Think Fiona Apple ... only a little more rock 'n' roll, a little less waifishly haunted, a little less prone to embarrassing, incoherent outbursts. Add a bit of Rufus Wainwright's lush theatricality, as well as some of Nellie McKay's "It" girl status, and you've got an accurate picture of Rachael Yamagata
, her first full-length album, covers all the singer/songwriter/pianist bases: Unrequited love? Check. Shadowy minor-key strokes and yearning blocks of major chords? Check. Husky, evocative vocals? Check. Sounds familiar, perhaps, but Yamagata infuses the well-worn girl-with-a-piano terrain with all the charm of a quirky, plucky film heroine. With the summery soul of songs like "1963" and the endearing purr/gurgle her voice takes on as it reaches for high notes almost out of her range, Yamagata becomes the cute, smart girl with a (broken) heart of gold whom everyone's rooting for. And they should be. Check her out on Wednesday, June 30, at Cafe Du Nord; call 861-5016 or go to www.cafedunord.com
-- Rachel Devitt
Last September, Doug Hilsinger asked fellow Waycross member Caroleen Beatty if she'd sing vocals on a couple covers of songs from Brian Eno's 1974 solo album, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy). To his surprise, she suggested they remake the whole record! Not only did the local country cousins complete the project -- released this month on S.F.'s DBK Works label -- but they also got Eno himself to write the glowing liner notes. "It was an unexpectedly moving experience," Eno says of hearing his oddball couplets and deadpan singing made vivid again. Best of all is Hilsinger's decision to roughen up Eno's serpentine riffs, adding a ramrod spine to the delicate tunes. Hilsinger and Beatty -- along with members of the Quails and Dirty Power -- will perform the LP in full on Friday, July 2, at the Bottom of the Hill. Tarentel opens; call 621-4455 or go to www.bottomofthehill.com.
-- Dan Strachota