Good Humor Band; Eddie from Ohio; Kelly Joe Phelps 

Playing Live

Who: Good Humor Band
What: "Good Humor Band" ,br>Where: High on the Hog and Poe's Pub, Saturday Oct. 13, 8 p.m., $5.

Why: This 19-cut history of one of the East Coast's most popular bands from two decades past is a rock 'n' roll gem. Included here are songs recorded live at long-gone venues, never-released studio tunes cut in the early '80s and new songs taped in Nashville last year. Often scary in musical intensity, the Richmond-based band's lineup changed often, but the players have always remained wonderfully unpredictable and wildly incorrigible. Through the years, many other great players jumped in the van and this CD has them all. One of the best songs, "D.W.I.," was recorded when Evan Johns and Danny Gatton were aboard. But the range of new and old material shows just how good these guys were from the get-go and how good they remain today. Their version of "Harlem Nocturne" recorded live in 1983 is hair-raising, and a 1982 studio version of "She's Late" is a classic. The booklet in itself is worth the price of admission as it presents a thorough history of the band and song-by-song recording details. This is what God intended when he created rock 'n' roll. — Ames Arnold

Who: Eddie from Ohio
What: "Quick" (Virginia Soul Records)
Where: NorVA, Norfolk, VA, Friday Oct. 12, 8 p.m. $10.

Why: Eddie from Ohio is self-described as too energetic for just folk, and not angry enough for alternative. Where does this leave us? Good question. The quirky Virginia-based quartet stresses four-part vocal harmonies over acoustic guitars, drums and percussion that comes off like (again with the self-description) the Grateful Dead meets Peter, Paul & Mary or maybe Jewel fronting the Barenaked Ladies. The latter is much more accurate, stipulating that Jewel has taken her Prozac. The lead and title track sounds remarkably similar to the Canadian folksters turned hipsters, as well as "Monotony."

Eddie from Ohio has been at it for 10 years, amassing a legion of "Edheads" through grassroots marketing, the Internet and lively concerts. They have sold 100,000 copies over six albums, and remarkably, they have remained totally independent, from production, scheduling, and accounting to merchandising, publicity, and RV maintenance. "Quick," their seventh album, allows the vocal assets of the four to shine, while never really allowing their instrumental prowess to stand out. Throughout the album, it feels as if something is missing. Further on, it becomes evident that, aside from the vocally void "Cantering on Fool," the instrumental musicianship of the four is largely unimpressive. There is no doubt they work well together, but it seems as if the album lacks a strong foundation. "Quick" will please the Edheads and the acoustic armies out there, but for those of us who need some backbone in our music, the search continues. — Ford Gunter

Who: Kelly Joe Phelps
What: "Sky Like a Broken Clock"
Where: Ashland Coffee and Tea,
Wednesday, Oct. 10, 8 p.m., $15

Why: Phelps' latest is a departure from his previous spare work. Firmly established as a world-class solo slide-guitar stylist by his first three CDs, Phelps adds a rhythm section this time around. As a former jazz player he takes his place easily in the ensemble. "Sky" does not feature Phelps' guitar as much as some fans might like, but this project works because of the lyrical and instrumental mood that emerges. Weaving effortlessly around one another, the stand-up bass, percussion and guitar create a dreamy darkness that leaves plenty of space for Phelps' rough, emotional vocals. A strong melodic sense is too often lacking, but the 10 songs are strong enough to stand up to this shortcoming because the lyrics examine lives of the desperate and the deranged with such poetic precision. Phelps inhabits an intense world short on joy. But he clings to hope regardless, and he manages to see the underbelly and the misunderstood with grace and compassion. "Clementine" is hiding "behind the wall" and "all she wants for Christmas is another glass of wine." But we learn she has not abandoned the struggle for love. "Tommy" sets a suicidal fire but his was a good soul paralyzed by the world around. "Worn Out" speaks of the desperate search for a reason to believe. "Sky" is not for the casual music fan. But those who take the time to meet the inhabitants of Phelps' curious world will find their rewards. — Ames Arnold


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