SONS OF WILLIAM, What Hides Inside (Red Lick): 1970s and ’80s rock is clearly a beloved touchstone
for this Louisiana rock trio, who favor bold anthems built around chiming
guitars, sturdy hooks and simple choruses elevated by their performance
dynamics and melodic sense. As they spell out in “Lucifer Hands,” their goals
are basic but real: “Ain’t got no big city dreams/ I’m just trying to raise
hell with the boys in the band/ And keep the bullshit nice and lean.” With
Griffin House at Hotel Café Saturday.


MALCOLM HOLCOMBE, Gamblin’ House (Echo Mountain): More deeply talented than his limited renown might
suggest, Holcombe’s a growling Southern poet of song original enough to be
lauded by national press outlets and songwriters’ songwriters like Lucinda
Williams, and eccentric enough to essentially operate in his own zip code.
Listeners willing to suspend dependence on linear logic in favor of a gritty
stream-of-consciousness style that channels and elicits more visceral emotions
will find much to savor in Holcombe’s bluesy/folky melodies and
instrumentation, poetic allusions (“That big dog gets hungry he ain’t never
satisfied/ Scratchin’ in my ear and howlin’ in my mind”) and throwaway pearls
(“I got friends in my wallet/ They love me like a fool”). If “Gamblin’ House”
doesn’t quite scale the brilliant heights of 1999’s “A Hundred Lies” (one of
the best singer-songwriter releases of the ’90s), it also spends less time
trolling through darkness and sparkles with a bit more hope.


KATE MAKI, On High (Ow Om): The Canadian singer-songwriter’s third CD, produced by Howe Gelb,
isn’t entirely acoustic — drums, electric guitar and Wurlitzer are used
on most of the 11 tracks — but “less is more” was clearly the guiding
principle. Sonic spareness defines Maki’s songs as much as the winsome
girliness of her vocals and the deceptive simplicity of her folk melodies and
lyrics. Just when a sing-song rhythm lulls the ear, Maki surprises with
freighted lyric twists, as on “Wanted Ads” (“Is it worth its weight in scars/
Are we better behind bars?”) and “Badminton Racquet” (“Your peace of mind is a
taxicab waiting/ Waiting but you’re not going”). Should appeal to fans of Gelb
and M. Ward.