Artist: Jake Shimabukuro
Venue: The Orange Peel
Date: Friday, Jan 24, 8 p.m.
Ukulele probably isn’t the first instrument that comes to mind when one thinks of powerfully rocking music. But Jake Shimabukuro is the sort of artist who can make that comparatively humble instrument work in a surprising variety of contexts. His 2016 album Nashville Sessions is something one rarely encounters: an ukulele-led (say that three times fast) power trio. It’s astoundingly good, and recommended for fans of Cream and Joe Satriani. All that said, don’t expect Shimabukuro to feature music from that release on this tour; his fan base was confused and not altogether thrilled with it. Instead, the order of the day is more likely to be the kind of friendly, tuneful music that features on most of his other releases. And even though it doesn’t exactly rock, it’s wonderful stuff. Here’s my 2018 interview with the uke sensation.
Artist: Tinsley Ellis
Venue: The Grey Eagle
Date: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 8 p.m.
Ellis was a prominent figure on the vibrant Atlanta music scene of the ’80s; coming of age in that era and location myself, I can scarcely recall a week in which he wasn’t headlining somewhere back then. And for good reason; his fiery blues was a real crowd pleaser. That he was signed by Alligator Records was yet another sign that he was the real deal. And after a period releasing discs for other labels, he eventually returned “home” to Bruce Iglauer’s label. His latest, out days before the show (January 31 to be exact), is Ice Cream in Hell. It continues his tradition of balancing guitar fireworks with actual songs, a balance that far too few blues artists manage. Here’s a short essay I wrote on Ellis for Chicago’s New City altweekly just about a year ago.
Artist: The Seratones
Venue: The Mothlight
Date: Sunday, Feb. 9, 9 p.m.
Door: $12 advance / $15 day of show
Days ago I had the pleasure of interviewing AJ Haynes, guitarist and lead singer for this super group originally out of Shreveport, Louisiana. She has a lot to say – both in her music and in conversation – and my feature will run ahead of this show, in the February 5 issue of Mountain Xpress. For now, let’s just say that if you dig original music that’s influenced in nearly equal parts by hard-driving ’60s garage rock and soulful rhythm and blues, you’d be highly unwise to let the Seratones come and go without seeing and hearing them.
Artist: Ashley Heath & Her Heathens
Venue: Pisgah Brewing Company
Date: Friday, Feb. 14, 8 p.m.
Asheville-based guitarist and singer Heath bills her band as “psychedelic Americana.” You’re as likely to pick up traces of blues and soul in her original music, and she comes with a strong foundation in the singer-songwriter idiom. She’s beloved here in Asheville, winning Mountain Xpress‘ best-of polls for the last three years running. Heath has covered a great deal of ground since making the brave leap into music as a full-time endeavor in 2017. I had a chat with her right as she was making that jump; read more about it here.