Live Music: Don Merckle & the Blacksmiths; Illegal Drugs; Harrison Ray; Colin Phils

Great Live Music to Check Out This Week

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FOLK-ROCK | Don Merckle & The Blacksmiths
w/ Black Iron Gathering
Fri. May 5
6 p.m.
Free
Palmetto Brewing

Singer-songwriter Don Merckle's new album The Ballad Of Lincoln Wray is a personal project in the truest sense. It's about Merckle's grandfather, Lincoln Wray, who fought in both World War II and the Korean War. The music is largely acoustic, but the soft and subtle horn accompaniment he uses throughout the album lends a sort of timeless feel to the sturdy, melodic songs. And Lincoln Wray's story is definitely one worth telling, even if Merckle used some songwriting fiction to fill in some of the details. "I'd always been fascinated by his life," Merckle says. "There's a Korean War history book that mentions my grandfather by name for his acts of heroism, and seeing his name in that book made me feel the weight of that sacrifice." That weight is best expressed in "Follow Me Boys," which is about one specific, and mind-bogglingly, courageous act by Lincoln Wray. Merckle says, "It's about a night where he saved over 200 men from a Chinese ambush." The Ballad Of Lincoln Wray is out on Friday, so you can grab a copy at the Palmetto Brewing Loading Dock show. —Vincent Harris FRIDAY

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GARAGE PUNK | Illegal Drugs
w/ Florida Man, DUMB Doctors
Tues. May 9
9 p.m.
$5
The Royal American

Atlanta rock group Illegal Drugs might have the heaviness and grit of garage rock, but they're more like a dark post-punk band. There are traits of their forefathers on their self-titled debut album, with the Stooges and Nirvana cited as the two biggest influences by guitarist/vocalist John Robinson. But somewhere along those grungy lines, they add a little more melody — just listen to "Just Like You." The band uses a battle-tested riff as the rhythm for a cutting lead guitar that dances with the ear instead of assaulting it. There's even a pinch of goth thrown into the pot. According to Robinson, it's just another day in the Atlanta rock scene. "We [Atlanta-area bands] all come from different styles of music and different scenes, so it worked to our benefit when we started," he says. The debut album shows a lot of those different shades without feeling schizophrenic. In the end, it's almost ghostly — loud — but ghostly. Robinson says, "We're very proud of it and our parents would be proud was it not for the fact our band name offends them." —Heath Ellison TUESDAY

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PSYCHEDELIC FOLK | Harrison Ray
Sat. May 6
9 p.m.
$5
Tin Roof

Last time the City Paper checked in on experimental singer-songwriter Harrison Ray, he was working on a new album. That was three years ago, and that's only a fraction of the time he's spent finishing up his next LP. But, don't take that for laziness; it's perfectionism. Ray's been working on music consistently since his last album El Paraguas was released in 2011. "Since then I've been traveling around painting," says Ray. "[I've been] seeking so to speak but never not playing or writing music, which I do every day." The record has gone through many changes in the last five years, with Ray recording 20 different versions of just one song. "The problem is I keep moving, I had a computer crash. It's just been one thing after another," he says. The music for the new album started as production heavy, but over the last five years Ray has gotten back to a similar minimalist style as El Paraguas. "Why not just keep it simple? People like it that way," says Ray. Part of it has to do with Ray never really settling in one spot for too long. He moved to a South Carolina farm after leaving Charleston, then moved out to Wisconsin. The good news about taking all that time to compose is that the folk singer already has enough material for a new album after this one. According to Ray, the five-year journey to make this one record should be over in about six months. Then it's off to the next adventure. —Heath Ellison SATURDAY

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MATH-ROCK | Colin Phils
w/ A Lion Out Of Place and Townhouse
Sat. May 6
6:30 p.m.
Free
Monster Music & Movies

Does complex music have to be challenging to the listener? Do songs that have different sections, shifting tempos, and odd time-signatures have to feel like homework or some kind of musical Rubick's cube that your ears have to solve? Not in Colin Phils' world. The trio creates some seriously complex songs with all of the typical prog-rock characteristics, but they always leave room for layers of blissfully melodic vocal harmonies that sweeten the challenging song structures. The vocals create an almost hypnotic shimmer over the top of the tangled, propulsive rhythms. "Sometimes I think artists can get lost," says singer/guitarist Ben Tiner. "They try to write something so complex that it's only appealing to musicians or people who are into this small genre that a lot of people call math-rock. But we're trying to bridge the gap between music that's approachable and music that gives musicians something to be interested in." —Vincent Harris SATURDAY


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