts for January but do not appear to be done with their build out, but by the time you read this the city may in fact have another venue up and running.

Other Shows of Note for January

The Devil Makes Three (1/25 @ WorkPlay)

St Paul and The Broken Bones (1/24 @ Bottletree)

Jesse Payne (1/24 Moonlight on The Mountain)

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