Issue January 9, 2007

Sight Unsound: Ludacris returns, Lawler resonates, pirates reign

R. Keenan Lawler: Photo by ARON CONAWAY    “No guitar teacher would tell a student to do what I do,” says R. Keenan Lawler.
R. Keenan Lawler: Photo by ARON CONAWAY “No guitar teacher would tell a student to do what I do,” says R. Keenan Lawler.

The resonator is a strange, hollow-bodied metal guitar that has one foot in the past and one foot in the future.

It’s probably the least traditional of traditional Americana instruments, which makes it the perfect instrument for R. Keenan Lawler.

Lawler says his style evolved naturally as a result of “devouring all sorts of music.” He’s thrown out all the rules on ways to play his instrument and has started from scratch.

I made a language and a vocabulary out of my mistakes,” he says. “No guitar teacher would tell a student to do what I do. You’ll end up damaging your hands or breaking your neck — your guitar neck.”

Lawler’s new record, Music for the Bluegrass States, shows the unsettling and uniquely beautiful results of his strange methods and techniques.

The title of the disc is a statement about classification,” he says. “I like that people have difficulty classifying (the music). I don’t like being lumped into a big genre. I find it very boring and defeating.”

The music is anything but boring. Anything.

Lawler’s adamant avoidance of genre labels and style classifications got the attention of Table of the Elements, the label ultimately responsible for the release of Music. Lawler says the label is “responsible for documenting a lot of 20th century music that’s been previously marginalized.”

With its help, Lawler is successfully avoiding such a fate. The record has been shipped all over the world, and Lawler says the music has been more well-received than he expected.

He brings his intriguing one-man show to the Jazz Factory’s Late Night Salon (815 W. Market St., 992-3242) at 11 p.m. this Friday (Jan 12th).

You never know what he’s going to do next. “I feel like my music can go in any direction at any time,” he says. “I don’t want to repeat myself.”

•••

Ludacris: Ludacris — coming to the 502.
Ludacris: Ludacris — coming to the 502.

One read of the lyrics to Ludacris’ “Area Codes,” and you’ll notice the last area code mentioned is none other than 502. Combine that with the Atlanta native’s visit to the Kentucky Derby, and it appears Luda has more than a little love for the bluegrass state.

This Friday, the rapper who riffed on Fat Bastard and Austin Powers brings his twin talents of rhyme and razor-sharp wit to Freedom Hall in support of Release Therapy, his latest album via Def Jam/Disturbing Tha Peace. The record features “Runaway Love,” with Mary J. Blige.

The opening lineup is Shareefa, DJ Unk, Hurricane, DJ Webstar, Young B and Deelishis. The Jan. 12 concert starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $35-$65, and there is a 12-ticket limit per household. See www.ticketmaster.com for more details.

•••

God Forbid has come up with an interesting tactic to speak to their diverse audience: Use multiple speakers.

God Forbid
God Forbid

Live, the band has maintained the basic formula it has been working with for some time now. When it writes songs, Byron Davis still shoulders the bulk of the vocal duties, but he isn’t necessarily always singing his own lyrics.

We wanted to present a message, not just from one guy’s perspective, but from the whole band’s perspective,” guitarist Doc Coyle says.

God Forbid’s newest release, IV: Constitution of Treason, is a bit on the political side. “I hate to use the word ‘political,’” he says. “It’s more like social commentary.”

Coyle says on the band’s Web site that the album is intended to be a concept album in three parts, “Twilight of Civilization,” “In the Darkest Hour” and “Devolution.” The record tells the story of mankind being nearly obliterated by nuclear war and enslaved under fascist rule only to have an archetypal hero/rebel put to death.

In the final third of the album, mankind mythologizes the hero while simultaneously learning little from his death. It’s a pessimistic tale, but it’s a dystopian parable that would make George Orwell and Aldous Huxley proud.

Pessimistic or not, God Forbid has been encouraged by the response to its new material.

We’ve noticed more people singing along at shows,” Doc says. “There’s been a lot more crowd participation.”

If you’re interested in participating, now is your chance. They perform at Headliners (1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088) alongside Goatwhore, Mnemic, Scar Symmetry and The Human Abstract at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. Tickets are a lucky $13 in advance or $15 at the door.

•••

Ben Andrews is out to prove that there are more productive ways to steal music than downloading songs.

Andrews recognizes that new music isn’t truly new, but rather the incorporation of any number of influential musicians or styles of music. So he elected to christen his band The Barbary Merchants. In other words, pirates.

“‘Barbary Merchants’ is from an old sea shanty called ‘The Locket.’ I first heard it on the film adaptation of ‘Shogun,’” Andrews says.

It’s an interesting story, but really I just liked the name, and since there are two Ben Andrews in showbiz already — one plays guitar and has several records out, and the other is a porn actor — I needed a name for presenting my original music.

I’d rather be in a band than (play) solo, and I like pirates, so I went with The Barbary Merchants — a band of pirates taking you on a voyage through plundered music.”

The Barbary Merchants centers on Andrews, but when this captain brings a crew along with him for shows, this rowdy bunch is sure to make for an interesting evening wherever it runs aground.

The last show we did, we did some jazz standards in the middle and a sea shanty or two,” Andrews recalls. “This time, there will be some tangos played, sort of thrown in the middle of the original music to give listeners an idea of where all this music comes from.”

The Merchants play Saturday at Air Devil’s Inn (2802 Taylorsville Road, 454-4443).

Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com