In the early '90s, Miracle Legion gave New Haven, Conn., townies a reason for conceit; they finally had something the sweater-necked coeds at Yale could appreciate more than a ride in their car. (Michael Bolton, another local, hadn't packed the same umph.) After a string of influential albums and a sheaf of national press coverage the group finally took the Big Record Deal. And that was it: Besides one indie release, no one heard from Miracle Legion again. Lead singer Mark Mulcahy likened the experience to being held underwater for two years. While his band was slowly drowning in the Marsh of Corporate Constraint, Mulcahy was writing -- slowly, carefully, tentatively, but writing nonetheless. Six of the 10 songs on Fathering, his first solo album, walk right up and bite you on the nose, hanging there like little musical imps who will not drop off until you've memorized all the words; the other four tracks creep up like a Van Morrison fog. Of this offspring, Mulcahy can be most proud. Mark Mulcahy performs at the Hotel Utah on Wednesday, Feb. 18, with Jeff Krebs opening at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 421-8308.
If you don't remember Tito Larriva from 1977, when he fronted the Los Angeles punk band the Plugz, perhaps you recognize Tito & Tarantula from their performance of "Angry Cockroaches" in Robert Rodriguez's From Dusk Till Dawn (Tito was allowed the great privilege of killing Quentin Tarantino in a very nasty way), or perhaps you recall the countless blood 'n' guts roots rockers who have spiced up film scores like Dream With the Fishes, Repo Man, Mi Vida Loca, and Desperado. Even so, forget about it. Nothing compares to seeing this band in the flesh. With Peter Atanasoff on guitar, Jennifer Condos (Don Henley, Sheryl Crow) on bass, Nick Vincent (Frank Black, Devo, Frank Sinatra) on drums, and Lyn Bertels on guitar, mandolin, and violin, this is enough collective badass to make Charles Gatewood's bloodsuckers look like Care-Bears. Bring a machete and a loved one and prepare to sweat through two hours of revved-up border madness at the Transmission Theater on Friday, Feb. 20, with Engorged With Blood opening at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 861-6906.
The Shaking Man in Moscone Center is just one of the many art pieces that Terry Allen has created -- others have been kept in the SFMOMA, the NYMOMA, and the Musee Saint Pierre in Lyon, France. As with The Shaking Man, Allen comes at songwriting from several angles, infusing a wry political wit into his work that can go unnoticed by the cursory ear. While Allen hails from Lubbock, Texas -- home to Butch Hancock, Joe Ely, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore -- he is most often compared to two other Texas troubadours from the 1970s: Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. Since Van Zandt passed away last year, this show comes as close to perfect as you can get. Clark, whose elegant attention to detail and loving use of characters from his childhood home have made him one of the greatest living storytellers captured on album, co-headlines with Allen at the Great American Music Hall on Sunday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15; call 885-0750.
-- Silke Tudor