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Britt’s Bests and Busts: Best gig: Wailing with Magic Slim and the Teardrops

An opinionated take on the week ahead in music, Aug. 15-21

Magic Slim and the Teardrops performing “Going to Mississippi.”

Gig of the Week

Magic Slim and the Teardrops
(Famous Dave’s, Saturday, Aug. 16, 9 p.m., $5)

The Slim side of Morris Holt’s moniker is off by a hundred pounds or more, but the Magic part is sure enough accurate, especially if you go by dictionary definitions No. 3 (the exercise of sleight of hand or conjuring for entertainment) and No. 4 (a mysterious quality of enchantment). For decades upon decades a bio like Magic Slim’s has been wholly unremarkable: Born poor in rural Mississippi, migrated to Chicago, now stings the hell out of an electric guitar. But that Delta blues train is coming to the caboose: Slim turned 71 last week and he’s one of the youngest.

Count on this: Magic Slim will show up in a big hat and try just a little too hard to sound like Howlin’ Wolf as he belts out his vocals. He’ll play at least one song you’ll cherish by heart, at least one song you’ve probably never heard before, and at least a couple from his upcoming Blind Pig label release, “Midnight Blues.”

His Teardrops will play with the emotion of poker champions and almost never miss a beat. And — here’s the best part — Slim will give you notes and licks that feel as if they’ve been hammered on an anvil, with the sweet-and-sour metallic tang of well water. It’s a style that has been plumbed through Muddy Waters, and Freddie King, and Otis Rush, and his mentor Magic Sam, and continues running in Buddy Guy. The second-best part is you can get it all for $5. I mean, Wayne Newton is $25 minimum in a casino this week; the Backstreet Boys are $27, and Buddy Guy is fetching $33 at the Fair, with precious little room to dance. Two tickets to Slim for a mere sawbuck? Gig of the week.

Fresh catch

Sunshine Behavior 
(Fine Line, Friday, Aug. 15, 9 p.m., $8)

Disclaimer: I’ve never seen this local quartet before, and never heard them or of them until I stumbled across their MySpace page and found a catchy little pop band with a blue-eyed soul singer willing to risk pretension a la Adam Duritz (Counting Crows) or Mick Hucknall (Simply Red), and sometimes Martin Sexton. The guitarist can make like “Little Wing” style Jimi Hendrix on the opening to “The One,” or sidestroke toward the radio with by-the-numbers pop-rock froth on “Entire Town.” A memorable singer, and a capably versatile guitarist is more than half the battle, and the tunes take it from there, including the suburban pogo number, “Shut It Off,” and the deadbeat John Mayer-esque blues, “My Girls.” With three openers I’ve never heard.

Cultural tourism

Rajan and Sajan Misra
(The Recital Hall, College of St. Catherine [PDF], Sunday, Aug. 17, 4 p.m.)

Sloooowly but unsurely, I’m learning how to listen to Indian classical music, and this sibling duo of Hindustani vocalists taps me into that glorious trance-zone more easily than most. It’s beguiling, undeniably spiritual, and incredibly maddening if you’ve got a restless mind that day. If you want to check out a large dose, here’s a 56-minute concert on YouTube of the brothers from decades ago, which features a tabla and a harmonium, two instruments that will be backing the Misras on Sunday afternoon. The breath control, nuances of pitch and timbre, and ululating sine waves of intensity operate in a different realm of soulfulness.

OK, enough of my novice babble. The concert is sponsored by the Indian Music Society of Minnesota, which garners an incredibly high-caliber of artist in the field. The Misras are a case in point, members of the first family of the Benares Gharana style of music and themselves the foremost exponents of the Benares style of singing. Subhen Chatterjee (who has the perfect last name for a tabla player) and Sanatan Goswami on harmonium are likewise well-known to Hindustani music fans. But whether you can tell the players without a program or, like me, are just foraging for some stray scraps of enlightenment, there are worse paths to while away the Christian Sabbath.

Thrush under wraps

Amel Larrieux
(Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant, Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 18 and19, $40 at 7 p.m., $28 at 9:30 p.m.)

The former vocalist for Groove Theory and Sweetback, Larrieux has stunning power and enormous range, yet opts for understatement much of the time. Maybe it’s because her last three discs have been on the Blisslife label; although she has a voice that can grab you by the throat, she prefers to caress the hair on your arm — she’s the anti-Mariah Carey. In an intimate club like the Dakota, working with “Lovely Standards” (the title of her last record, which leans heavily on Rodgers and Hammerstein), it should perfectly complement the fine wine and cheese. But here’s hoping she cuts loose at least once.


Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
(Leinie Lodge, Minnesota State Fair, 8:30 p.m. Thursday and next Friday, Aug. 21-22, free)

Jones and the Dap-Kings have built up a retro shtick, complete with black & white videos and vinyl LPs, but after wedging myself into a sold-out gig at First Ave. last winter, I didn’t see how it was better than the classic blues-soul singers from the era she was emulating (like Ann Peebles, Bettye Lavette, Etta James and Carla Thomas), or folks who deign to use modern technology, like Mary J. Blige or Amerie. Jones and the Daps acquit the intentions well; I just don’t get the near-unanimous critical huzzahs for retro marketing. The best way to decide for yourself is to check them out for free at the Fair.

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