He started playing in a corner at Golden Vanity, laying background music for coffee fiends and chess players. Now, 40 years later, Tom Rush is widely recognized for spawning a nation of singer/songwriters—musicians loved and loathed with equal aplomb. He also helped stoke ’60s, ’80s and ’90s folk revivals, introducing the world to Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and James Taylor, all of who appeared in cry-with-me performances at Club 47. In his downtime, Rush penned enough original material to fill a hefty retrospective praised for its passionate depth. Not bad for a former sideshow. Egyptian Theater, 328 Main, Park City, 8 p.m. Tickets: 435-901-7664.
According to Tom Waits, blues artist John Hammond “has a blacksmith’s rhythm and the kind of soul and precision it takes to cut diamonds or handle snakes.” In other words, this cat is no square. Hammond and Waits met at a gig in Arizona nearly 25 years ago. They became fast friends, and formed a working relationship that resulted in several musical collaborations, most notably Wicked Grin, an album written and produced by Waits, and performed by Hammond. While both musicians share an uncanny ability to reflect human experience, Hammond is less New York underbelly, more Mississippi Delta—a tall glass of sweetened tea to help the medicine go down. Egyptian Theater, 328 Main, Park City, 8 p.m. Tickets: 435-901-7664 (Also Saturday).
Also Friday: The Chieftains (Abravanel Hall); Phunk Junkeez (Liquid Joe’s); SLUG Localized (Urban Lounge).
British music critic James Roberts was certainly not the only one to mistake Minnie Driver for an up-and-coming indie-rock band at last year’s South By Southwest music festival. Much to his surprise, the Good Will Hunting star herself was onstage bridging the actor/musician divide. Even more shocking was the revelation that she didn’t suck—and not just in a better-than-that-skanky-Lindsay-Lohan sort of way. Often described as a Dido-esque alt-country crooner, Driver is starting to make a name for herself as a bona fide artist—not just someone who plays one onscreen. Eccles Center, 1750 Kearns Blvd. Park City, 7:30 p.m. Info: 435-655-3114.
ROBERT EARL KEEN
Pal around long enough with Robert Earl Keen, and he might turn you into song. Of course, this offer is restricted to oddballs and eccentrics—the sort of characters capable of scarring listeners on impact. Keen, a self-proclaimed Milton Bradley of folk and country (good for audiences ages 8 through 80), picked up guitar as a Texas A& journalism student and quickly dropped media matters for clever lyrics and stiff licks. His ninth studio album, What I Really Know, is a countrified departure from the LSD-soaked Farm Fresh Onions—an experiment indicating Keen’s skills thrive in less psychedelic pastures. Harry O’s, 427 Main, Park City, 8 p.m. Info: 435-647-9494.
HARRY “CHOO-CHOO” ROMERO
According to 4Clubbers, Harry “Choo Choo” Romero “puts the loco in motion.” If that’s doesn’t sell you, check out his track record. The globetrotting DJ/Producer spent his childhood in a conductor’s cap, grooving to hip parents’ tenor arias and sultry salsa bravo. Eventually the-little-engine-that-could hit on his own sound—4/4 beats lassoing Latin, tech house, funk, tribal and disco—and snagged a regular shout out from I Love Ibiza. Romero is also part of Subliminal records, a label respected for its formidable dance-party releases perfect for reenacting Strong Bad’s guide to rave. Vortex, 404 S. West Temple, 9 p.m. Info: 355-7746.
Also Saturday: Showdown to SXSW Finals (Velvet Room); Afro Omega (Egos); Fifi Murmur CD Release (Urban Lounge).
When “Gravity Rides Everything” played second fiddle to a Nissan minivan, thousands of rag-tag indie rockers pulled at their artfully messed coifs, condemning Issac Brock for “selling out.” It’s unlikely Ledisi’s “Time Is On My Side” Sprint commercial stoked similar ire, mostly because she’s done everything to prove herself as an independent spirit. The Oakland-via-Louisiana singer/songwriter started paying dues at age 8 as a member of the New Orleans Symphony Opera, followed by 11 years with Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon. She also formed Anibade—”to bring forth luck,” or “my mother is great”—an acid-jazz supergroup serving R& -acid-funk to hungry San Franciscans. In her spare time, Ledisi works with Sundra Manning on their LeSun record label working toward a worthy follow-up to 2000’s Soulsinger. Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, University of Utah, 7:30 p.m. Tickets: 581-7100.
New findings indicate there’s more to success than bottles of Alize, Escalades or girls, girls, girls. Case in point: 25-year-old jazz prodigy Sean Jones, a trumpeter with altruistic purpose. As assistant professor of jazz studies at Pittsburgh’s prestigious Duquesne University, he spends his days giving students the 411 on Miles Davis, Freddy Hubbard, Clifford Brown and Woody Shaw. After-hours finds him walking the talk in nightclubs blowing poetry through a horn. Jones’ current stint with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra is dominated by Wynton Marsalis—but he doesn’t mind blending in. For Jones, purpose lies in knowledge and experience, not personalized sneakers and an interview with some TRL schmuck. In fact, he’d rather study his heroes’ shadows, “not only because they could play—they could definitely play their axes—and they knew music forward and backward, but they had a reason for playing. That’s what I want to do,” he told All About Jazz. Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, University of Utah, 7:30 p.m. Tickets: 581-7100 (with Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, see 24-Seven Sidebar).
Michael Franti & Spearhead (Suede, Jan. 21). Sundance Music Cafe: Ben Kweller, Kings of Leon, Dresden Dolls, Nellie McKay, Trail of Dead & More (Plan B, Jan. 21-28). Calexico (Egos, Jan. 22). Snocore Tour (In the Venue, Jan. 23). Cake (Suede, Jan. 24). Scissor Sisters (Suede, Jan. 25). Tony Furtado (Velvet Room, Jan. 25). Bowling for Soup (In the Venue, Jan. 26). Cher (Delta Center, Jan. 31). Anthony Gomes (Egos, Jan. 31). The Thermals (Kilby Court, Feb. 2). Otep (The Circuit, Feb. 2). Tift Merritt (Liquid Joe’s, Feb. 8).