Three nights, three artists, three sounds

The Jon Spencer Explosion

The Jon Spencer Explosion
Jan 22

Rev Room delivers diverse weekend of music.

Explosion — that’s about right when describing The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The blues do burst violently and noisily, just like the definition of “explode” asked for, but it’s a pissed-off celebration of the blues, too, under the guiding hands of Judah Bauer, Russell Simins and Jon Spencer.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is not the blues of Charley Patton. No way, no how. Nor Robert Johnson or Muddy Waters. Little traditional worship here. The sound of the trio is a warped, sweaty, scuzz-marked bastardization of the blues. Violent and reckless and primal like its forefathers, but in a style Patton and Johnson never imagined. Consider the sound of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s New York City blues — gutter sounds, sleazy and loud and confident. Punk blues, if you will, with little shred of reverence for the blues of Patton, et al.

But then the blues are not the only guiding force for The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Never has been in their 20-plus year history. Through their existence, the band has included Chuck D of Public Enemy in its music. Collaborated with Dr. John and Bernie Worrell. Introduced electronica bleeps and beeps. And most notoriously backed the raw, hypnotic North Mississippi hill country bluesman R.L. Burnside on A Ass Pocket of Whiskey, a collection of wild, juke-joint burning blues.

Now, almost eight years after the release of their 2004 album Damage and following an extended hiatus, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is back with Meat + Bone, which finds the band getting back to its dirty, ear-splitting, corrupted take on the blues.

As Spencer says in the band’s bio, “We still have that psychic glue that allows us to create music together. We rediscovered our shared history as a band. We circled the wagons, and went back to our roots. In a way this is almost like another first album.”

By now, if you’re a little rock music fan, you’ve heard of American Aquarium. Maybe not live (although the band — releasing records through Little Rock’s Last Chance Records — plays Little Rock about three or four times a year), but you’ve heard of them.

The music created by BJ Barham on vocals and guitar, Ryan Johnson on lead guitar, Whit Wright on pedal steel, Bill Corbin on bass and Kevin McClain on drums is probably easiest described as some kind of alt-country-flavored rock ’n’ roll. A little Waylon Jennings meets Bruce Springsteen meets whatever raucous, barroom band you saw in that dive in the middle of [insert midsize city here]. The Raleigh, N.C.-based band’s tales deal with women, trouble with women, women named Savannah, regret, love, partying, religion, beer, bars, and living hard and living free.

Burn.Flicker.Die. is American Aquarium’s latest, and the record released last August on Last Chance Records nails what would be considered 21st century Southern rock ’n’ roll. (Think Drive-By Truckers, Lucero and the like.) The record is polished and professional in its engineering (with recording by acclaimed Southern singer/songwriter Jason Isbell), but there’s the grime of the road in the sound of the album. Burn.Flicker.Die. is weathered ballads such as “Jacksonville,” “Lonely Ain’t Easy” and “Harmless Sparks.” And the album is burning-rubber rockers such as “Saint Mary’s,” “Cape Fear River” and “Savannah Almost Killed Me.”

Yeah, the sound of American Aquarium is alt-country-flavored rock ’n’ roll. Trusty, heartbreaking, brave and, most of all, good.

there are two schools of thought when it comes to Arkansas’ own Kris Allen. Those that celebrate the eighth-season-of-American-Idol winner and those who hope the central Arkansas native is on minute 14 of 15. But the former love the pop rocker’s hook-filled tunes such as “No Boundaries,” his acoustic rock take on Kanye West’s “Heartless” and blue-eyed soul takes on classics such as “Ain’t No Sunshine.” The singer/songwriter’s latest is last May’s Thank You Camellia, an 11-track recording of Allen’s rich voice paired with crafty pop melodies.

“There’s a lot of heart in the album,” Kris says in his bio. “I spent a lot of time on these songs; my blood, sweat and tears went into making them work. I feel like it is the best representation of who I am as an artist sonically, musically and lyrically.”


Check out one, two or all of these shows at the Rev Room this weekend:


Trash-blues duo The Jam Messengers open for The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion with the music starting at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for the 18-and-up show.


The opening act for American Aquarium is to be announced, but expect the music at 9 p.m. with tickets $8 in advance and $10 day of for the 18-and-up show.


Opening Kris Allen’s show is Jillette Johnson, a New York City-based singer/songwriter known for her stately pop, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets for the all-ages show are $12 in advance and $15 day of. There are a limited number of VIP tickets for $50 available as well.


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