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Playing Catch-up

Legendary Knoxville expatriate Kevin Nicely is up to the same old tricks in a sunnier climate. The former owner/manager of the Mercury Theatre and Neptune is now living in the city of Daytona Beach, managing a bar and doing quite well, thank you.

"It's called The Crook's Den and it's a biker bar," says Nicely. "This is downtown, not on the beach. And there are no frat boys there. Actually, there are a couple of punks that come in from time to time—tough. There are lawyers, bikers, hookers and bums coming in there. It's like Night Court. It's a zany mixture."

And just how did Nicely find this auspicious career? "The Crook's Den is a bar with a bad reputation," says Nicely. "So I saw the ad in the paper and I figured, 'What the hell? I'll go down there and see how bad it really is.' I figured after what I've been through, it couldn't be that wild. Actually it's a lot like the Mercury Theatre. I mean, they don't have a stage so there's not a bunch of little punks..."

Many of Knoxville's wild women will be saddened to hear that Nicely has settled down somewhat, and is happily living with his girlfriend, (another former Knoxvillian) the beautiful and talented Kim Justice. The two are moving into a brand new house next week and even considering having children. So maybe Nicely will have the opportunity to corrupt youth in his own home for once. Whatta guy!

Buenos Noches

You might have missed it in the pre-Thanksgiving rush, but Appalshop's Voices From Home tour stop in Knoxville was a fine time for all involved. Maxine Kenny, who organized the events for the Kentucky-based media collective, says turnout was good and spirits high at activities ranging from documentary screenings to a packed John McCutcheon show at Laurel Theatre. The concluding festivities, held at Señor Taco restaurant on North Broadway on Nov. 19, featured an ambitious melding of three cultures: rural Appalachian, urban African-American, and Hispanic immigrants. Between clips from Appalshop documentaries about immigrants into and out of Appalachia, the crowded restaurant resounded with live music from local Mexican bands, blues notables like Cheryl Renée, and folk legend Guy Carawan. The most surreal, only-in-Knoxville moment of the evening came with an African UT student providing Spanish translation of Appalachian folk songs. Voices from home? Yeah, buddy. (Si, señor.)

Local CD Reviews

The Rockwells
Return of the Rockwells

The Rockwells are two brothers from Memphis (Jonathan and Fred Kelly, who split the instrumental and vocal duties) who have recently landed here in Knoxville. They play alternately-sweet-and-tough guitar pop with infectious hooks and shimmering harmonies. They play well, sing well, write well, and seem to be a couple of pretty decent kids. Oh, and they sound almost exactly like the Beatles.

Well, maybe not the Beatles exactly. We'll say they sound just like the Dave Clark Five, to protect ourselves from hyperbole. Whatever—they sure do sound like they came straight out of the first wave of the British Invasion. This isn't like saying Oasis sounds like the Beatles—this is like saying 1964, the Beatles tribute band, sounds like the Beatles. The Rockwells don't channel the spirit of mid-'60s British pop into a modern context, like Oasis or the Apples in Stereo. They just reproduce it whole.

It may sound boring, and there is an air of museum-going to The Return of the Rockwells. But it's like going to a museum on a sunny spring afternoon with someone you've just fallen in love with, and then having a picnic in the park. Never boring, no matter how many times you do it. This is good stuff.

Mountain Soul
Clinch River Valley

As much as this looks like bluegrass, it's not, really. It's the flashy, explosive instrumental displays that separate bluegrass from plain old-fashioned mountain music, and there's nothing flashy about Mountain Soul's Clinch River Valley. Instead, the Morristown band relies on good songs—most of them originals—and subdued, heartfelt performances to tell simple, poignant stories. More like the Carter Family than the Monroe brothers.

That's not to say that the band doesn't play well. Shawn and Daniel Kimbro play flat-pick guitar with emotion and skill, but always in service of the songs themselves—tales of coal mining, flash floods, mountains, cowboys (on Nanci Griffith's "Night Rider's Lament"), and biscuit-eatin'. Kyle Smith and Curt Seals on banjo and D.J. Morrison on mandolin and slide guitar add subtle flavoring, and Amanda Kimbro's strong vocals (and occasional yodeling) are an invaluable asset.

There is a fast-paced instrumental near the end, a traditional song called "East Tennessee Blues," that sounds more like bluegrass than anything else on Clinch River Valley. But that's followed by a brief, beautiful a cappella gospel song sung by Amanda Kimbro that pulls it all back in again and preserves the tone of the disc. Again, good stuff.


Thursday: Bloodhound Gang with Caviar and SMO at Moose's. Beats a sharp stick in the eye.

Friday: The Faults with The Shine at Pilot Light. Rock out with the Three-roys and Shine-style pop. It's also World AIDS Day, so light a candle, bow to Allah, or otherwise take a moment.

Saturday: The Cocktail Party at Actor's Co-op Black Box Theater. Old (but good) show performed by sorta-old (but good) company in a new (but good) space.

Sunday: Robinella and the CC String Band at Barley's. To say it again, catch 'em now while they still play free shows.

Monday: UT Big Band at UT Music Hall. Bring a new, unwrapped toy for donation to Toys for Tots and get with the season.

Tuesday: Ponder fruitcake and figgy pudding.

Wednesday: Blues Jam at Sassy Ann's. Bring on the blues, baby.

—Emma "Will never be cooler than Sally Timms" Poptart

November 30, 2000 * Vol. 10, No. 48
© 2000 Metro Pulse