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Front-row review: the anticlimax blues

Who: Michelle Malone & Kevn Kinney
Where: The Grey Eagle
When: Sunday, June 20

Michelle Malone is a lit-and-sparking dynamite fuse of a musician. She burns through songs, her vocals rising from the glowing-red embers of folk into white-hot, crackling explosions of bluesy bar rock. She’s also a fantastic guitarist, blazing through bottleneck blues and dirty rock riffs without ever looking back to see what’s been cindered in her wake.

Supported on June 20 by drummer and backing vocalist Linda Bolley, Malone gave a furiously charged performance, its passion bordering on aggression.

But it was between songs that Malone revealed her best on-stage weapon — her barbed wit.

“I don’t like pop music,” she quipped at one point, as she caught her breath. “I was never popular, so why should I like them?”

Malone played on to the small, relatively subdued Sunday-night crowd, and it was an excellent show. But when she left, so did most of the audience, though she’d only been slated as the opening act.

And then it was time for the headliner, ex-Drivin N Cryin front man Kevn Kinney, a solo act for some years now.

The eternally “i”-less Kevn is something of an icon on the Southern-rock scene, but I found him mercilessly boring.

I realize he’s supposed to be beyond reproach, but his pretentious, gooey, stream-of-social-consciousness-driven songs and emotionless affect was flat-out dull.

How dull? So much so that you spontaneously come down with muscle aches and a metallic throb behind your eyes — almost as if some lesser deity has discovered your plight and granted you a bad case of the flu to give you something else to focus on.

That dull.

Listening room (album reviews)

Medina Line, James Moats (James Moats, 2004).

To be such a downbeat affair, Medina Line is surprisingly listenable. James Moats‘ mixture of electronic pop, downcast country and throwback grunge hooks adds up to a strangely compelling album, almost a distant cousin to artists like Beck, but with a stronger focus on disheartened lyrics. Medina Line marks Moats’ return to the Asheville music scene after a disappearance of nearly two years following the demise of his previous band, ChunkStyle. He’s an artist well worth keeping an eye on.

Best Track: “Dedication Street.”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Alien Music Club, The Alien Music Club (Jonathan Pearlman, 2004).

According to the liner notes, the goal of The Alien Music Club (singer/multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Pearlman and family) is to explore diverse styles of music and — above all — have fun. It’s not a totally failed experiment, but very little on this album is worth a major investment of time. Music Club is a light endeavor, frequently filled with joke songs — yet it never really sinks its teeth into any of the so-called diverse styles explored. Instead, the whole thing just comes across as goofy. While technically proficient, most of the album’s ’50s-styled rock, blues and hard-R&B rarely rises above the creative level of a tongue-in-cheek jingle.

Best Track: “Down In ‘Dosta.”

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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